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A Friend Of Fitzgerald
by [?]

John Loder was born in Woodbridge, August 3, 1825. His grandfather, Robert Loder, founded the family bookselling and printing business, which continues to-day at the old shop on the Thoroughfare under John Loder’s son, Morton Loder. In the days before the railway came through, Woodbridge was the commercial centre for a large section of East Suffolk; it was a busy port, and the quays were crowded with shipping. But when transportation by rail became swift and cheap and the provinces began to deal with London merchants, the little town’s prosperity suffered a sad decline. Many of the old Woodbridge shops, of several generations’ standing, have had to yield to local branches of the great London “stores.” In John Loder’s boyhood the book business was at its best. Woodbridgians were great readers, and such prodigal customers as FitzGerald did much to keep the ledgers healthy. John left school at thirteen or so, to learn the trade, and became the traditional printer’s devil. He remembered Bernard Barton, the quiet, genial, brown-eyed poet, coming down the street from Alexander’s Bank (where he was employed for forty years) with a large pile of banknotes to be renumbered. The poet sat perched on a high stool watching young Loder and his superior do the work. And at noon Mr. Barton sent out to the Royal Oak Tavern near by for a basket of buns and a jug of stout to refresh printer and devil at their work.

Bernard Barton died in 1849, and was kid to rest in the little Friends’ burying ground in Turn Lane. That quiet acre will repay the visitor’s half-hour tribute to old mortality. My grandmother was buried there, one snowy day in January, 1912, and I remember how old John Loder came forward to the grave, bareheaded and leaning on his stick, to drop a bunch of fresh violets on the coffin.

Many a time I have sat in the quiet, walled-in garden of Burkitt House–that sweet plot of colour and fragrance so pleasantly commemorated by Mr. Mosher in his preface to “In Praise of Old Gardens”–and heard dear old John Loder tell stories of his youth. I remember the verse of Herrick he used to repeat, pointing round his little retreat with a well-stained pipestem:

But walk’st about thine own dear bounds,
Not envying others’ larger grounds:
For well thou know’st, ’tis not th’ extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.

Loder’s memory used to go back to times that seem almost fabulous now. He had known quite well an English soldier who was on guard over Boney at St. Helena–in fact, he once published in some newspaper this man’s observations upon the fallen emperor, but I have not been able to trace the piece. He had been in Paris before the troubles of ’48. I believe he served some sort of bookselling apprenticeship on Paternoster Row; at any rate, he used to be in touch with the London book trade as a young man, and made the acquaintance of Bernard Quaritch, one of the world’s most famous booksellers. I remember his lamenting that FitzGerald had not dumped the two hundred unsold booklets of Omar upon his counter instead of Quaritch’s in 1859. The story goes that they were offered by Quaritch for a penny apiece.

I always used to steer him onto the subject of FitzGerald sooner or later, and it was interesting to hear him tell how many princes of the literary world had come to his shop or had corresponded with him owing to his knowledge of E.F.G. Arme Thackeray gave him a beautiful portrait of herself in return for some courtesy he showed her. Robert H. Groome, the archdeacon of Suffolk, and his brilliant son, Francis Hindes Groome, the “Tarno Rye” (who wrote “Two Suffolk Friends” and was said by Watts Dunton to have known far more about the gipsies than Borrow) were among his correspondents.[D] John Hay, Elihu Vedder, Aldis Wright, Canon Ainger, Thomas B. Mosher, Clement Shorter, Dewitt Miller, Edward Clodd, Leon Vincent–such men as these wrote or came to John Loder when they wanted special news about FitzGerald. FitzGerald had given him a great many curios and personal treasures: Mr. Loder never offered these for sale at any price (anything connected with FitzGerald was sacred to him) but if any one happened along who seemed able to appreciate them he would give them away with delight. He gave to me FitzGerald’s old musical scrapbook, which he had treasured for over thirty years. This scrapbook, in perfect condition, contains very beautiful engravings, prints, and drawings of the famous composers, musicians, and operatic stars of whom Fitz was enivre as a young man. Among them are a great many drawings of Handel; FitzGerald, like Samuel Butler, was an enthusiastic Handelian. The pictures are annotated by E.F.G. and there are also two drawings of Beethoven traced by Thackeray. This scrapbook was compiled by FitzGerald when he and Thackeray were living together in London, visiting the Cave of Harmony and revelling in the dear delights of young intellectual companionship. Under a drawing of the famous Braham, dated 1831, Fitz has written: “As I saw and heard him many nights in the Pit of Covent Garden, in company with W.M. Thackeray, whom I was staying with at the Bedford Coffee House.”