August 15, 2016

Henry-spotting in Gloucester

      One winter night there was a dinner in the red-and-black Octagon Room next door, and everything was suave and formal. Lord and Lady Gregory were there, and Amy Lowell and Henry James were there, and several other aficionados of words and victuals. 'The only other character present under sixty and 180 pounds except myself,' Sleeper related, 'was a polite young Spanish professor from Harvard.'
      The talk, he said, was violently intellectual. 'I really stuffed 'em,' he chuckled. 'By coffee and brandy there wasn't a female stay in the place, that wasn't creaking. To save their lives, the wonderful Aunt Amy Lowell (not smoking her cigar that night) suggested we all play games. So we played musical chairs, here in the Golden Step Room. After each pause in the music, and the rough-house scramble for chairs, the whole company rocked and yelled and wept with laughter. Some sat on the floor, because they could not rise. I thought I had a mass apoplexy on my hands with all those overfed elderly brains. After a few stanzas, the grave young Spaniard came to me and whispered:
     'Senor Sleeper -- may I make a suggestion? You are, of course, the host. But I think that if we had just one more chair, much of this confusion might be averted!''

from Beauport at Gloucester:  the most fascinating house in America
'the pictures by Samuel Chamberlain, the words by Paul Hollister' {1951}

Beauport, the rambling house built by Henry Davis Sleeper in the early 1900s, is one of my favorite places to visit, and finding this dusty old book before I go there again in a few weeks is a treat.  {So is another encounter with Samuel Chamberlain, after this first one.} And so was this, most of all... I'll never ever walk into the Golden Step Room {one of the house's five dining rooms, the one for when he was serving seafood} again without imagining this unimaginable scene. :)

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