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George Lodge at Harvard

By Hendrik Hertzberg

H. Stuart Hughes, who likes to remember that he was an assistant professor and George Cabot Lodge only an undergraduate when they were neighbors in Lowell House, once remarked that Lodge at Harvard was "a dull boy, but nice."

Hughes was half right. George Lodge is still nice, but he has never been dull. And unlike the other Harvard man in the Senate race, he graduated with honors with his own class, the class of 1950. Lodge never made much noise while he was here, and maybe the professor took quietness for dullness.

Lodge came to Harvard, as Lodges do, from Groton. He didn't come directly, though; for two years before registering at the University, he served as an enlisted man in the Navy, where his fellow sailors were Bostonian aristocrats. The fact that he prepped at sea as well as at Groton was, as a friend has observed, responsible for rubbing some of the private-school veneer off him.

Lodge was not a frivolous student. "I came out of the service obsessed with the desire to gather knowledge, and painfully aware of how much I had to learn," he says. This is not sententious twaddle, but a simple statement of the truth.

His field of concentration was American History and Literature, but he was much more interested in literature than in history, and was particularly passionate about fiction, both as a reader and a writer of it. Every year he took a course in short story writing. He studied under Howard Mumford Jones and Arthur M. Schleshinger, Jr., under Raphael Demos and John L. Finley. His grades were respectable: A's and B's, mostly B's, and just a sprinkling of C's.

Lodge wrote his senior honors thesis on the electoral college. At the same time he was writing it, his father, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. '24, was conducting hearings on a plan to amend the Constitution to divide each state's electoral votes proportionally according to the popular vote. George's thesis topic was probably suggested by the Senator. "It wasn't the sort of thing I was really interested in at the time," George recalls, "but I hoped it would be useful to my father."

"All I ever did at Harvard was work and row," says Lodge. This is a vast overstatement. True, he took his studies seriously. And equally true, he went out for crew and rowed on the junior varsity team. But he was not a grind, and he did not confine his extra-curricular interests to athletics.

The thing that characterized him, both in his studies and his outside activities, was an enormous romanticism and idealism. In college he began a search for values which he continues today. He refused to accept the sort of life which is so easy for a prep-school boy with a socially prominent name to fall into here, he was never a snob or a clubbie, and spent little of his time at his club (the Fly) or with a Groton clique.

Maurice M. Pechet, former Allston Burr Senior Tutor at Lowell House, knew Lodge well and remembers that he was interested in House activities. In his Junior year, George was elected to the House Committee, through which Pechet got to know him better. "He got along well with all types of boys, not just the club types," says Pechet. "I think that this was because he was genuinely interested in people. He had a strong sense of responsibility to the community, which was the motivating factor behind his service in the House. I was very impressed with the way he played his part on the House Committee; I always felt he'd end up in public service."

Lodge married Nancy Kunhardt of Morristown, New Jersey, in April of his junior year. But even after he moved out of the House, he remained a part of it, often eating there and participating in House life.

Master Elliott Perkins '23 remembers Lodge as "a good strong fella who wouldn't sit around telling about what his father did." Perkins also recalls, "I didn't have to intercede in his behalf with either the police or the Dean."

Lodge's romanticism came through most clearly in his devotion to writing

Although he never had any intentions of becoming a novelist, he grew more and more absorbed in writing short stories as time went on. Gordon Abbott Jr. '50, one of his roommates, says that Lodge used to travel the streets of Cambridge at night, looking for source material for his stories.

Lodge's great-grandfather, for whom he is named, may have been a poet, but people are surprised when any candidate for high office in the United States turns out to have had a literary bent in his youth. Lodge explains his interest in writing in typically philosophic terms:

"I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could in as short a time as possible, and to do it in such a way that I could determine what the experience meant. It was not just to be an adventurer, but to work within a discipline that gives you experience and forces you to formulate the details of experience in a precise way."

Lodge wrote both for his courses in short-story writing and to satisfy his drive to do so. "I tried like mad to get them published, and I came quite close to getting one in the Atlantic Monthly once, too."

The only story Lodge actually ever published appeared in the Winter, 1949, issue of Signature, a literary magazine edited by Radcliffe undergraduates. Like most of his efforts at the time, it was pretty dreadful, as he himself now cheerfully admits. But it was a brave attempt, and is interesting for what it reveals about the young man's outlook.

The story, "Charles", is written in the first person from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old boy. The boy's grandfather, a kindly old physician type also named Charles Clifford, has just died, and the boy and his family are staying with the widowed grandmother. Because there are so many people in the late doctor's house, young Charles has to stay his grandfather's old room. The grandmother, nicknamed Migi, is ill in the next room.

Then comes a somewhat disturbing sequence. The old woman, wearing makeup, perfume, and dressed in a negligee, approaches Charles and talks to him not as grandson, but as lover: "I knew you were here." She smiled and took both my hands in hers. "I felt you in here, Charles. I knew you'd come back, I knew dearest one. "She passed a lade and then went on. "Do you like the way I look?"

She is suffering from hallucinations as she speaks into Charles' left ear, her husband's good ear, and tries to straighten his tie. Suddenly she collapses onto the grandfather's bed. The story ends:

I called my mother and soon everyone came running. Smelling salts were searched for, the doctor called, but Migi was dead. The doctor said it was a heart attack. She had taken scarcely anything to eat since Grandpa's death and her heart was weak anyway, he said. He asked Mummy what my grandmother was doing on Grandpa's bed, since he had left strict orders for her to be kept very quiet in her room. My mother asked me what happened.. I said I guessed Migi had come to see Grandpa. I didn't say she had seen him, because nobody would have understood.

Not too subtle, perhaps, but certainly better than a large portion of undergraduate writing. Lodge wrote one of these every Saturday, which is one reason he never got to a football game in his four years here.

But Lodge wanted to be a reporter, not a novelist, and the precision so important to fiction writing helped him in journalism. "Fiction writing is the hardest work I know," he says, and adds, pointing to a copy of his new book, Spearheads of Democracy: Labor in the Developing Countries, "After those stories, that was easy."

Lodge never went out for the Crimson because "it was too time-consuming, and I felt that for a reporter, the time would be better spent in study." He got his newspaper experience in the summers as a copy boy on the Boston Herald and a reporter on the Lynn Item, and during the school year as the Herald's Harvard stringer.

Being a son of a famous father is always a problem. George Lodge, unlike many children of prominent families, never was arrogant or snobbish. His problem was the reverse: he was almost intimidated by the reputation he had to live up to. Says Maurice Pechet, Lodge had to work harder to prove himself to the other students, "especially the non-club types." When he entered Lowell House, he had a speech impediment, a slight hesitancy or stammering. But as he studied and took part in House life, his confidence in himself grew, and the impediment practically disappeared. People who knew him in college are amassed at the case with which he speaks in public now.

"Lodge was even serious while he was courting," Pechet declares. He was attractive to girls and saw them often, but he was almost invariably involved with one girl at a time. He met the present Mrs. Lodge, in proper Harvard fashion, in a class. "I met her in my short story course," he recalls. "She was brought there by a very good poet who has since become famous--I can't remember his name--and I accosted her and asked her to tea." Miss Kunhardt, a post-deb who was graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1948, was then a student at the Graduate School of Education.

George Lodge loved to sail, and still does. As a boy he worked in a boat yard, and was always fascinated by ships and knew a lot about them. At Harvard, sailing was his favorite recreation. He owned a dinghy about 15 feet long and went out in it as often as he could.

An old friend says that George sailed because he loved the danger, the challenge of pitting himself against nature. Another says it was pure recreation. Neither is probably entirely correct, but it is hard to imagine Lodge devoting such a large chunk of his time as he did to sailing without some philosophical justification.

In 1949, a year before he was graduated from Harvard, Lodge had a new, twenty-four-footer built. In this virtually open boat, he and Mrs. Lodge took their now almost legendary honeymoon voyage, during the summer between George's junior and senior years. The three-week cruise took the couple north-east along the New England coast. Sailing conditions were rugged, and they finally were marooned near Roke Island, Maine, where they lived on clams after their food supply ran out. They got back safely when things had calmed down a bit.

Lodge is happy with what he learned at Harvard. He has no regrets for his four years here. "Harvard taught me a great deal about what is important. Any education contributes to a sense of values, and what Harvard does is to teach you intellectual independence and self-reliance. It gives you a feeling for continual education. If you get what you should out of Harvard, you won't stop educating yourself on commencement day.

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