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I entered the Harvard Graduate School in 1890 and remained at Harvard two years, one as a graduate student and one as an instructor in English. Two happy and profitable years for me.
Mr. Kittredge, or "Kitty" as the students affectionately called him, had just been promoted to an Assistant Professorship, and at the same time relieved from the drudgery of reading themes. In a few weeks President Eliot gave a reception at his house, and asked me if I had yet met Professor Kittredge, "for," said he, " we regard him as one of the most brilliant scholars in America." Kittredge was then 30 years old, and must already have had grey hair and beard, for I cannot remember him otherwise. He was as miraculous physically as intellectually; for at a short distance he looked to be 60 years old and during the next 50 years remained exactly the same in face, figure, and activity. Browning's "Grammarian's Funeral" I have always called the Battle Hyman of Phi Beta Kappa; but whereas that Grammarian sacrificed his health and good looks, Kittredge, who never took part in games or in any form of physical recreation, who ate and drank what he pleased, smoked 20 cigars daily and nightly, went to bed as he told me "when I got ready" (usually about 3:30 a.m.), never had any trouble with his eyes, digestion, or with any part of his bodily frame. When he was $1, he told me he had never had to give up anything whatever in food, drink, to bacco, etc. His only recreation was reading murder stories, some of which I introduced to him.
Shortly after I arrived at Harvard, it was announced that Kittredge would give a lecture on the English Bible. The hall was crowded. He spoke while pacing back and forth like a caged lion, and throwing his words over his shoulden at the audience, with his back usually turned on them. He discussed the origin and history of the King James translation. At the end of the hour he started to leave the platform, when a man in the audience stood up and said, "But, Professor Kittredge, won't you tell us something about the literary value?" Kittredge seemed surprised, paused said "Well I don't see how anyone could read the book of Ruth without tears," and abruptly departed.
Once at his house, he told me how he had cured a graduate student of nervous prostration, which many of them had when trying to write a thesis. The student called on Kittredge and said he was afraid he was going to lose his mind. "Oh, you don't need to fear that at all!" 'Why not?" "Because you have lost it already. Anyone who thinks as you do is already crazy." This did the student more good than any other treatment.
I took Kittredge's course in Chaucer; he expressed his indignation at Skeat's edition (which we had to use) because it was expurgated with . . . . etc. Whenever we came to these passages, Kittredge patiently read the words that were not there, never with a leer or a snigger, of course, but like a man talking to men. I won't tell you a line that Skeat left in, though I know it, but at this line Kittredge, with ineffable contempt said "This is the most obscene line in Chancer and Sheat left it in."
In matters of scholarship, especially with Chancer and Shakespeare, Kittredge was dogmatic, but his statements were based on profound learning. When he told us what he believed, it was final.
I can never repay my debt to him. When I rewrote my doctor's thesis in book form, he offered to read it, and got Ginn and Company to publish it, and he reviewed it in the "Nation." Then he asked me to edit Gray's poems, and I mention this simply because Gosse's edition was so full of blunders and we were so diverted by them that I finally asked Kittredge to contribute a profactory article to my edition on "Gray's knowledge of Norse," and sign it with his initials. A look of delight came over his face. "Then I can be as pedantic as possible!" he said. The result of his cooperation was that when the British scholar, Tovey, prepared his edition of Gray, he said in his preface his edition of Gray, he said in his preface "he had found great help in the little work on Gray by Professors Phelps and Kittredge of Yale College." Kittredge laughed when I showed him this, and said, "Well, he certainly did."
Once I saw Kittredge in the railway station in New York walking among the people waiting to take the train, and apparently offering something for sale with poor results. I asked him what on earth was going on, and he explained he had bought a ticket for this train and then found he could not get a parlor car seat, so he was trying to sell his ticket, wait an hour and get a seat where he could do some work. "Every man I approach thinks I'm a crook," he said.
I shall always be said that during each of the last four years of his life I got him to give a lecture on Shakespeare at Yale; he stayed at my house and we renewed our old friendship. He was due to give a lecture at Yale this very month of October 1941.
Although he was one of the most orndite men in the world, he was always simple and natural in manner. There was however, one respect in which he was unlike the majority of college professors today. Although he often spoke of certain books and writers with contempt, I never heard him swear. Perhaps if he had played golf-
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