Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/176

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democracy, unfettered by law or precedent, the only authority ever invoked by the kindly ruler, President Dodge, consisting in a vague threat to "name" any member whose boisterousness exceeded the bounds of decorum. The dinner was simple, consisting of chops, steaks, or joints, its austerity being mitigated by beer.

In due time, as the club prospered, an attempt was made, which never wholly succeeded, to introduce evening costume. The president had always appeared thus arrayed, and it was voted, by way of compromise, that his dignified "swallow-tail" should be considered the "club coat." At an early stage in its career the club voted to increase its membership and finances, simultaneously, by admitting a certain number of gentlemen, not exceeding one third of the whole, as "non-literary members." There was a hazy expectation that wealth would thence flow into the coffers of the club, which should be thereby enabled to build a house and live up to its reputation. Bonds were to be issued, but those securities were never listed on the Stock Exchange. When it came to the election of "non-literary" millionaires, the club insisted on choosing candidates possessed of qualities not usually concomitant with wealth. The non-literary members chosen were "good fellows" to a man: the literary members were of the same character ipso facto. On one historic evening there were elected Thomas Bailey Aldrich, William Dean Howells, Charles Gaylord, and Dr. George B. Loring. Such non-literary men as E. E. Eice, of "Evangeline," George Roberts, W. A. Means, F. V. Parker, and a score of others, did not detract from the gayety of the genial Bohemian crowd.

There was something more than mere pleasure associated with those meetings. As George M. Towle has well said: "Pleasant as are its literary features, its habit of hospitality to prominent strangers, its brilliant ladies' nights, its occasional music and fitful eloquence, to me its most grateful use is the freedom, the enlivenment, and I may perhaps even add, the affectionateness of its social sphere. I suppose most of us feel a kindlier interest in a man when