We had picked up the notion that Mr. Davis was a snobbish person; we found him a very friendly man; gentle, describes it, in manner. Very respectful to clerks. “One of the other gentlemen here ordered another book for me,” he mentions. But more. A sort of camaraderie. Says, one day, that he just stepped in to dodge some people he saw coming. Inquires, “Well, what’s going on in the book world?” Buys travel books, Africa and such. Buys a quart of ink at a clip. He conveyed to us further, unconsciously, perhaps, a subtle impression that he was, in sympathy with us, on our side, so to say; in any difficulty, that would be, that might arise; with “the boys,” in a manner of speaking. Veteran globe trotter and soldier of fortune on the earth’s surface, Mr. Davis suffered a considerable shock to discover in tete-a-tete that we had never been in London. London ? Such a human vegetable, we saw, was hardly credible.
“Charge,” he said, “to James Huneker.” He pronounced his name in a very eccentric fashion, the first syllable like that in “hunter.” In our commerce with the world we have, with this rather important exception, invariably heard this “u” as in “humid.” A substantial figure, very erect in carriage, supporting his portliness with that physical pride of portly men, moving with the dignity of bulk; a physiognomy of Rodinesque modelling. His cane a trim touch to the ensemble. Decidedly affable in manner to us. “Very nice man,” comments our hasty note. “One of our young gentlemen here, black eyes, black hair.”–describes with surprising memory of exact observation a fellow-serf–”was to get a book for me a couple of months ago.” Bought the Muther monograph on Goya. Referred humorously to his new book–one on music. Said, “Many people won’t believe that one can be equally good, or perhaps bad, at many things.” Spoke of Arnold Bennett; said he was “a hard-working journalist as well as a novel writer.” Seemed to possess the greater respect, great esteem, for the character of journalist. We felt a reminiscence of that solid practicality of sentiment of another heavy man. “Nobody but a blockhead,” said Dr. Johnson, “ever wrote except for money.”
Mentioned the novel then just out, “Predestined.” “He [the author] is one of our men, you know.” Fraternal pride and affection in inflection, though he said he did not know Mr. Whitman. “Thank you very much indeed,” he said at leaving.
From his carriage, moving slowly in on the arm of a Japanese boy, his servant, came one day John La Farge. Tales of the Far East. Profound erudition, skin of sear parchment, Indian philosophies, exotic culture, incalculable age, inscrutable wisdom, intellectual mystery, a dignity deep in its appeal to the imagination–such was the connotation of this presence. (Fine as that portrait by Mr. Cortissoz.) An Oriental scholar, all right, we thought. Mr. La Farge was in search of some abstruse art books. He did not care, he said, what language they were in, except German. He said he hated German. “Well, we have to go to the German for many things, you know,” we said. “Yes,” said Mr. La Farge, “we have to die, too, but I don’t want to any sooner than I can help.”
But it is not famous authors only that are interesting. We were approached one day by a tall, exceedingly solemn individual who asked for a copy of a book the name of which sounded to us like the title of what “the trade” knows as “a juvenile.” “Who wrote it?” we inquired, puzzled. In a deep, hollow voice the unknown gentleman vibrated, “I did.”