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Silas Orrin Howes
by [?]

At some time during his career he came into intimate friendly contact with Ambrose Bierce, and used to tell many entertaining anecdotes about that erratic venturer in letters. He edited one of Bierce’s volumes, adding a pleasant and scholarly little introduction. He was an occasional contributor to Reedy’s Mirror, where he enjoyed indulging in his original vein of satire and shrewd comment. He was a great lover of quaint and exotic restaurants, and was particularly fond of the Turkish cafe, the Constantinople, just off Madison Square. It was a treat to go there with him, see him summon the waiter by clapping his hands (in the eastern fashion), and enjoy the strangely compounded dishes of that queer menu. He had sampled every Bulgar, Turkish, Balkan, French, and Scandinavian restaurant on Lexington Avenue. His taste in unusual and savoury dishes was as characteristic as his love for the finer flavours of literature. I remember last November I elicited from him that he had never tasted gooseberry jam, and had a jolly time hunting for a jar, which I found at last at Park and Tilford’s, although the sales-girl protested there was no such thing. I took it to him and made him promise to eat it at his breakfasts.

He had the true passions of the book-lover, which are not allotted to many. He had read hungrily, enjoying chiefly those magical draughts of prose which linger in the mind: Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, Pater, Thoreau, Conrad. He was much of a recluse, a little saddened and sharpened perhaps by some of his experiences; and he loved, above all, those writers who can present truth with a faint tang of acid flavour, the gooseberry jam of literature as it were. One of my last satisfactions was to convert him (in some measure) to an enthusiasm for Pearsall Smith’s “Trivia.”

As one looks back at that quiet, honourable life, one is aware of a high, noble spirit shining through it: a spirit that sought but little for itself, welcomed love and comradeship that came its way, and was content with a modest round of routine duty because it afforded inner contact with what was beautiful and true. One remembers an innate gentleness, and a loyalty to a high and chivalrous ideal.

Such a life might be a lesson, if anything could, to the bumptious and “efficient” and smug. Time after time I have watched him serving some furred and jewelled customer who was not fit to exchange words with him; I have seen him jostled in a crowded aisle by some parvenu ignoramus who knew not that this quiet little man was one of the immortal spirits of gentleness and breeding who associate in quiet hours with the unburied dead of English letters. That corner of the store, near the front door, can never be the same.

Such a life could only fittingly be described by the gentle, inseeing pen of an E. V. Lucas.

My greatest regret and disappointment, when I heard of his sudden death, was that he would never know of a little tribute I had paid him in a forthcoming book. I had been saving it as a surprise for him, for I knew it would please him. And now he will never know.

February, 1918.