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(Speech of Henry Watterson at the dinner held on the anniversary of General W. T. Sherman's birthday, Washington, D. C., February 8, 1883. Colonel George B. Corkhill presided, and introduced Mr. Watterson to speak to the toast, “Our Wives."]
GENTLEMEN :—When one undertakes to respond to such a sentiment as you do me the honor to assign me, he knows in advance that he is put, as it were, upon his good behavior. I recognize the justice of this and accepted the responsibility with the charge; though I may say that if General Sherman's wife resembles mine—and I very much suspect she does—he has a sympathy for me at the present moment. Once upon a festal occasion, a little late, quite after the hour when Cinderella was bidden by her godmother to go to bed, I happened to extol the graces and virtues of the newly wedded wife of a friend of mine, and finally, as a knockdown argument, I compared her to my own wife. “In this case,” said he, dryly, “you'll catch it when you get home.” It is a peculiarity they all have: not a ray of humor where the husband is concerned; to the best of them and to the last he must be and must continue to be a hero!
Now, I do not wish you to believe, nor to think that I myself believe, that all women make heroes of their husbands. Women are logical in nothing. They naturally hate mathematics. So, they would have their husbands be heroes only to the rest of the world. There is a charming picture by John Leech, the English satirist, which depicts Jones, who never looked askance at a woman in his life, sitting demurely at table, stuck with his nose on his plate, and Mrs. Jones opposite, redundant to a degree, observing with gratified severity, “Now, Mr. Jones, don't let me see you ogling those Smith girls again!” She, too, was like the rest—the good ones, I mean—seeing the world through her husband; no happiness but his comfort; no vanity but his glory; sacrificing herself to his wants, and where he proves inadequate putting her imagination out to service and bringing home a basket of flowers to deck his brow. Of our sweethearts the humorist hath it:
“Where are the Marys and Anns and Elizas,
Lovely and loving of yore?
Married and dead by the score."
But “our wives." We don't have far to look to find them; sometimes, I am told, you army gentlemen have been known to find them turning unexpectedly up along the ranges of the Rocky Mountains, and making their presence felt even as far as the halls of the Montezumas. Yet how should we get on without them? Rob mankind of his wife and time could never become a grandfather. Strange as you may think it our wives are, in a sense, responsible for our children; and I ask you seriously how could the world get on if it had no children? It might get on for a while, I do admit; but I challenge the boldest among you to say how long it could get on without “our wives." It would not only give out of children; in a little-a very little-while it would have no mother-in-law, nor sister-inlaw, nor brother-in-law, nor any of those acquired relatives whom it has learned to love, and who have contributed so largely to its stock of harmless pleasure.
But, as this is not exactly a tariff discussion, though a duty, I drop statistics; let me ask you what would become of the revenues of man if it were not for “ our wives?” We should have no milliners but for "our wives." But for
our wives " those makers of happiness and furbelows, those fabricators of smiles and frills, those gentle beings who bias and scollop and do their sacking at both ends of the bill, and sometimes in the middle, would be compelled to shut up shop, retire from business, and return to the good old city of Mantua, whence they came. The world would grow too rich; albeit, on this promise I do not propose to construct an argument in favor of more wives. One wife is enough, two is too many, and more than two are an abomination everywhere, except in Utah and the halls of our national legislature.
I beg you will forgive me. I do but speak in banter. It has been said that a good woman, fitly mated, grows doubly good; but how often have we seen a bad man mated to a good woman turned into a good man? Why, I myself was not wholly good till I married my wife; and, if the eminent soldier and gentleman in whose honor we are here—and may he be among us many and many another anniversary, yet always sixty-three-if he should tell the story of his life, I am sure he would say that its darkest hours were cherished, its brightest illuminated by the fair lady of a noble race, who stepped from the highest social eminence to place her hand in that of an obscure young subaltern of the line. The world had not become acquainted with him, but with the prophetic instinct of a true woman she discovered, as she has since developed, the mine. So it is with all “our wives.” Whatever there is good in us they bring it out; wherefor may they be forever honored in the myriad of hearts they come to lighten and to bless. [Loud applause.]
THE PURITAN AND THE CAVALIER
(Speech of Henry Watterson at the eighty-ninth anniversary banquet of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1894. Elihu Root, President of the Society, introduced Mr. Watterson in the following words: “ Gentlemen, we are forced to recognize the truth of the observation that all the people of New England are not Puritans; we must admit an occasional exception. It is equally true, I am told, that all the people of the South are not cavaliers; but there is one cavalier without fear and without reproach (applause), the splendid courage of whose convictions shows how close together the highest examples of different types can be among godlike men-a cavalier of the South, of southern blood and southern life, who carries in thought and in deed all the serious purpose and disinterested action that characterized the Pilgrim Fathers whom we commemorate. He comes from an impressionist State where the grass is blue (laughter), where the men are either all white or all black, and where, we are told, quite often the settlements are painted red. (Laughter.]
He is a soldier, a statesman, a scholar, and, above all, a lover; and among all