Friday, December 10, 2010

Elihu Vedder Calls on Howard Pyle, December 10, 1910

On December 10, 1910, Elihu Vedder, the American artist and longtime resident of Italy, called on Howard Pyle at the Grand Continental Hotel in Rome.

But Pyle couldn’t see him: after dinner that day he had had an attack that spurred the family to fetch a doctor. His lingering illness, punctuated by sharp abdominal pains, pretty much confined him to his rooms: in fact, during his week-long stay in Rome, he ventured out only twice - and one of those times was so he could be x-rayed for kidney stones or gallstones.

Gertrude Brinckl√© and Phoebe Pyle went downstairs to meet Vedder in Pyle’s stead. Miss Brinckl√© wrote of the encounter the next day:
Elihu Vedder, the first personage whom we have seen abroad, came to call on Mr. Pyle last night, and Phoebe and I “received” him. He does not look at all like an artist, any more than Mr. Pyle does! He is a fat elderly man with a wondrous black worsted knitted vest, and a small brown skull-cap, and he talks a great deal about his book, apparently an autobiography or memoirs, of which both Phoebe and I were entirely ignorant.
Just a few weeks before Vedder’s visit, Houghton, Mifflin and Company had published his autobiography, The Digressions of V - in which Pyle gets only a passing mention (but waht else is new?).

Apparently, Pyle had known Vedder since the late 1870s. So far, though, I can put them in same place at the same time only once: on November 8, 1894, the two dined with Laurence and Eleanor Hutton at their house at 229 West 34th Street in Manhattan. A couple of days afterward Pyle spoke of “poor old Mr Vedder!” to Mrs. Hutton, “I suppose he enjoys his Italian life but isn’t it dreadful? Think of having to live in an atmosphere of art forever with no let up of nature and simplicity.”

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