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The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 109/Gurowski

< The Atlantic Monthly‎ | Volume 18‎ | Number 109
 

GUROWSKI.


The late Count Gurowski came to this country from France in November, 1849, and resided at first in New York. He made his appearance at Boston, I think, in the latter part of 1850, and, being well introduced by letters from men of note in Paris, was received with attention in the highest circles of society. Among his friends at this period were Prescott, Ticknor, Longfellow, Lowell, Parker, Sumner, Felton, and Everett,—the last named of whom was then President of Harvard University. The eccentric appearance and character of the Count, of course, excited curiosity and gave rise to many idle rumors, the most popular of which declared him to be a Russian spy, though what there was to spy in this country, where everything is published in the newspapers, or what the Czar expected to learn from such an agent, nobody undertook to explain. The phrase was a convenient one, and, like many others equally senseless, was currently adopted because it seemed to explain the incomprehensible; and certainly, to the multitude, no man was ever less intelligible than Gurowski.

To those, however, who cared for precise information, the French and German periodicals of the day, in which his name frequently figured, furnished sufficient to determine his social and historical status. From authentic sources it was soon learned that he was the head of a distinguished noble family of Poland; that he was born in 1805, and had taken part in the great insurrection of 1831 against the Russians, for which he had been condemned to death, while his estates were confiscated and assigned to a younger brother, who had remained loyal to the Czar. It was known also that at Paris, where he had found refuge, he had been a special favorite of Lafayette and of the leading republicans, and an active member of the Polish Revolutionary Committee, till, in 1835, he published La Vérité sur la Russie, in which work he maintained that the interests of Poland and of all the other Slavic countries would be promoted by absorption into the Russian Empire and union under the Russian Czar. This book drew upon him the indignant denunciation of his countrymen, who regarded it as a betrayal of their cause, and led to the revocation of his sentence of death, and to an invitation to enter the service of Nicholas. He accordingly went to St. Petersburg in 1836, where his sister had long resided, personally attached to the Empress and in high favor at the imperial court. He was employed at first in the private chancery of the Emperor, and afterwards in the Department of Public Instruction, in which he suggested and introduced various measures tending to Russianize Poland by means of schools and other public institutions. He seems for some years to have been in favor, and on the high road to power and distinction. In 1844, however, he fled from St. Petersburg secretly, and took refuge at the court of Berlin. He was pursued, and his extradition demanded of the Prussian government. What his offence was I have never learned, but can readily suppose that it was only a too free use of his tongue, which was at all times uncontrollable, and was always involving him in difficulties wherever he resided. He was quite as likely to contradict and snub the Czar as readily as he would the meanest peasant, and, for that matter, even more readily. His flight from Russia caused a good deal of discussion in the Continental newspapers, and it is certain that for some reason or other strong and pertinacious efforts were made by the Russian government to have him delivered up. The Czar had at that time great influence over the court of Berlin; and Gurowski was at length privately requested by the Prussian government, in a friendly way, to relieve them of embarrassment by withdrawing from the kingdom. He accordingly went to Heidelberg and afterwards to Munich, and for two years subsequently was a Lecturer on Political Economy at the University of Berne, in Switzerland. At a later period he visited Italy, and for a year previous to his arrival in this country had resided in Paris. Besides his first work on Panslavism, already mentioned, he had published several others in French and German, which had attracted considerable attention by the force and boldness of their ideas, and the wide range of erudition displayed in them. Finally, it became known to those who cared to inquire, that one of his brothers, Ignatius Gurowski, was married to an infanta of Spain, whom I believe he had persuaded to elope with him; that Gurowski himself was a widower, with a son in the Russian navy and a daughter married in Switzerland; and that some compromise had been made about his confiscated estates by which his "loyal" brother had agreed to pay him a slender annual allowance, which was not always punctually remitted.

Such was the substance of what was known, or at least of what I knew and can now recall, of Gurowski, soon after his arrival in Boston, sixteen years ago. He came to Massachusetts, I think, with some expectation of becoming connected with Harvard University as a lecturer or professor, and took up his residence in Cambridge in lodgings in a house on Main Street, nearly opposite the College Library. In January, 1851, he gave, at President Everett's house, a course of lectures upon Roman jurisprudence, of which I have preserved the following syllabus, printed by him in explanation of his purpose.

 

"Count de Gurowski proposes to give Six Lectures upon the Roman Jurisprudence, or the Civil Law according to the following syllabus:—

"As the history of the Roman Law is likewise the history of the principle of the Right (das Recht) as it exists in the consciousness of men, and of its outward manifestation as a law in an organized society; a philosophical outline of this principle and of its manifestations will precede.

"The philosophical and historical progress of the notion or conception of the Right, through the various moments or data of jurisprudential formation by the Romans. Explanation of the principal elements and facts, out of which was framed successively the Roman law.

"Such are, for instance, the Ramnian, the Sabinian, or Quiritian; their influence on the character of the legislation and jurisprudence.

"The peculiarity and the legal meaning of the jus quiritium. Explanation of some of its legal rites, as those concerning matrimony, jus mancipi, in jure cessio, etc.

"The primitive jus civile derived from the jus quiritium. Point out the principal social element on which, and through which, the jus privatum, connected with the jus civile, was developed.

"The primitive difference between both these two kinds of jus.

"Other elements of the Roman Civil Law. The jus gentium, its nature and origin. How it was conceived by the Romans, and how it acted on the Roman community. Its agency, enlightening and softening influence on the Roman character, and on the severity of the primitive jus civile.

"The nature, the agency of the prætorian or edictorial right and jurisprudence.

"A condensed sketch of the Roman civil process. The principal formalities and rules according to the jus quiritium, jus civile, and the edicta prætorum. Difference between the magistrate and the judge.

"The scientific development of the above-mentioned data in the formation of the Roman Law, or the period between Augustus and Alex. Severus. Epoch of the imperial jurisconsults; its character.

"Decline. The codification of the Roman Law, or the formation of the Justinian Code. Sketch of it during the mediæval and modern periods.

"Count Gurowski is authorized to refer to Hon. Edward Everett, Prof. Parsons, Prof. Parker, Wm. H. Prescott, Esq., Hon. T. G. Gary, Charles Sumner, Esq., Hon. G. S. Hillard, Prof. Felton.


"Cambridge, January 24, 1851."


The lectures were not successful, being attended by only twenty or thirty persons, who did not find them very interesting. The truth is, that few Americans care anything for the Roman law, or for the history of the principle of the Right (das Recht); nor for the Ramnian, Sabinian, or Quiritian jurisprudence; nor whether the jus civile was derived from the jus quiritium, or the jus quiritium from the jus civile,—nor do I see why they should care. But even if the subject had been interesting in itself, Gurowski's imperfect pronunciation of our language at that time would have insured his failure as a lecturer. He had a copious stock of English words at command; but as he had learned the language almost wholly from books, his accent was so strongly foreign that few persons could understand him at first, except those of quick apprehension and some knowledge of the French and German idioms which he habitually used.

The favor with which Gurowski had been received in the high circles of Boston society soon evaporated, as his faults of temper and of manner, and his rough criticisms on men and affairs, began to be felt. Massachusetts was then in the midst of the great conservative and proslavery reaction of 1850, and Gurowski's dogmatic radicalism was not calculated to recommend him to the ruling influences in politics, literature, or society. He denounced with vehemence, and without stint or qualification, slavery and its Northern supporters. Nothing could silence him, nobody could put him down. It was in vain to appeal to Mr. Webster, then at the height of his reputation as a Union-saver and great constitutional expounder. "What do I care for Mr. Webster," he said on some occasion when the Fugitive Slave Law was under discussion in the high circles of Beacon Street, and the dictum of the great expounder had been triumphantly appealed to. "I can read the Constitution as well as Mr. Webster." "But surely, Count, you would not presume to dispute Mr. Webster's opinion on a question of constitutional law?" "And why not?" replied Gurowski, in high wrath, and in his loudest tones. "I tell you I can read the Constitution as well as Mr. Webster, and I say that the Fugitive Slave Law is unconstitutional,—is an outrage and an imposition of which you will all soon be ashamed. It is a disgrace to humanity and to your republicanism, and Mr. Webster should be hung for advocating it. He is a humbug or an ass," continued the Count, his wrath growing fiercer as he poured it out,—"an ass if he believes such an infamous law to be constitutional; and if he does not believe it, he is a humbug and a scoundrel for advocating it." Beacon Street, of course, was aghast at this outburst of blasphemy; and the high circles thereof were speedily closed against the plain-spoken radical who dared to question Mr. Webster's infallibility, and who made, indeed, but small account of the other idols worshipped in that locality.

It was at this time, in the spring of 1851, that I became acquainted with Gurowski. I was standing one day at the door of the reading-room in Lyceum Hall in Cambridge, of which city I was then a resident, when I saw approaching through Harvard Square a strange figure which I knew must be the Count, who had often been described to me, but whom till then I had never chanced to see. He was at the time about forty-five years of age, of middle size, with a large head and big belly, and was partly wrapped in a huge and queerly-cut cloak of German material and make. On his head he wore a high, bell-shaped, broad-brimmed hat, from which depended a long, sky-blue veil, which he used to protect his eyes from the sunshine. His waistcoat was of bright red flannel, and as it reached to his hips and covered nearly the whole of his capacious front, it formed a startlingly conspicuous portion of his attire. In addition to the veil, his eyes were protected by enormous blue goggles, with glasses on the sides as well as in front. These extraordinary precautions for the defence of his sight were made necessary by the fact that he had lost an eye, not in a duel, as has been commonly reported, but by falling on an open penknife when he was a boy of ten years old. The wounded eye was totally ruined and wasted away, and had been the seat of long and intense pain, in which, as is usual in such cases, the other eye had participated. During the first year or two of his residence in this country he was much troubled by the intense sunshine; but afterwards becoming used to it, he left off his veil, and in other respects conformed his costume to that of the people.

There were several gentlemen in the reading-room whom we both knew, one of whom introduced me to Gurowski, who received me very cordially, and immediately began to talk with much animation about Kossuth and Hungary, concerning which I had recently published something. He was exceedingly voluble, and seemed to have, even then, a remarkably copious stock of English words at command; but his pronunciation, as before remarked, was very imperfect, and until I grew accustomed to his accent I found it difficult to comprehend him. This, however, made little difference to Gurowski. He would talk to any one who would listen, without caring much whether he was understood or not. On this occasion he soon became engaged in a discussion with one of the gentlemen present, a Professor in the University, who demurred to some of his statements about Hungary; and in a short time Gurowski was foaming with rage, and formally challenged the Professor to settle the dispute with swords or pistols. This ingenious mode of deciding an historical controversy being blandly declined, Gurowski, apparently dumfounded at the idea of any gentleman's refusing so reasonable a proposition, abruptly retreated, asking me to go with him, as he said he wished to consult me; to which request I assented very willingly, for my curiosity was a good deal excited by his strange appearance and evidently peculiar character.

He walked along in silence, and we soon reached his lodgings, which were convenient and comfortable enough. He had a parlor and bedroom on the second floor, well furnished, though in dire confusion, littered with books, papers, clothing, and other articles, tossed about at random. He gave me a cigar, and, sitting down, began to talk quite calmly and rationally about the affair at the reading-room. His excitement had entirely subsided, and he seemed to be sorry for his rudeness to the Professor, for whom he had a high regard, and who had been invariably kind to him. I spoke to him pretty roundly on the impropriety of his conduct, and the folly of which he had been guilty in offering a challenge,—a proceeding peculiarly repugnant to American, or at least to New England notions, and which only made him ridiculous. There was something so frank and childlike in his character, that, though I had known him but an hour, we seemed already intimate, and from that time to the day of his death I never had any hesitation in speaking to him about anything as freely as if he were my brother.

He took my scolding in good part, and was evidently ashamed of his conduct, though too proud to say so. He wanted to know, however, what he had best do about the matter. I advised him to do nothing, but to let the affair drop, and never make any allusion to it; and I believe he followed my advice. At all events, he was soon again on good terms with the gentleman he had challenged.

I spent several hours with Gurowski on this occasion, and, as we both at that time had ample leisure, we soon grew intimate, and fell into the habit of passing a large part of the day together. For a long period I was accustomed to visit him every day at his lodgings, generally in the morning, while he came almost every afternoon to my house. He had a good deal of wit, but little humor, and did not relish badinage. His chief delight was in serious discussions on questions of politics, history, or theology, on which he would talk all day with immense erudition and a wonderful flow of "the best broken English that ever was spoken." He was well read in Egyptology and in mediæval history, and had a wide general knowledge of the sciences, without special familiarity with any except jurisprudence. He disdained the details of the natural sciences, and despised their professors, whose pursuits seemed to him frivolous. He was jealous of Agassiz, and of the fame and influence he had attained in this country, and was in the habit of spitefully asserting that the Professor spoke bad French, and was a mere icthyologist, who would not dare in Europe to set up as an authority in so many sciences as he did here. Even the amiable Professor Guyot, the most unassuming man in the world, who then lived in Cambridge, was also an object of this paltry jealousy. "How finely Guyot humbugs you Americans with his slops," Gurowski said to me one day. I replied that "slops" was a very unworthy and offensive word to apply to the productions of a man like Guyot, who certainly was of very respectable standing in his department of physical geography. "O bah! bah! you do not understand," exclaimed Gurowski. "I do not mean the slops of the kitchen, but the slops of the continent,—the slops and indentations which he talks so much about." Slopes was, of course, the word he meant to use; and the incident may serve as a good illustration of the curious infelicities of English with which his conversation teemed.

But the truth is that Gurowski spared nobody, or scarcely anybody, in his personal criticisms. Of all his vast range of acquaintance in New England, Felton, Longfellow, and Lowell were the only persons of note of whom he spoke with uniform respect. It was really painful to see how utterly his vast knowledge and his great powers of mind were rendered worthless by a childishness of temper and a habit of contradiction which made it almost impossible for him to speak of anybody with moderation and justice. He had also a sort of infernal delight in detecting the weak points of his acquaintances, which he did with fearful quickness and penetration. The slightest hint was sufficient. He saw at a glance the frail spot, and directed his spear against it. Failings the most secret, peculiarities the most subtle, which had, perhaps, been hidden from the acquaintances of years, seemed to reveal themselves at the first glance of his single eye.

He was very fond of controversy, and would prolong a discussion from day to day with apparently unabated interest. I remember once we had a discussion about some point of mediæval history of which I knew little, but about which I feigned to be very positive, in order to draw out the stores of his knowledge, which was really immense in that direction. After a hot dispute of several hours we parted, leaving the question as unsettled as ever. The next day I called at his lodgings early in the afternoon. I knocked at the door of his room. He shouted, "Come in"; but as I opened the door I heard him retreating into his adjacent bedroom. He thrust his head out, and, seeing who it was, came back into the parlor, absolutely in a state of nature. He had not even his spectacles on. In his hand he held a pair of drawers, which he had apparently been about to assume when I arrived. Shaking this garment vehemently with one hand, while with the other he gave me a cigar, he broke out at once in a torrent of argument on the topic of the preceding day. I made no reply; but at the first pause suggested that he had better dress himself. To this he paid no attention, but stamped round the room, continuing his argument with his usual vehemence and volubility. Half an hour had elapsed, when some one knocked. Gurowski roared, "Come in!" A maid-servant opened the door, and of course instantly retreated. I turned the key, and again entreated the Count to put on his clothes. He did not comply, but kept on with his argument. Presently some one else rapped. "It is Desor," said the Count; "I know his knock; let him in." Desor was a Swiss, a scientific man, who lodged in the adjacent house. Gurowski apparently was involved in a dispute with him also, which he immediately took up, on some question of natural history. The Swiss, however, did not seem to care to contest the point, whatever it was, and soon went away. On his departure Gurowski again began his mediæval argument; but I positively refused to stay unless he put on his clothes. He reluctantly complied, and went into his bedroom, while I took up a book. Every now and then, however, he would sally out to argue some fresh point which had suggested itself to him; and his toilet was not fairly completed till, at the end of the third hour, the announcement of dinner put an end to the discussion.

Disappointed in his hopes of getting employment as a lecturer or teacher, on which he had relied for subsistence, Gurowski felt himself growing poorer and poorer as the little stock of money he had brought from Europe wasted away. The discomforts of poverty did not tend to sweeten his temper nor to abate his savage independence. He grew prouder and fiercer as he grew poorer. He was very economical, and indulged in no luxuries except cigars, of which, however, he was not a great consumer, seldom smoking more than three or four a day. But with all his care, his money was at length exhausted, his last dollar gone. He had expected remittances from Poland, which did not come; and he now learned that, from some cause which I have forgotten, nothing would be sent him for that year at least. He used to tell me from day to day of the progress of his "decline and fall," as he called it, remarking occasionally that, when the worst came to the worst, he could turn himself into an Irishman and work for his living. I paid little attention to this talk, for really the idea of Gurowski and manual labor was so ridiculously incongruous that I could not form any definite conception of it. But he was more in earnest than I supposed.

Going one day at my usual hour to his lodgings, I found him absent. I called again in the course of the day, but he was still not at home, and the people of the house informed me that he had been absent since early morning. The next day it was the same. On the third day I lay in wait for him at evening at his lodgings, to which he came about dark, in a most forlorn condition, with his hands blistered, his clothes dusty, and exhibiting himself every mark of extreme fatigue. He was cheerful, however, and very cordial, and gave me an animated account of his adventures in his "Irish life," as he called it. It seems he had formed an acquaintance with Mr. Hovey, the proprietor of the large nurseries between Boston and the Colleges, and on the morning of the day on which I found him absent from his lodgings he had gone to Hovey and offered himself as a laborer in his garden. Hovey was astounded at the proposition, but the Count insisted, and finally a spade was given to him, and he set to work "like an Irishman," as he delighted to express it. It was dreadfully wearisome to his unaccustomed muscles, but anything, he said, was better than getting in debt. He could earn a dollar a day, and that would pay for his board and his cigars. He had clothes enough, he thought, to last him the rest of his life,—especially, he added somewhat dolefully, as he was not likely to live long under the Irish regimen.

I thought the joke had been carried far enough, and that it was time to interfere. I accordingly went next day to Boston, and, calling on the publisher of a then somewhat flourishing weekly newspaper, now extinct, called "The Boston Museum," I described to him the situation and the capacities of Gurowski, and proposed that he should employ the Count to write an article of reasonable length each week about European life, for which he was to be paid twelve dollars. I undertook to revise Gurowski's English sufficiently to make it intelligible. The publisher readily acceded to this proposition; and the Count, when I communicated it to him, was as delighted as if he had found a gold mine, or, in the language of to-day, "had struck ile." He was already, in spite of his philosophic cheerfulness, heartily sick of his labor with the spade, for which he was totally unfitted. He resumed his pen with alacrity, and wrote an article on the private life of the Russian court, which I copied, with the necessary revision, and carried to the publisher of the Museum, who was greatly pleased with it, and readily paid the stipulated price.

For several months Gurowski continued to write an article every week, which he did very easily, and the pay for them soon re-established his finances on what, with his simple habits, he considered a sound basis. In fact, he soon grew rich enough, in his own estimation, to spend the summer at Newport, which he said he wanted to do, because the Americans of the highest social class evidently regarded a summer visit to that place as the chief enjoyment of their life and the crowning glory of their civilization. He went thither in June, 1851, and after that I only saw him at long intervals, and for very brief periods.

His stay at Newport was short, and he went from there to New York, where he soon became an editorial writer for the Tribune. To a Cambridge friend of mine, who met him in Broadway, he expressed great satisfaction with his new avocation. "It is the most delightful position," he said, "that you can possibly conceive of. I can abuse everybody in the world except Greeley, Ripley, and Dana." He inquired after me, and, as my friend was leaving him, sent me a characteristic message,—"Tell C——— that he is an ass." My friend inquired the reason for this flattering communication; and Gurowski replied, "Because he does not write to me." Busy with many things which had fallen to me to do after his departure, I had neglected to keep up our correspondence, at which he was sometimes very wrathful, and wrote me savagely affectionate notes of remonstrance.

Besides writing for the Tribune, Gurowski was employed by Ripley and Dana on the first four volumes of the New American Cyclopædia, for which he wrote the articles on Alexander the Great, the Alexanders of Russia, Aristocracy, Attila, the Borgias, Bunsen, and a few others. It was at this time also that he wrote his books, "Russia as it is," and "America and Europe." In preparing for publication his articles and his books, he had the invaluable assistance of Mr. Ripley, who gratuitously bestowed upon them an immense amount of labor, for which he was very ill requited by the Count, who quarrelled both with him and Dana, and for a time wantonly and most unjustly abused them both in his peculiar lavish way.

For two or three years longer I lost sight of him, during which period he led a somewhat wandering life, visiting the South, and residing alternately in Washington, Newport, Geneseo, and Brattleborough. The last time I saw him in New York was at the Athenæum Club one evening in December, 1860, just after South Carolina had seceded. A dispute was raging in the smoking-room, between Unionists on one side and Copperheads on the other, as to the comparative character of the North and South. Gurowski, who was reading in an adjoining room, was attracted by the noise, and came in, but at first said nothing, standing in silence on the outside of the circle. At last a South-Carolinian who was present appealed to him, saying, "Count, you have been in the South, let us have your opinion; you at least ought to be impartial." Gurowski thrust his head forward, as he was accustomed to do when about to say anything emphatic, and replied in his most energetic manner: "I have been a great deal in the South as well as in the North, and know both sections equally well, and I tell you, gentlemen, that there is more intelligence, more refinement, more cultivation, more virtue, and more good manners in one New England village than in all the South together." This decision put an end to the discussion. The South-Carolinian retreated in dudgeon, and Gurowski, chuckling, returned to his book or his paper.

Shortly after this he took up his abode in Washington, where he soon became one of the notables of the city, frequenting some of the best houses, and almost certain to be seen of an evening at Willard's, the political exchange of the capital, where his singular appearance and emphatic conversation seldom failed to attract a large share of attention. The proceeds of the books he had published, never very large, had by this time been used up; and he was consequently very poor, for which, however, he cared little. But some of the Senators, who liked and pitied the rough-spoken, but warm-hearted and honest old man, persuaded Mr. Seward to appoint him to some post in the State Department created for the occasion. His nominal duty was to explore the Continental newspapers for matter interesting to the American government, and to furnish the Secretary of State, when called upon, with opinions upon diplomatic questions. As he once stated it to me in his terse way, it was "to read the German newspapers, and keep Seward from making a fool of himself." The first part of this duty, he said, was easy enough, but the latter part rather difficult. He kept the office longer than I expected, knowing his temper and habit of grumbling; but even Mr. Seward's patience was at length exhausted, and he was dismissed for long-continued disrespectful remarks concerning his official superior.

Some time in 1862 I met Gurowski in Washington, at the rooms of Senator Sumner, which he was in the habit of visiting almost every evening. I had not seen him for a long time, and he greeted me very cordially; but I soon perceived that his habit of dogmatism had increased terribly, and that he was more impatient than ever of contradiction. He began to talk in a high tone about McClellan, the Army of the Potomac, and the probable duration of the Rebellion. His views for the most part seemed sound enough, but were so offensively expressed that, partly in impatience[Pg 633] and partly for amusement, I soon began to contradict him roundly on every point. He became furious, and for nearly an hour stormed and stamped about the room, in the centre of which sat Mr. Sumner in his great chair, taking no part in the discussion, but making occasional ineffectual attempts to pacify Gurowski, who at length rushed out of the room in a rage too deep for even his torrent of words to express. After his departure, Mr. Sumner remarked that he reminded him of the whale in Barnum's Museum, which kept going round and round in its narrow tank, blowing with all its might whenever it came to the surface, which struck me at the time as a singularly apt comparison.

I met Gurowski the next evening at the Tribune rooms, near Willard's, and found him still irritated and disposed to "blow." I checked him, however, told him I had had enough of nonsense, and wanted him to talk soberly; and, taking his arm, walked with him to his lodgings, where, while he dressed for a party, which he always did with great care, I made him tell me his opinion about men and affairs. He was unusually moderate and rational, and described the "situation," as the newspapers call it, with force and penetration. The army, he thought, was everything that could be desired, if it only had an efficient commander and a competent staff. I asked what he thought of Lincoln. "He is a beast." This was all he would say of him. I knew, of course, that he meant bête in the French sense, and not in the offensive English sense of the word. The truth was, that Gurowski had little relish for humor, and the drollery which formed so prominent a part of Lincoln's external character was unintelligible and offensive to him. At a later period, as I judge from his Diary, he understood the President better, and did full justice to his noble qualities.

I was particularly curious to know what he thought of Seward, whom he had good opportunities of seeing at that time, as he was still in the service of the State Department. He pronounced him shallow and insincere, and ludicrously ignorant of European affairs. The diplomatists of Europe, he said, were all making fun of his despatches, and looked upon him as only a clever charlatan.

This proved to be my last conversation with Gurowski. I met him once again, however, at Washington, in the spring of 1863. I was passing up Fifteenth Street, by the Treasury Department, and reached one of the cross-streets just as a large troop of cavalry came along. The street was ankle-deep with mud, only the narrow crossing being passable, and I hurried to get over before the cavalry came up. Midway on the crossing I encountered Gurowski, wrapped in a long black cloak and a huge felt hat, rather the worse for wear. He threw open his arms to stop me, and, without any preliminary phrase, launched into an invective on Horace Greeley. In an instant the troop was upon us, and we were surrounded by trampling and rearing horses, and soldiers shouting to us to get out of the way. Gurowski, utterly heedless of all around him, raised his voice above the tumult, and roared that Horace Greeley was "an ass, a traitor, and a coward." It was no time to hold a parley on that question, and, breaking from him, I made for the opposite sidewalk, then, turning, saw Gurowski for the last time, enveloped in a cloud of horsemen, through which he was composedly making his way at his usual meditative pace.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.