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sent to C. W. Greene's school at Jamaica Plain, near Boston, and remained there five years. He was afterwards at school in Providence for four years. In New York, whither his father had re
. moved (in 1839) to become connected with the Bank of Commerce, Curtis studied under private tutors and had some experience of practical life in the counting-room of a German importing house.
The education given the Curtis boys had also an irregular though very agreeable side. They spent much of the time from 1842 to 1844 as students at Brook Farm. The greater part of the two following years they were at Concord, their object being to combine study and out-of-door life, and above all to be near Emerson. Taking up
residence with one or other of several farmers whose local fame almost equalled that of the Concord men of letters, they spent half of each day in farm work and the other half in study or studious idleness. They were to be found regularly at the Club which met on Monday evenings in Emerson's library and which numbered among its members Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Alcott.
In August, 1846, provided by his father with a sum of money sufficient to give him what he called 'a generous background,' Curtis went abroad. He planned to be gone two years, but the background was more than generous and he did not return until 1850. He travelled leisurely through France, Germany, Italy, and the East,
made notes of what he saw and used them partly in the form of letters to the New York Courier ' and Enquirer’ and partly in the famous 'Howadji' books. His literary plans were ambitious, including as they did a life of Mehemet Ali, on which he worked for some years only to abandon it at last.
On his return to New York he began writing regularly for the Tribune,' and was associated with C. F. Briggs and Parke Godwin in the editorship of Putnam's Magazine.' When the magazine passed into the hands of Dix, Edwards, and Company, Curtis put money into the firm. By their failure he not only lost everything he had, but he also assumed a debt for which he could not have been legally held and devoted the proceeds of his lectures to paying it. He was eighteen years in ridding himself of the burden.
In 1854 he began printing the famous ' Easy *Chair' papers in ‘Harper's Monthly,' and in 1857 the department of Harper's Weekly called
‘ · The Lounger.' The latter was a frank imitation in part of the Tatler and Spectator, even to the letters from lady correspondents such as Nelly Lancer, Sabina Griddle, and Xantippe. During the ten years following his return from abroad Curtis published six books: Nile Notes of a Howadji, 1851 ; The Howadji in Syria, 1852 ; LotusEating, 1852; The Potiphar Papers, 1853 ; Prue and I, 1857; Trumps, 1861. His ambitions had hitherto been chiefly literary. To be sure, in 1856, at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, he had given his address on 'The Duty of 'the American Scholar to Politics and the Times,' and had followed it with his oration on Patriot'ism' and his lecture on ‘The Present Aspect of “the Slavery Question.'' He had taken the stump for Frémont in 1856, and been a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860, where his courage, adroitness, and impassioned eloquence had saved the platform at a moment when it needed salvation. Nevertheless it may be said that the first ten years of Curtis's life as a writer and speaker were literary’ with a strong emphasis on politics, and that the last thirty years were political with an undiminished interest in letters.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1856, Curtis married Anna Shaw, a daughter of F. G. Shaw, formerly of West Roxbury, and a sister of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. He had made her acquaintance at Brook Farm twelve years earlier. There is a pretty reference to her in one of his letters to Dwight written in 1844. Curtis had been in Boston for the day: ‘Anna Shaw and Rose Russell passed me ' like beautiful spirits; one like a fresh morning,
а the other like an oriental night.'
1 When Curtis gave this address in Philadelphia (Dec. 15, 1859) a mob armed with stones and bottles of vitriol attempted to break up the meeting. Cary's Curtis, pp. 126-129.
In 1863 Curtis became the political editor of 'Harper's Weekly' with the proviso that he was to have a free hand. He represented political ideals than which there can be no higher; his discussions were marked by absolute frankness, joined to perfect courtesy. The parts which fell to him in the drama of political life were always important and often conspicuous. He was a delegate both to National and to State conventions, and a delegateat-large to the convention for revising the State constitution of New York. Although nomi‘nated by acclamation' for Secretary of the State of New York (1869), he refused to serve. He did allow his name to be presented for governor in the convention of 1870, supposing all to be in good faith; but when he discovered that he was the victim of a trick, the object being to defeat Greeley, - he withdrew.' '
Next to Anti-slavery his favorite cause was that of Civil Service reform. In 1865 he became second in command' to Thomas A. Jenckes of Rhode Island, the pioneer in the movement. He was the head of the Civil Service Commission appointed by President Grantin 1871. As president of the New York Civil Service Reform Association and of the National Civil Service Reform League, he did a work of immediate and lasting value.
In 1877 President Hayes offered Curtis his
choice of the foreign missions, supposing that he would elect to go to England. In refusing the honor Curtis expressed the doubt whether a man absolutely without legal training of any kind 'could be a proper minister. Later the German mission was urged on him, but he saw no reason to change his former opinion. As an Independent, Curtis voiced opposition to machine methods in the State campaign of 1879, and in 1884 broke with his party and gave his support to Cleveland.
Albeit he was not college bred, Curtis received a full share of the honorary degrees which American colleges lavish every June upon those who have acquired reputation. For the two years prior to his death he was Chancellor of the University of New York.
The literary work of his middle and later years remains for the most part embedded in the files of 'Harper's Monthly. Three or four little
' volumes of Easy Chair' papers (less than a tenth part of the whole number of his contributions) were printed in 1893-94. Written to serve an ephemeral purpose, these essays have a permanent value. It is singular that there is no demand for more reprints of the work of a writer whose journalism was better than most men's books. Besides the ‘Easy Chair' papers there were published posthumously Orations and Addresses edited by C. E. Norton, 1894; Literary and Social Essays, 1895; Ars Recte Vivendi, 1898; Early Letters of