From The Critic Vol. 25 No. 726 (Jan 18, 1896)

One of Brooklyn's most interesting institutions is that which is known as Mrs. Field's Literary Club. Every year the Club gives a reception at the house of one or another of its members, and those who are so fortunate as to receive invitations accept them without delay — even if it involves a journey from New York to Brooklyn Heights, — for they are sure to hear some one speak who has something interesting to say, and to meet a number of literary folk worth going out of one's way to meet. The Club was organized by Mrs. George W. Field several years ago, when the education of a son made it convenient for her to live beyond the Bridge, and her return to this city has not been allowed to interfere with its prosperity.

The chief attraction at the reunion of December 1892 was a reading from the writings of Mr. Marion Crawford, the reader being Mr. Crawford himself. Among those who were invited to meet him, and to be met, was Miss Mary E. Wilkins. Miss Wilkins had already made a reputation in this country, but her fame as yet had hardly spread to foreign shores; and the lion of the evening betrayed his ignorance of the fact that the quiet young woman with whom he had exchanged a few words was a literary lioness. The doings of the Literary Club are not reported in the daily papers; but it was not long before it got noised abroad that Mr. Crawford had snubbed Miss Wilkins at the meeting in question, and the rumor offered a text for many a jibe.

Mrs. Field was naturally annoyed at the publicity given to the affair, and when this winter's reception was being planned (for Dec. 19), she thought to arrange a second meeting between Mr. Crawford, who happened to be in America again, and the inimitable delineator of humble New England types with whom his name had been rather painfully connected. So invitations were sent to both of them; but unhappily neither of them could accept. Their letters of regret gave them, however, an excellent opportunity to remove the wrong impression that had been made at the meeting of three years since. Miss Wilkins was the first to write.

“My Dear Mrs. Field: —
“My work is, at present, of such a very urgent nature, that I am obliged to deny myself nearly every social recreation that comes in my way and keep closely at home, with pen in hand. I am very sorry not to meet you and the members of your Club again, and also to miss becoming acquainted with Mrs. Craigie, and hearing Mrs. Deland's paper. I have always remembered with pleasure your delightful reception to Mr. Crawford. Lately, in reading over his ‘Witch of Prague,’ I came to the portion which I heard him read that evening, and it had a new interest for me.
“Very sincerely yours,
“Mary E. Wilkins.
“Randolph, Mass., Dec. 8, 1895.”

Mr. Crawford's letter was written only a day later.

“My Dear Mrs. Field: —
“It is very good of you to send me two invitations, and I wish I could accept either of them with any chance of being present. I am chiefly in Washington nowadays, and my movements are as uncertain as those of a mosquito! I have always remembered with pleasure my reading at your Club three years ago, as having been the first I gave in this country, and one of the most pleasant. There was, indeed, that little story about Miss Wilkins! Do you remember? I shook hands with two or three hundred people whose names were murmured in the air quite outside of my hearing; and for all I heard of an introduction, Miss Wilkins might have been the Queen of the Cannibal Islands. I have always regretted that I did not know who she was, as I have read some of her things with great pleasure, and we have never met again.
“Sincerely yours,
“F. Marion Crawford.
“Washington, D. C., Dec. 9, 1895.”

Mrs. Field lost no time in communicating to Miss Wilkins the substance of Mr. Crawford's note. Her letter elicited this acknowledgment: —

“My Dear Mrs. Field: —
“Thank you very much for all this interesting news about Mr. Crawford. Of course I saw the notices in the papers at the time, and people often spoke of the matter to me. I do wish Mr. Crawford knew how utterly irresponsible I held him for not knowing me; I live in too fragile a glass house myself, on such occasions. Then, too, I could never see why Mr. Crawford was in duty bound to know me; he had lived abroad so much, and I was, comparatively, a new writer. There were some funny features about the affair, which amused me, but in a most friendly fashion, to which Mr. Crawford would have taken no exception. I should like to tell him the little story myself.
“I admire Mr. Crawford so much, that I dislike to think that he should consider me so very silly as to be hurt, because he did not, in such a crowded assembly, single me out from the others and begin to talk about my little stories. I was glad that he did not, because I went to see him, and not for him to see me. I was very much annoyed by the newspaper notices, and their garbling of facts, however. I could never quite decide whether they reflected more upon Mr. Crawford or me. * * * I never for one minute thought Mr. Crawford rude to me. If I had thought him so, I would not have read his books over so many times afterwards, because I should have been hurt, and they would have brought it to mind. I wish you would please tell him this for me. I thought of writing to him, but I think perhaps it will be better for you to tell him, if you will.
“Very sincerely yours,
“Mary E. Wilkins.
“Dec. 15, 1895.”

By permission of the writers, these letters were read at last month's meeting of the Literary Club, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. van Anden. Then Mrs. Field, at The Critic's request, wrote to Mr. Crawford and Miss Wilkins for permission to print them. Miss Wilkins's reply left the matter to Mr. Crawford; Mr. Crawford's, written at the same time, assented to Miss Wilkins's decision, whatever it should be. So what looked at first like an addition to the tale of “Quarrels of Authors” proves to be but a new illustration of the “Amenities of Literature.”

It may be added that the reception at which these letters were read was one of the most noteworthy the Club has given. Guests were invited to meet Mrs. Margaret Deland, Mrs. Pearl Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes), Mrs. George C. Riggs (Kate Douglas Wiggin) and Miss Marguerite Merington; and the topic for the evening was “The Value of the Novel, as Helping us to Understand Present Social Conditions.” Mrs. Deland read a very carefully considered and interesting paper, and a witty but informal reply was made by Miss Merington — author of that sparkling comedy, “Captain Letterblair.” A few thoughtful remarks were made by Mrs. Riggs, and then the purely intellectual part of the entertainment gave place to sociability. Among the guests from out of town was that youthful septuagenarian, Dr. Edward Everett Hale.