Thayer's letter to Graham and wife (m2b035)
Transcription and annotations by Grant William Cook III
Vienna Jan[uary] 10. 1863.
My dear Graham (and Wife)1
I felt the want of you sadly after you left and not all my experience in working and
immediately losing new and pleasant acquaintances kept me from having a sort of homesick feeling. However I took to looking at it as a great thing to have seen so much of you, and did not allow the thoughts to dwell upon the fact that I saw you no longer. Fiske2 and I are daily together and I feeltowards him just that kindly sentiment which I find he raises everywhere. — I am going to America!3 I shall leave Vienna, I suppose, week after next and meantime — that is the “mean time” while I am on the ocean and ‘good’ time while I am in Yankeedom — Fiske is to be my locum tenens [temporary stand-in] here in the Legation. — Can you believe it — the President has reinstated Canisius!4 So the hope of this wicked one is cut off in that direction. I mean to “bore” for Berlin.5
I am exercised about that heft of Beethoven — but have no great hopes that it will turn out
of great importance if found, still I very much desire to know what it really is.
I have at length really got to work on the Beethoven book and have real delight in seeing
how the notices collected in all quarters fall into smooth mosaic work and each helps the other in making a complete picture. I am quite surprised sometimes at the amount of the new [and] valuable, which has thus far escaped other writers and has only been found by a person from that Barbaric Land — America.6
Fiske is busy not as a bee — but as half a dozen bees — on choice bibliography and other
things too numerous for me to mention but which are doubtless recorded in his letters to you.
I suppose you have had horror and anxiety as we have all had — needless too in a great
measure, as it now appears, and caused by the horrible lying and fiendish hatred of the Times and its fellow workers for evil. Such malice, such scoundrelism, such utter want of honor and truth, has never been paralleled in my experience except by Bennet’s Herald.7 London Times [and] New York Herald — par nobile fratrum [a well-suited pair].
Now the question is — did Lincoln issue the Emancipation proclamation on the 1st
inst[ant]? I hope [and] believe it. He could not do otherwise especially after the defeat of the attack at Fredericksburg[.]
When I reach New York I shall be four weeks behind the news — What will that news be?!
Shall I find on landing that all has gone backwards, or that success is really bringing on the
beginning of the end? — God knows!
Let me only add the pleasure it gives me to have added you two to my list of dear friends!
We shall sometime or other meet again and then we will clinch the nail which has been already driven.
God bless you both!
Alex[ander] W. Thayer
1 James Lorimer Graham Jr. (1835-1876) was a wealthy New York dilettante, patron of the arts and United States Consul in Florence from 1869 to 1876. In 1862 Graham and his wife, Josephine (b. Garner), embarked on a tour of Europe and subsequently made Thayer’s acquaintance at Vienna in 1863. In response to Graham’s diplomatic appointment to Italy, The United States Insurance Gazette and Magazine of Useful Knowledge ([June 1869]: 84) expressed confidence that he would “make an acceptable representative of American interests at the commercial and political capital of the young free, independent, and constitutional kingdom of the Italian States,” adding: “He is a gentleman in the highest acceptation of the term — by birth, education, culture, and disposition; and a fine linguist, he speaks and writes fluently several continental languages; and withal is an ardent admirer and liberal patron of the fine arts.” According to the nineteenth-century English journalist George Augusta Sala (Things I have Seen and People I have Known, 2 vols. [London, Paris and Melbourne: Cassell and Company, 1894], 1:222), “Mr. Lorimer Graham was a gentleman of the highest culture, an assiduous collector of books, prints, drawings, and coins; an extensive traveler, and a man altogether of good gifts and bright acquirements.”
2 In 1868 the American linguist and bibliophile Daniel Willard Fiske (1831-1904) joined the faculty of the newly established Cornell University as Librarian and Professor of Northern European Languages. He taught coursework in German, Swedish, Icelandic and Persian and, in addition to his duties as the University’s first librarian, directed the Cornell University Press, the first university press in America. From 1861 to 1863 Fiske was attached to the United States Legation in Vienna, where he and Thayer served together under the American Minister James Lothrop Motley (1814-1877).
3 “Last week, judge of the agreeable surprise, ‘the D,’ the ‘Diarist,’ ‘Mr. Brown,’ by which ever of his names you choose to call him — in other words Mr. ALEXANDER WHEELOCK THAYER, hereafter to be known as the biographer of Beethoven, suddenly appeared before us — in bodily presence as we live and looking twice alive and hearty,” announced Dwight’s Journal of Music. “He had been three or four weeks in Washington and had warned none of his arrival, or intention to arrive, on this side of the ocean. A purely business mission brought him, and he returns immediately to Vienna. Many of his old friends hereabouts [in the Boston area] have enjoyed too short a meeting with him during the past ten days. But who would detain him from the work now fairly in progress of completion?” (Dwight’s Journal of Music (March 28, 1863]: 411, col. 2). In his March 15, 1863 letter to Thayer, the American philanthropist (and soon-to-be founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) Henry Lee Higginson (1834-1919) expressed sincere disappointment at missing the opportunity to connect with his friend: “When you were in Washington, I passed thro’, and was astonished to hear in the Sanitary rooms of ‘Thayer,’ ‘Vienna Thayer,’ the ‘Great Thayer.’ I tried twice in my short stay of a few hours to see you — in vain. … But you must head back to Vienna …” (Bliss Perry, The Life and Letters of Henry Lee Higginson [Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921], 179). After being delayed several days by a terrible storm, Thayer departed New York for Hamburg on April 6, 1863 aboard the S. S. Saxonia.
4 The German-born, American diplomat Heinrich Theodor Canisius (1826-1885) served as United StatesConsul in Vienna from 1861 to 1866.
5 “I have every reason to think that a new consul is to be appointed here in Vienna. I wish [Senator Charles] Sumner would remember me and get me the place if possible, although I should prefer being consul in Berlin, should one be placed there” (AWT to John Sullivan Dwight [Vienna, November 29, 1862] published in Honor McCusker, Fifty Years of Music in Boston [Boston: Trustees of the Public Library, 1938], 17-18; Manuscript letter, Music Division, Boston Public Library [Ms. C.1.7, vol. 2, no. 214]).
6 An ardent abolitionist, Thayer was likely expressing disillusionment with his war-torn homeland.
7 James Gordon Bennett Sr. (1795-1872) was the founder, editor and publisher of the New York Herald.
Transcribed, edited and annotated by
Grant William Cook III
University of Mount Union
June 27 and 28, 2012