Richard Henry Dana III: An American Oarsman in England – Part III

Cambridge, Henley & London

The River Cam with a view from the Backs to Clare College and King’s Chapel. Christian Richardt, 2004.

13 November 2020

By Göran R Buckhorn

Here follows the third and last part of Richard Henry Dana, III’s diary Hospitable England in the Seventies – The Diary of a Young American 1875–1876 (1921). (Read part I here and part II here.) In spring 1876, Dana III came back to England after a nearly six month trip on the continent. He first visited Oxford and then in late May, he left Oxford to go to Cambridge.

Richard H. Dana, III.

May 26 […] Cambridge does certainly seem dull and plain after Oxford. The young men appear a little less well-bred. I saw a number sitting on a fence and scrutinizing some young ladies passing by, a thing which I never saw either at Oxford or Harvard, though it is common enough practice at a certain other New England college. [I wonder which college he was refereeing to?]

May 27 Breakfasted with [Herbert] Leaf at Trinity. I met there three or four very charming fellows, among others William Bradford, of New Orleans, a recent graduate, and Francis H. Mellow. During this breakfast Leaf and Bradford kindly put me in the way of seeing pretty much all that was going on. We adjourned to Bradford’s room where I met Francis Peabody, of Salem, Massachusetts, who is also a student at Trinity. He and Bradford both rowed in the first Trinity eight in the recent bumping races and their crew stood second on the river. Peabody was on the winning “trial eight” and missed a seat on the University crew on account of a temporary illness. [Francis’s older brother, J. E. Peabody, was the first American to row in the Boat Race, in the Cambridge wining crew of 1873].

[…] Lunched with Bradford and then we went rowing together in a pair-oar tub down to the first lock, Baitsbite’s. Lovely day, and a good time.

The boat-houses in Cambridge are more like ours at Harvard, built of wood or stone and on the river-bank. They are all, but that of first Trinity, very plain, ugly buildings and there are no pretty trees nor shrubs by the river, nor barges as at Oxford. Many of the toilet and sewage arrangements in these beautiful colleges are of a strict mediæval character. The river is not fit for swimming, and woe to both bright blazers and white trousers in case of an upset. […] I dined with Bradford at Trinity, who has been quite devoted to me. Bless his heart, for he is a dear, kind, warm-hearted Southerner! The guests  were Gibbs, whose father is governor of the Bank of England, Lehmann, Penrose, and Gridley, an Eton fellow. Peabody dropped in later – a jolly crowd and a jolly time!

May 28 Breakfasted late with Frank Peabody, where I met a number of men, Haddon, Lehmann, Penrose, Alexander, Corbatt, Jameson, and Rodwald, all bright, cheerful, and hospitable. […] Dined at the don’s table [at St. John’s College] in high style on a dais and had some rare old wine for which their cellar is noted. Some of the dons were agreeable and many no doubt very learned, but they did not converse particularly well and some of them certainly were not refined in their table manners. […]

[…] I dined with [Frank] Mellor, son of Justice Sir John Mellor, in the hall of Trinity College. The hall is the best in Cambridge and better than any I saw in Oxford. […] Mellor took me to walk through “the Backs” [a scenic area to the east of Queen’s Road where several colleges have their backs to the River Cam] and along Fortification Walk to hear the nightingales sing. […] The Backs are to me one of the most beautiful things in Cambridge and quite superior to any one thing in Oxford.

The three Close brothers who rowed for Cambridge, left to right – William (1875, 1876 1877), James (1872, 1873, 1874) and John (1871, 1872).  During Richard Henry Dana, III’s visit to Cambridge, he went on outings with James Close.

May 29 Breakfasted with Bradford and then met Mitchell, number five of the winning ‘Varsity of this year. He is unusually bright and would be a fine scholar as well as rowing man with a little more application, I am told. I was rather disappointed in not finding the ‘Varsity oarsmen larger men. Mitchell, who is quite a noted oar, is not taller than I and not broader, though perhaps a little thicker-set, and not nearly as large and strong as either Bacon or Goodwin, to say nothing of Taylor on the Harvard crew in 1874, which was the heaviest on which I have rowed. Indeed, I was the next to the lightest man on the University that year. […]

[…] On the river I rowed in a four-oar with [James] Close, an old ‘Varsity oar who coached this year’s successful crew on the Thames. He stroked our boat. Penrose, stroke of Trinity, was behind him, and Bradford behind me. Penrose and Close are on the four-oar going to Philadelphia from Trinity College for the great regatta at the Centennial Exhibition. Their stroke is somewhat longer than that at Oxford, just the reverse of the state of affairs a few years ago. They do not snatch so quickly from the water, which is becoming a great fault at Oxford. It is very well to correct the fault, but I think the Cambridge men are overdoing the correction, reaching too far forward and going too far back. It is proved to absolute demonstration, that going back beyond a certain point is wasted motion, requiring great effort in the recovery. The Trinity pair-oar were out practicing for the championship of the college. Trinity has six hundred undergraduate members in all, so its races are quite good. They got coached all the way. Had a good shower bath after our row.

R. C. ‘Rudie’ Lehmann, 1890.

The Trinity boat-house has hand basins and shower baths, two large dressing-rooms and a reading-room, but no lockers, strange to say. I dined with R. C. Lehmann, of Trinity, who has very handsome rooms, with rich, old furniture, dark hangings, and all in good taste. The dinner was rather too elaborate, I thought, for college. It was a regular London one, with all its courses, servants, wines, flowers, and fruits. Sturgis, son of Russell Sturgis, of London, Frank Peabody, Foster (who afterwards married Lehmann’s sister), Ward, Gibbs, Denman, Bradford, Grey, Cole, and three or four others were there. I sang some songs to the guitar. They particularly liked “Louisiana Lowlands” and made me repeat it in Sturgis’s room, where we adjourned for tea, and delicious tea it was, too! […] (Rudolph Chambers Lehmann who gave the dinner, was afterwards an editor of London “Punch,” of the “Daily News,” a member of Parliament, and for two years coach of the Harvard University crew. Though he failed to win a race for Harvard against Yale, he did much to improve the good feeling and to better the athletic relations between those two colleges.)

May 30 Breakfasted with Bradford, who had a “chap” there named James Bradford Mann, who is on the Philadelphia four […]. I went to the rooms of a fellow of King’s whom I met at lunch and strolled down with him to the boats. I measured some of the fittings of the eights used in the last races. They were not well placed. Many of the rowlocks were too high and too near the seats, measured horizontally and to the middle of the boat. This was not only my individual opinion, as different from our measurements at Harvard, but they were different from those of the Cambridge University crew. I went down as cockswain to a pair-oar tub, with the remaining two of the Trinity four that is going to America. They were not large fellows, only one of the four is taller than I. Penrose, Close, and I did running high jumps for beers. Close beat me and I beat Penrose. They said I really jumped higher than Close, but did not know how to get over the bar in the right way. Perhaps that was just their manner of being pleasant, but very likely they were right as I had never had any coaching for high jumping.

To-day they rowed the Trinity pair-oar races. Frank Peabody and his partner, Mann, easily won against Lehmann and Hicks. The river was too narrow for even two boats to row abreast, so the boats went in a straight line, the second pair enough behind to not be affected by the wash of the first. They were started by the firing of a pistol. They rowed to stakes up the river placed at a distance apart exactly equal to that between the boats at starting. A man was placed at each stake with a loaded pistol and fired it off as soon as the boat passed which was to finish at his stake, and the first pistol that went off showed which boat had won. Stop-watches were also carried by men running or on horseback alongside of each boat, and so the time was kept. A professional water-man ran beside each boat and gave the bow directions for steering during the race. The pair-oars are now rowed without cockswains and are steered by rudders worked by the bow oar, with an arrangement by which his feet can regulate long copper tiller wires. […]

Dined again with Bradford, where I met Penrose, Peabody, Jameson, Riston, and Mann, another of the so-called “American” or “Philadelphia” four. I gave them an idea of the heat in Philadelphia and told them of some differences in our diet and training for our summer climate. […] The longer I have stayed in Cambridge the more I appreciate some of its special features. […] “The Backs” here are more beautiful than any one thing at Oxford. Trinity Hall is finer than any hall at Oxford, and one chapel here is perhaps superior also; yet, on the whole, Oxford far surpasses Cambridge in general beauty and dignity. The wonderful bright-colored coats worn by the men of the crews and cricket elevens, which they call “blazers,” are more striking. They seem to an American as too vivid in color, with wonderful contrasts in the way of stripes. I bought as a souvenir the dark blue coat, white trousers, and scarf at Oxford worn by the University crew men. […]

Dana III left for London on May 30. While back in London, Dana III visits the Derby horse race, South Kensington Museum and British Museum. On June 6, Eton’s Day, Dana III took the ten-fifty to Windsor to see the celebrations. He met one of the masters, Mr Rawlings, who showed him around at Eton. They listen to some of the so-called speakings by the sixth form and then took lunch. After lunch, they were joined by Rawling’s brother, who was a friend of Dana III. They went to the cricket field, the most lovely bit of ground, perfectly level, of well-rolled and closely cut turf, thick and green where they listen to the Royal Band from Winsor playing delightfully, and in perfect tune, which is not always true of the bands in England outside the most noted ones. June 6 Dana III continued:

Edmond Warre

I was presented to the headmaster of Eton [Edmond Warre (sometimes his first name is spelt Edmund), whom Dana III does not mention by name]. He is a great rowing authority, and we agreed that the English eights, or racing boats, were built without enough “floor” fore and aft. I was also presented to Mr. Chitty, who was the stroke oar for a year or two of the Oxford ‘Varsity crew [Joseph Chitty rowed in three Boat Races, March and December 1849 and in 1852] and also a double first, and is now a successful barrister (afterwards an eminent judge) and always umpires in the great boat-race between the university crews of Cambridge and Oxford.

He said that whatever improvements they may have made since his day in boats, oars, and style – they had introduced the sliding seat – they did at least one thing worse and that was the coaching. Nowadays a coach, says he, thinks he is not doing his duty unless he is constantly calling out to his men and correcting them for some fault or other. The oarsmen get confused and irritated and then do not pay attention. I do not know that that applies in America to any particular generation. In fact, coaching from outside the boat itself has been rather new at Harvard, but most of our coaches do call out and even swear at the men far too much. I coached the 1875 crew till just before the race and they beat Yale, and I found it was much better to talk calmly, explain fully, and have private talks with the men, merely giving a word of reminder when they were actually rowing, and that no shouting or swearing is the least bit necessary or does any good.

Took tea with the headmaster and afterwards at a Mrs. – ‘s where I met Professor Gurney. On account of a dinner engagement in London I had to leave before the great procession of boats and the fireworks, but I saw some of the boys in their boating uniform. The cockswains were dressed in full admiral’s toggery, and all wore gaudy uniforms varying according to the crew they represented. […]

June 9 Called on […] Mr. Smalley, the London correspondent of the New York “Tribune”. […] I thanked him for what he had done for my father in the  London press at the time of his nomination as Minister to England.

Dana III went dining at the house of Lord and Lady Coleridge June 11 […] It appears that it was he who attracted the attention of the editor of the “Guardian” to an article on the English Ministry in connection with my father and had him write some correction. The English newspapers have all taken the stand of greatly regretting my father’s want of confirmation, but a few of them made some error regarding the action of the Senate Committee. […]

[…] Lord Coleridge said that the Duke of Wellington used to be a duelist, and on one occasion had argued that sometimes a man’s words were such that he should be made to retract them or be willing to stand by them with his life. This language was rather curiously brought up against him when he was advocating the suppression of dueling in the army. [See Tim Koch’s article “The Duke of Wellington: From Waterloo to Waterman” on 9 October 2020]

On June 12 Dana III was invited to breakfast with Sir Frederick Pollock and his family, who the American had met in September 1875. Then Dana III and Mrs Pollack, who was an authoress and had penned a novel called Lissadel (1875), went for a walk in the sunset. Suddenly Mrs Pollock asked Dana III if she might make use of me as her hero in the next novel. In my conceit I said that I would hardly do for a hero and got a deserved answer: “Oh, it doesn’t do to have a perfect hero or he would be laughed at by the critics.” [from diary entry on September 19, 1875]

Mrs Pollock, who wrote under the name ‘Mrs Julius Pollock’, did publish a novel in 1876, Eunice. Whether the ‘hero’ in this novel is drawn upon Dana III, I do not know.

Fishmongers’ Hall, Thames Street, London, in the 1830s.

June 19 […] In the evening dined at Fishmonger’s Hall at the invitation of Mr. Russell Gurney, who presided. I sat opposite of Mr. Cyrus Field. There were many speeches, toasts, and songs, and an enormously elaborate and expensive dinner, beginning with a course of turtle soup, the most delicious I ever tasted. As we went out they gave us each an enormous box of choice sweets, London’s very best. […] From dinner I went to the Princess Theatre, where I had been invited by Lord Tenterden with Mrs. Pollock and a few others in his party. […] the “Stratagem” [which might be George Farquhar’s comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem first produced at the Theatre Royal in London on March 8, 1707] I enjoyed very much. […] I passed my delicious box of candy round the party, and one of the ladies, understanding that it was a gift to her, took it away, rather to my inward disappointment.

June 22 […] Lunched at the Reform Club, where the service is so wonderfully good and the cooking excellent and where one who has been chosen an honorary member is made to feel so much at home and not de trop as when I first went there as a mere visitor. […]

June 24 […] I had received an invitation from the Prime Minister, Disraeli, to meet His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at ten-thirty this evening. I had arranged with a cabman to take to a train at Richmond that would get me to London for this reception, but the wretch never turned up and when the time for his appearance had passed, it was too late to catch that or any other train that would get me from Richmond to London in time. So I missed this interesting reception by a mere accident. I ought to have offered the coachman double fare to insure his coming. It was good Lord Tenterden who had secured this invitation for me, telling me that it was readily granted by Disraeli, who knew of my father and had heard of my being in England.

June 26 […] Went with Miss Mary Longfellow, of Portland, Maine, to the Oxford and Cambridge cricket match at Lords. I had played cricket at St. Paul’s School, where I was captain of both the school and my club eleven, so I watched the play with a critical interest and was delighted to be at Lords. […]

“Henley Royal Regatta” by Lucien Davis, 1898.

June 30 […] After the [Sir John and Lady] Kennaway breakfast went to Henley to see the boat-races with the Longfellow party. It was a most lively scene with the Chiltern Hills for a background. The surface of the river was almost invisible from the number of boats and punts of various kinds which were pushed to the banks when the various races came off, leaving just room for the racing crews, and as soon as one heat or race was over, the surface seemed to be covered again.

It is a short course of one and five sixteenths miles, rowed upstream, equal to nearly two miles on still water. I saw there Goldie, the celebrated Cambridge stroke, and also Tinné, the captain and largest man of the four-oar that defeated the Harvard four in 1869. Though an Oxford man he was wearing the Cambridge University light blue boating coat, probably one he had borrowed from a friend. It was a bright, sunny day and they were dressed in gay colors. The races occupied a long time, as there were several and most of them rowed in heats. We only saw the crews distinctly toward the end of each race; the course was just short enough to make to make the contest pretty much of a spurt all the way and the men seemed to be badly used up in all the races that were close. This tends to prove what I have always contended, that a short race of two miles or so, in which the crews can spurt nearly all the way, is more exhausting and more likely to be injurious to the men than a four-mile one where the crews must settle down to long, steady work, where skill and perfection of rhythm rowed at a slower stroke count for more than mere spurting. On the whole the rowing was excellent. People took their luncheons on the bank or in the boats. I got Mr. William Bradford, who had been so kind to me at Cambridge lately, to join us.

Starting on July 5, Dana III took his second trip to the continent, where for ten weeks he visited France, Brussels, Germany, Switzerland and the north of Italy. Among other places, he visited the German Reichstag, spotted Crown Prince Frederick and Princess of Prussia in Munich, climbed up Mont Blanc, and made a 14-hour walk from Chamonix to Geneva. Dana III was back in England on September 3.

September 7 […] One afternoon I went to see the London Rowing Club at their boathouse at Putney. I had a letter from Smalley to Gulston, the captain, but he was out, and some other members took me about, showed me all their boats, and allowed me to make careful measurements of their oars, sliding seats, and rigging, and remembered the Harvard four-oar crew that came over to row against Oxford in 1869 – J. S. Fay, F. O. Lyman, W. H. Simmons, and Alden P. Loring, stroke, and also A. Burnham. The cockswain, and the substitutes, Rice and Bass, and they wanted especially to be remembered to Lyman after I told them he was engaged to be married to one of my sisters. [Francis Ogden Lyman married Dana III’s sister Charlotte in 1876.] They expressed the opinion that if the race had been rowed a few days before, Harvard would have won, as the Oxford crew was a little overworked and had to be taken off to the seashore for a rest. They also thought that Harvard lost considerably by steering under an arch with a back current in order to avoid the possibility of a foul. There are many “ifs” and “ands” in a close boat-race to salve the feeling of the beaten side. […]

In September 1876, Dana III went home to USA on the iron screw steamer “Scythia”, which was built by James & George Thomson, Ltd, in Clydebank, Scotland. She made her maiden voyage Liverpool-New York on 1 May 1875.

On September 9, Dana III embarked on the steamer Scythia in Liverpool for her voyage to New York. Onboard Scythia, Dana III chatted with another passenger, who talked about New York politics. Dana III wrote:

He had got one individual Republican elected in a Democratic district in New York City by printing three thousand “Democratic” ballots with the candidates for Congress and other of the regular party and the name of the Republican he wanted chosen, put in toward the end of the list in place of the Democratic candidate. The trick worked. (These were the days before Australian official ballot.) The party committees usually attended to printing the ballots with the names of their candidates in them and to the distribution of these ballots at the polls, but there was no law against any one’s printing and distributing ballots, so “bogus” ones, as in this case, were often given out at the polls, misleading the voters by false headlines.) For this service he was appointed a policeman, a full patrolman with $1100 a year, and said he felt secure in his office on account of his political influence. […] He said that if you can only get a friend elected, you are sure of an office with no danger of removal while your friend is in power. […]

With this conversation I was recalled to thoughts of my country and its sore need of important reforms (in which I afterwards took part [later becoming a lawyer and civil service reformer, Richard Henley Dana, III, was the author of the Massachusetts Ballot Act of 1888, the first state Australian ballot (secret ballot) act passed in the USA]), such as the introduction of the Australian ballot law and civil service reform measures, and after a most delightful and I hope instructive and educational trip I am to settle down again to the completion of my law studies at Harvard […].

While Richard Henry Dana, III’s Hospitable England in the Seventies – The Diary of a Young American 1875–1876 might be a little dull for today’s readers – the diary is drowning of occasions with breakfasting, lunching, dining and picnicking with Britain’s nobles – it is an interesting time document of the 1870s and the relations between the United Kingdom and the United States of America at this time, decades before there was a ‘Special Relation’ between the two nations.

In an epilogue to his book, written for its release in 1921, Dana III wrote that many things had changed from his first visit in England till 1920, much due to the Great War, especially among the nobility. One thing that had not changed was the hospitality, Dana III wrote, as he again had visited England in 1920 (and would again the following year after he had married his second wife, Helen Ford Mumford).

Richard Henry Dana, III, with his first wife Edith Dana, née Longfellow.

Some biographical notes
Richard Henry Dana, III, began his law practice in 1877 with Brooks, Ball & Storey and then joined his father’s law practice in Boston in 1878. The latter year, Dana III married Edith Longfellow, daughter of the poet Henry W. Longfellow. They had six children: Richard ‘Dick’ Henry Dana, IV, (1879-1933), Henry ‘Harry’ Wadsworth Longfellow Dana (1881-1950), Frances Appleton (Dana) de Rham (1883-1933), Allston Dana (1884-1952), Edmund ‘Ned’ Trowbridge Dana (1886-1981) and Delia Farley (Dana) Hutchinson (1889-1989). After Richard Henry Dana, IV, was born in October 1879, Dana III sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco. He returned across the continent in March of 1880 and resumed his law practice.

When Dana III’s father, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., died in 1882, Dana III was addressed ‘Junior’.

Edith Longfellow Dana died in 1915, aged 62. Richard Henry Dana, III, married Helen Ford Mumford in 1921. Richard Henry Dana, III, died in 1931, age 80. Helen Ford Mumford Dana died in 1935, age 69.

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