Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/230

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of the most brilliant in the club's history. O'Reilly's opening address was in his best vein, and ran as follows:

Like one called upon to sing who is almost certain to strike the wrong note of accompaniment, I rise to speak for the Papyrus to-night. The right word fitly spoken is a precious rarity. Could I gather the thoughts that tremble to-night toward the lip of every member of the club, I should assuredly speak a sweet word of our own gratification, and of welcome to our distinguished guests.

On this, our annual ladies' night, it seemed right to this club, composed of men who work in or who love literature and art, to make a public testament of our respect for those who have won eminence in these branches,—our gifted writers and sweet singers whom all men honor, because they "can make the thing that is not, as the thing that is."

To express this appreciation and respect, we invited to our dinner a few of those chosen ones. We welcome them with cordial warmth, with pleasure and with pride. In bringing together even so many as are here of the brightest and sweetest flowers of our time and country, we feel that we have done something honorable to the Papyrus, and beseeming the intellectual renown of Boston.

We are proud to say that their presence is a compliment to us and to Boston. A hundred years ago, everbody patronized distinguished literary people, and in doing so displeased and degraded them. Today, the distinguished literary people patronize everybody else, and in so doing delight and elevate them—so that no questions can be raised as to whom the natural right of patronage belongs.

Perhaps some future historian of literature, seeking for the period of the change, will stop at the record of this reception, to read over the names of our guests, and he will write it down that the Papyrus belonged completely to the new order of things.

The author is no longer "one whom the strong sons of the world despise." The tables are turned on "the strong sons" so heavily that one kind-hearted poet, looking down from his secure seat on the heights, is moved to apologize or plead for the million, "whose work is great and hard while his is great and sweet." You all know the tender lines of that gentle heart that is with us to-night:

"A few can touch the magic string.
And noisy fame is proud to win them;
Alas, for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!"

But there is something particular to be said about our guests—some cunning word to establish reciprocity between them and us; and I