(INTRODUCES OUR HERO)
Loitering perchance on the western pavement of Madison avenue, between the streets numbered 38 and 39, and gazing with an observant eye upon the pedestrians passing southward, you would be likely to see, about 8:40 o’clock of the morning, a gentleman of remarkable presence approaching with no bird-like tread. This creature, clad in a suit of subfuse respectable weave, bearing in his hand a cane of stout timber with a right-angled hornblende grip, and upon his head a hat of rich texture, would probably also carry in one hand (the left) a leather case filled with valuable papers, and in the other hand (the right, which also held the cane) a cigarette, lit upon leaving the Grand Central subway station. This cigarette the person of our tale would frequentatively apply to his lips, and then withdraw with a quick, swooping motion. With a rapid, somewhat sidelong gait (at first somehow clumsy, yet upon closer observation a mode of motion seen to embrace certain elements of harmony) this gentleman would converge upon the southwest corner of Madison avenue and 38th street; and the intent observer, noting the menacing contours of the face, would conclude that he was going to work.
This gentleman, beneath his sober but excellently haberdashered surtout, was plainly a man of large frame, of a Sam Johnsonian mould, but, to the surprise of the calculating observer, it would be noted that his volume (or mass) was not what his bony structure implied. Spiritually, in deed, this interesting individual conveyed to the world a sensation of stoutness, of bulk and solidity, which (upon scrutiny) was not (or would not be) verified by measurement. Evidently, you will conclude, a stout man grown thin; or, at any rate, grown less stout. His molded depth, one might assess at 20 inches between the eaves; his longitude, say, five feet eleven; his registered tonnage, 170; his cargo, literary; and his destination, the editorial sancta of a well-known publishing house.
This gentleman, in brief, is Mr. Robert Cortes Holliday (but not the “stout Cortes” of the poet), the editor of The Bookman.
(OUR HERO BEGINS A CAREER)
“It would seem that whenever Nature had a man of letters up her sleeve, the first gift with which she has felt necessary to dower him has been a preacher sire.”
R.C.H. of N.B. Tarkington.
Mr. Holliday was born in Indianapolis on July 18, 1880. It is evident that ink, piety and copious speech circulated in the veins of his clan, for at least two of his grandfathers were parsons, and one of them, Dr. Ferdinand Cortez Holliday, was the author of a volume called “Indiana Methodism” in which he was the biographer of the Rev. Joseph Tarkington, the grandfather of Newton B. Tarkington, sometimes heard of as Booth Tarkington, a novelist. Thus the hand of Robert C. Holliday was linked by the manacle of destiny to the hand of Newton B. Tarkington, and it is a quaint satisfaction to note that Mr. Holliday’s first book was that volume “Booth Tarkington,” one of the liveliest and soundest critical memoirs it has been our fortune to enjoy.
Like all denizens of Indianapolis–“Tarkingtonapolis,” Mr. Holliday calls it–our subject will discourse at considerable volume of his youth in that high-spirited city. His recollections, both sacred and profane, are, however, not in our present channel. After a reputable schooling young Robert proceeded to New York in 1899 to study art at the Art Students’ League, and later became a pupil of Twachtman. The present commentator is not in a position to say how severely either art or Mr. Holliday suffered in the mutual embrace. I have seen some of his black and white posters which seemed to me robust and considerably lively. At any rate, Mr. Holliday exhibited drawings on Fifth avenue and had illustrative work published by Scribner’s Magazine. He did commercial designs and comic pictures for juvenile readers. At this time he lived in a rural community of artists in Connecticut, and did his own cooking. Also, he is proud of having lived in a garret on Broome street. This phase of his career is not to be slurred over, for it is a clue to much of his later work. His writing often displays the keen eye of the painter, and his familiarity with the technique of pencil and brush has much enriched his capacity to see and to make his reader see with him. Such essays as “Going to Art Exhibitions,” and the one-third dedication of “Walking-Stick Papers” to Royal Cortissoz are due to his interest in the world as pictures.