Howe Letters - 1890

Paris, Feb. 2, 1890.
My dear Charles:
You poor lad. I received your charming letter last night along with a sharp prick of conscience when I found out that I had acknowledged neither your photo, nor that lovely little book both of which you so kindly sent me. But I see by your letter that your charitableness overcame your disgust with me & I thank you from the bottom of heart & beg your pardon most humbly. By the way, I see how much you profited by that piece in the Bible about charity that Mr. B. had us boys learn.
I think your picture is a splendid (& I am sorry that it is not a speaking) likeness. While I was in Berlin I had to part with four of those little pictures we had taken together.
As you see we have changed our abode & are now in the city magnifique. Before leaving Berlin I had some very good skating. The skaters have to pay a fee of 6¢ to go on the ponds & then they can hire skates & buy beer & things to eat right on the ice.
You of course heard of the death of Kaiserin Agusta in consequence of which nearly everything in the amusement line was shut up for a long time. About that time I went to a reception given by the Young Men's League and had a very pleasant time & heard a good speech by minister Phelps.
When we left it seemed more like a funeral than anything else. The last I saw of the Fraulein she was standing at the top of the stairs weeping. The whole pension went down to the station & saw us off. They were awfully kind and I tell you we were sorry to say goodbye.
We are stopping at a pension near one edge of the city and near the Arc de Triomphe. I haven't learned a bit of French & don't think I shall for all the people stopping here either are English or talk it so I don't get any practice. I don't like the French people much anyhow.
The women are as a class very pretty, a great many being beautiful, and in the matter of dress they are perfect artists. The men are slight, weak, little things and some of them have awfully mean looking faces with a way of gliding around that makes me think of a snake.
The soldiers are simply abominable. They seem to put their weakest men into the army & dress them in dirty, baggy, red uniforms in which I should think no man would have pride enough to fight. However I hear they fight like tigers.
Paris itself is magnificent. I never imagined how vast and grand, and beautiful it is. The streets are immensely long and wide and awfully clean. The pavements are mostly of stone or wood. There are a great many beggars, some of which are in the most horrible conditions of deformity.
Paris seems the most like N.Y. of any city we have visited yet. I think some people have a wrong impression or idea rather of foreign cities, I know I did. I expected to find everything over here strange & unlike anything I had seen in America. It is not so by any means. Now if you were taken from one of the main streets of New York & suddenly transmitted to one of the principal streets of Paris I do not think you would be surprised at the change.
We have done a reasonable amount of sightseeing for 2 1/2 wks. time I think. I have been to the Louvre picture gallery 4 times. Day before yesterday we visited the tomb of Napoleon, the Pantheon & walked thru' the garden of the Luxembourg. One day we visited a museum which contains many relics of the revolution, the most interesting thing being the decree for the execution of Louis XVI. Then we visited a museum containing house furnishings of the time of Louis XIV, XV & XVI. The Eiffel Tower is closed so we can't go up, which is a great disappointment to me.
I am awfully sorry you have been sick and hope you soon recovered your usual health. My cousin from Marshalltown Iowa & his wife & an old (Miss Kirby) & a young lady (Mamie Binford) arrived here last week, and I think perhaps we shall leave Paris in a wk. or so & go down to southern France with them. By the way doesn't Miss Curtis (Myron's friend?) come from out that way somewhere, do you know where? If you ever write to her send her my regards will you?
At present I am reading the history of the world & Lorna Doone by Blackmore. The latter is one of the prettiest stories I ever read.
This leaf which I enclose is one I picked from Mendelssohn's grave in Berlin. In closing -- but hold on I must read your letter over & see if there is anything I have forgotten. I thought I wrote my last letter to you after Christmas but you seem to think I didn't say anything about Christmas & New Years. Well Christmas lasts a week there. Instead of waiting till Wed. (Xmas day proper) they had their presents Tuesday night. We all had our presents together in the big parlor. None of us got many costly presents, but we had a grand good time.
New Years' night is the only time the Germans knock off & get waked up. But then they do it up in great shape. As many as want to get drunk & then they crowd out in the streets & hoot & yell all night long. It is a custom there to smash in every tall hat that comes into the street. Another thing, if a man comes along & yells out to you "Proseit Neu Jahr!" & you answer him not he has a right to smash your hat in & perhaps your head, along with it.
Yes, the police try to stop it but they can't do much with such a mob.
I did go to the American Chapel there at Berlin many times, only missing one or two Sundays and they were thoroughly enjoyable (I do not mean the Sundays I missed) the minister there (Stuckenberg) is one of the noblest men I ever knew.
I have added a new correspondent to my list. She is one of the young lady boarders at our pension in Berlin. Now don't worry for she is 8 or 9 years older than I but a mighty nice girl. And now my dear boy I must close for this letter is assuming frightful proportions.
Please give my kindest regards to your people (mine would send theirs if they were here) & accept my love for yourself believing me to be truly, Your friend, George A. Howe
c/o Drexel Harjes & Co.
31 B'l'd Haussmann
Paris, France.
[Leaf enclosed]

Geneva, May 18 1890
My dear Charles:
As it is Sunday afternoon and I have no church, nor anything to see I will sit down & scratch off a few lines to a young man in Northampton who is saying "Well I should think it was about time he was writing if he wants to be considered one of my friends." But I know that young man will forgive me when he thinks of the time which foreign travel takes.
Among other things I am making a collection of postage stamps and have already about 200 some being very good. It's lots of fun and makes one interested in foreign countries & geography.
Do you know I haven't written a letter for so long that I have almost forgotten how to write. Well -- I think I last wrote to you from Rome.
Florence was the next place we stopped at and we stopped there 2 weeks. It is a very nice old town with lots to see & a nice place to live in for a few months.
In a museum there I saw two wooden images of which are said to date back to 3500 years BC. What do you think of that. Dante's house there doesn't amount to much but has some of his things. But Michael Angelo's house where a great many of his designs and drawings are preserved is very interesting. His designs for St. Peter's in Rome are there and also models of his "David". The pictures there are among the finest in the world.
There was a number of American sculptors there one of them being the son of Hiram Powers. We visited his studio & saw the cast of the "Greek Slave" his father's greatest work.
Mr. Larkin G. Meade is another one and he is very nice indeed. I wonder if you ever read about his "angel" that he made out of snow one night when he was a boy at Brattleboro Vt. and how the next day the villagers came to see it and all thought it must have come from heaven it was so beautiful.
Well this was the boy & we saw a statue that he made many years after & it is the most beautiful carving in stone I ever saw.
On our way to Venice we stopped at Bologna but had no sausage. I found Venice just about the kind of the city I had anticipated. I imagined it would have beautiful old palaces fronting on dirty canals with black gondolas flitting about, that some parts of it would be magnificent & others mean & dirty, and that there would be any number of beggars & just so I found it. I expected that there would be only a small part of the city on which you could walk, but you can walk all over the city and there are nearly as many alleys as canals.
The water is all salt & has regular tides, and as all the sewage of the city goes into the canals it is awfully dirty and some of the narrow back canals smell frightfully. But by moonlight (we were there when the moon was full) all the defects are hidden & the ancient magnificence of the city shines out with the glory of which no other city can boast.
The gondolas are all black or nearly all (some of the newer ones are other colors) and cost only 20¢ for the first hour & 10¢ for each succeeding hour. They carry from 2 to 7 people and are very comfortable.
The square of St. Mark's is the finest I ever saw. In the palace of the Doges we saw Fintoretta's Paradise, the largest oil painting in the world. We crossed the "Bridge of Sighs" & went into the old dungeons which are frightfully dark & gloomy.
In one of the churches we visited we saw the tombs of Titien & Canova. Both of them are beautiful. J.G. Bennett's steam yacht came into the Grand Canal & stayed some time. On the whole I enjoyed Venice very, very, much.
Leaving Venice we stopped a few days at Verona, the home of Romeo & Juliet. Juliet's house is occupied & looks like any other Italian house and has a balcony upon the 2 floor but whether that is the balcony or not I don't know. Juliet's tomb is in an old shed behind a farmer's barn & onion field; looks like an old stone bath tub and is nearly half filled with visiting cards of tourists.
We stopped two or three days at Milan taking a trip of a few days from there up the Italian lakes & back. The scenery of those lakes is something to dream of. Milan is a fine, smart, flourishing city and has the most beautiful cathedral I ever saw. It is pure white & I'll show you a picture of it when I get home.
We stopped a couple of days at Turin & there bade goodbye to Italy.
Geneva is the nicest place I've been in for a long time. It is clean & pretty & nearly everything is cheap. Yesterday Mama bought me a lovely seal skin cap for only $10. Yesterday we went into a store where they manufacture music boxes. Nearly everything, pictures, photograph albums, dishes, bottles &c. &c. were music boxes. The clerk who has just returned from America, set off lots of them for us among them the finest of all a great big thing like a small pipe organ but which was a whole orchestra, & combined organ, cornet, trumpet, drums, cymbals, triangle &c. It was a perfect wonder.
Lake Geneva is beautiful. Water is dark blue, & so clear the bottom can be always seen.
And now my dear fellow I must close. We shall probably sail the last of June but I do not know on what boat. Write to me soon won't you. Don't do as you are done by.
With kind regards to your father, mother & sister & love to you I remain,
Your true friend, Geo. A. Howe
c/o Drexel Harjes & Co.
31 B'l'd Haussmann
Paris, France.