Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recollections of Full Years

You can read Nellie Taft's autobiography online, full text, for free if you like. I'm not thrilled with the readability (and I personally actually own this book), but for reference it is great and hey, free is good!

Here is an excerpt on meeting William Howard Taft:
I didn't meet my husband until I was eighteen years old. We had been bom and brought up in the same town; our fathers were warm friends and had practised law at the same bar for more than forty years ; during that time our mothers had exchanged visits, and my sister Maria and Fanny Taft were schoolmates and close companions at Miss Nourse's, but the Taf ts lived at Mt. Auburn, a hill suburb of Cincin- nati, and after Will finished Woodward High School he went for four years to Yale, so it is not at all surprising that we did not meet.

Judge Alphonso Taft was Secretary of War, and later Attorney-General, in Grant's Cabinet while his son Will was at college, but before the latter graduated, the family had returned to Cincinnati, so he came straight home and entered at once upon a law course in the Cincinnati Law School. It was at that time, when he was still a student and working as a law reporter on the Cincinnati Commercial^ that I met him. It was at a coasting party one winter's night, I re- member very well, when I went with a party of young people, including the Charles Tafts, to coast down a fine steep hill in Mt- Aubum. Will Taft was there, and after being introduced to me he took me down the hill on his big bobsled. After that we met very frequently.

A small circle of us went in for amateur theatricals with much enthusiasm and great earnestness. We launched ourselves in our histrionic careers in "She Stoops to Conquer" which we gave at the ^ house of one of the company. Then came "A Scrap of Paper" in Mrs. Charles Taft's drawing-room, in which both Will and I took part. We had become very ambidous by this time and sent all the way to New York for a professional stage-manager to help us with the production. But it turned out a most nervous occasion. We were all overtrained, I suppose. One thing after another went wrong until at the crisis of the play, where the hero is supposed to find in the barrel of a gun the scrap of paper upon which the whole plot hinges, the ama- teur hero looked pretty foolish when he discovered there wasn't any gun. Another one of the company, in a fit of absentmindedness, no doubt due to overwrought nerves, had carried it off the stage, and just when the situation was get- ting tragic for the hero the culprit came creeping back with it and carefully put it where it belonged, for all the world as if he thought he were making himself invisible to the au- dience.

But our ardour was not dampened. I remember Mr. Taf t especially in a burlesque of "The Sleeping Beauty," which, in its legitimate form, had been produced for charity at Pike's Opera House. The Unity Club, a most respectable organization of the young men of the Unitarian Church, decided to give their version of the same story, and it was a huge success. Mr. Taf t played the title role and his brother Horace, who is six feet four in his stocking feet, shared with the Beauty the honours of the evening as a most enchanting Puck.

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