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The Letters of Franklin K. Lane by Franklin K. Lane

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hand, willingness to listen to the victim-patient! ...

I am going to Rochester, ... my brother is going with me. Bless
him! He'd be glad to take you back, and he can give you wood to
chop, and a black-headed grosbeak to sing for you. Ever hear one?
Better than Caruso.

May the Lord make his light to shine upon you and give you peace.

F. K. L.

To John H. Wigmore

Los Angeles, March 25, 1921

MY DEAR JOHN,--Hail to you brave leader of the Moral Forces! Isn't
that an offensive title? You see I have been asked to join you in
"Potentia." Isn't that word out of the Middle Ages?

I would like to join against crooks, thieves, and liars. But the
American people don't like anyone to assume that he represents the
Moral Forces. And "Potentia" sounds too mystic for any land this
side of Egypt. Am I not right? Answer in one of your sane moments.
You cannot go against ridicule in America. Bishops here are not
the same as Lords in England. They cannot save from ridicule
pretentious good things. Now Ross and you are wise things. How do
you stand for "Moral Forces" and "Potentia"? No, no, dear John!--
less hifalutism!

I write for information. Tell me--do you think good will come of
it? My immediate judgment is against it, strongly. In purpose--
good, in method, name,--impossible. It is as if one were to say,
"Come let us gather together the Good and the Wise, and say who
shall be called honest men." Cicero, I believe, formed government
by the "boni." No one likes the good who advertise. I don't. Am I
all wrong? ...


To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

[Pasadena], March 25, [1921]

Your letters, my dear Mrs. Franklin, are refreshing breezes. They
are quite what breezes should be--warm, kindly, stimulating; not
hard, stiff, compelling things, off a granite Northern shore. Anne
rejoices in them, without words.

I have been lately with my one brother on his ranch--a large name
implying vast herds quietly grazing over infinite valleys and
mountains. But all farms here are ranches, as you doubtless know,
as all weather is fine. My brother's ranchita is eighty acres of
beauty; a stream below, running up to manzanita crowns on good-
sized hills, and oaks and sycamores and bays, and many other trees
between. He has a house, all of which he planned in fullest detail
himself, with as lovely a site as anywhere, and a pretty and
artistic wife; a good saddle horse, a noble dog, a loyal and most
excellent cook, many books--and what more could he have in heaven?
Outside his dining-room window he has built a dining-table for the
birds, and so as we dined within, they dined without. Each morning
I saw the sun rise, and I whistled as I dressed. One morning I
climbed the hills and found the cow and drove it in for the man to
milk. But my only morning duty was to pick a golden poppy or a
cherokee rose or a handful of wild forget-me-nots for my button-
hole. All day I sat in the sun, or drove a bit or walked a little
--talking, talking, talking; of law, and Plato, and Epictetus, and
Harry Lauder, (whom we imitated, at a distance; for my brother
sings Scotch songs); and we talked too of our old girls and the
early days of good hunting in this semi-civilized land, and of
Woodrow Wilson and H. G. Wells and Emerson and Henry George, and
of Billy Emerson, the negro minstrel, and William Keith our great
artist. And we planned houses, adobe houses, that should be built
up above, over the manzanita bushes, and the swimming-pool that
should just naturally lie between the two live-oaks hidden behind
the natural screen of mountain laurel, but open clear up to the
sun. Each night we closed with a round of songs, and maybe a hymn.
And bed was early. Now wasn't that a good place to be?

Not so very different in atmosphere from Hyde Park! But what would
Broadway say of such a life! Oh, the serenity of it all, the
dignity, the independence, the superiority over so much that we
think important. There one could get a sense of proportion, and
see things more nearly in their natural color and size. Truly, I
could have been religious if I lived in the country--and not been
too hard driven for a living! (For one can't be anything good or
great when pressed and bullied by necessity of any kind.)

So I grew in strength on the little ranch and unwillingly came
back for treatment here, which was not half so good for soul or
body as to sit in the sun and see the birds daintily pick their
crumbs and know that the dog at my knee understood what I did not
tell him.

Give to the Ducal lady at Hyde Park my spring greetings, and to
the "young lord lover" who bears your name my respectful regards.
I expect to go to Rochester, or elsewhere, in May, and in the
meantime think me not silly because I like you and have written of
what I like.

F. K L.

To John W. Hallowell

Los Angeles, March 31, 1921

DEAR JACK,--I went to your Church on Sunday. Now there! Real
Friends. I wondered, "Why the two doors?" as I went up the steps,
but I said, "I'll take the nearest." Someone was talking, so I
plumped down in the backmost seat. Then I looked about and found
that I was faced by three rows of sisters, in poke bonnets on a
raised platform, at the end of the room. Around me were women,
women, women, and children. Not a man!

My wits at last came to me. I discovered there were two rooms
really, divided by pillars. And there were the men, the blessed,
homely men. So up I lifted hat and coat and piled over on the
man's side and breathed again.

The speaker looked like the late Senator Hoar and was intoning or
chanting his speech or address or sermon. I had never heard it
done and the cadence was charming. It adds to the emotionalism of
what is said. When he sat down, there was a long pause, and then a
sister, on the opposite side now, quoted, modestly, a psalm. Two
more, a man and woman, spoke. Then a prayer and at twelve, with
one accord, we all rose and went out.

It is the essence of Democracy and I fear the forward there, and
not the most worthy of being heard, come to the front. Please tell
your mother how good I was! And write me, you scoundrel!

F. K. L.

Postcard to John G. Gehring

April 20, [1921]

On the eastbound train, traveling toward a little man who carries
a little knife in his hand and beckons me toward the north. I do
not go gladly, because I am feeling so much better. Have had whole
days and nights without pain, by the exercise of all kinds of
care. Still that is living "on condition." Is there never again to
be freedom? You see I am a natural Protestant. Good luck to you,
dear man.


To Hall McAllister

R.R. Train, Minnesota, April 22

DEAR HALL,--I am now on the St. Paul road going to Lake City,
where, it is said my son is to be married to a charming, little
Irish girl, one generation away from Ireland.

Right now, I am sitting opposite Mrs. Franklin K. Lane who is, in
turn, sitting beside my brother who has come East with me as
secretary, nurse, doctor, mentor, spiritual advisor, valet, and
companion. On my right is the Mississippi river, of which you may
have heard. On Sunday I hope to go to Rochester again and then be
cut in two, tho' I am not sure they will do it.

I left California last Tuesday. It was quite pleased with itself
and full of pity for all the rest of the world. It surely has much
to say for itself, and says it with frequency and normalcy. The
only disappointment in dying will be the unfortunate contrast--eh,
you Californian? But then you and I are not like those
transplanted Iowans who fill Southern California, most of whom
have never seen Mt. Tamalpais nor the Golden Gate and yet think
they know California!

I look at the paper and see "Harding" at the top of every column.
Then I think of W. W. looking at the paper and seeing the same
headlines. Oh, what unhappiness! Not all the devices of Tumulty
for keeping alive illusions of grandeur could offset those
headlines. Ungrateful world! Un-understanding world!

I hope you like your new boss. He will be a good western
Secretary, and is quite likely to get into a row with our eastern
conservation friends. I am glad he is from the Senate, they care
for their own.

I don't like Harrison jumping on Harvey after confirmation. Looks
little, weakens his influence as "our" man, and is not
sportsmanlike. We must take our medicine and let Harding have his
own way, and it won't be such a bad way, but surely very

... I should like to get back to Washington and loaf for a time
around Sheridan Circle. I know a woman there who intrigued me (as
you writers say) long, long ago with various fascinations of
spirit and mind and eye and voice. But I fear she would not know
me any more.

Now do not be discouraged because you have a bit of sickness. You
are youth, you can beat old whiskered Time. Life has many a laugh
in it yet for you. Why you look forty years younger than Joe
Redding--but don't tell him I told you.


To Mrs. Frederic Peterson

Rochester, Minnesota, April 26, [1921]

MY DEAR MRS. PETERSON,--... Once more I am going through the
grinding of the Mayo mill, and this time I hope to some concrete
purpose, and have an end to this coming out "by that same door
wherein I went" The dear old meditative, contemplative Orientals
threw up their hands in despair long years ago and found the
figure of the unending wheel to symbolize all processes and
procedures: a world, a universe, without termini. Sometimes I
think them right, but then again my western mind will not have it
that the riddle of the Sphinx may not be solved. Our assurance
meets every challenge; mystery may make us humble; we may be
baffled; but we do not despair because we know we are Gods to whom
all doors must open eventually. That seems to be the real
underlying strength of our position. Why men go on with research
excepting out of some such philosophy I cannot see--nor why they
go on with life.

Tell your good man that I long to look once more into the sweet
face of the Shepaug, and that while I have been wandering in the
delicious and rare places, I have not forgotten the fresh
wholesomeness of the Hoosatonic. My first visit shall be to the
meeting place of the Three Rivers. Why might not fortune lead us
to have a summer in Connecticut and a winter in California? "I
know a place where the wild thyme grows," many such places indeed,
and high hillsides of wild lilac and a wee mountain crowned with
the flowering manzanita. Oh, this world is a place to make souls
grow if one can get an apple tree, a pine and an oak, a few
lilies, a circle of crimson phlox, a stretch of moving water and a
sweep of sky, that can be called one's own.

We saw Cordy Severance's place on Sunday--went there from the
wedding of my boy to Catherine McCahill--and found a volume of the
Chinese Lyrics [Footnote: By Dr. Frederic Peterson.] in the big
room. Great chap Cordy, and a great room he has to play the organ
in, and more people love him than anyone else I know, for he loves
them with an aggressiveness that few men dare to show, that gives
him distinction and is a glory.

How far away the war seems--way back yonder with the fight for
Independence and the French Revolution, almost back to Caesar.
Well, I must quit mental meanderings. With all good will,


To Roland Cotton Smith

Rochester, Minnesota, [April] 30

And you know that I cannot even write Spoon River! Vain man!
Strutting cock o' the walk! Knight of the Knickerbocker Club!
Gazer upon Fifth Avenue and the Foibles and Frivolities! Reveller
in things of life and Enjoyer of Gaiety!

Look thou upon me. To Minnesota driven. In a hospital-hotel.
Punched and tapped by every stray Knight of the Golden Fleecers.
Awaiting a verdict from puzzled doctors. ... Bless you, I have
been through years of watchful waiting but not of this kind, and a
few weeks of this is enough. But I am a patient, long-suffering,
Christian martyr upon whom the Pagans work their will.

And you, poor man. Tied to a woman's foot! Now that is what I call
humiliating. Worse than being tied to her apron strings or to her
chariot, (in the latter, they say, there is often much joy.) Why
should people have feet anyway in these days of autos? A mere
transportation convenience! Well, all our transportation
facilities seem to be out of order these days. Fallen arches, in
sooth! Reminds one of Rome. Very much more aristocratic than
infected gall-bladder after all. And I do hope they can be
restored, those arches, and the world once more put on its
peripatetic way.

But you do not tell me of yourself. Can you chop wood or saw wood
or play golf or do aught else that doth become a man of muscle,
energy, life, vim, go, pep? Take a trip to the South Seas, a
knock-about trip, casting off clerical garb and living in the
open, mixing with the primitive peoples, seeing beauteous nature,
climbing mountains, swimming in soft waters, not seeing newspaper
or book. They tell me that in Burmah live a happy people who love
beauty, are always smiling and follow the Golden Rule far nearer
than those who live by trade and are blest by civilization. Ah,
that I might see such a people! The nearest I ever came was at
Honolulu, and there was the taint of the Christian, alack-a-day!
The White Man's Burden is the weight of the load of sin, disease,
death, and misfortune he has dropped on the happy ones who never
knew a Christian creed. We have given them bath tubs in exchange
for cheerful living!

I am as much in the air as to the future as I was in the russet
days of Bethel. But one of these days, let us hope we may gather
over a bottle of something sound and mellow, and laugh together
over our adventure into the land of the woebegone. I do not take
to it, tho' they say some people live in it by choice, for they
find something to talk of there, and feel saintly because they
suffer. Well, we will have more knowledge in that happy future and
more of sympathy. What a lot one must endure to gain a wee bit of
wisdom. And then to have it die with us. Maybe it does not, eh?
Maybe it somehow, somewhere finds a corner into which it drops and
carries someone over a hard place. I don't know what kind of
theology this is that I am dripping from my pen, but I cannot yet
be beaten to the point where I say it is all purposeless. And that
is the faith that may not save a soul but does save souls, I

I wish you the joy and elevation of spirit that you have many
times given to my sick soul and to others. Did I tell you my boy
is married--to a Catholic girl too, of much charm? They were
married on the ancestral farm with the ancestor of ninety years
present and in high spirits. A Dios, Padre mio,

F. K. L.

To John G. Gehring

Rochester, Minnesota, [April] 30, [1921]

Tomorrow will be May day--once, before the world became
industrial, a day of gladness, now a day of dread, another result
of mal-adjustment.

What ever would these doctors do if they had no cheeks in which to
hold their tongues while telling sick folk what ails them, and the
cure? You are learning, Sir, how much of wisdom some men lack who
have certain knowledge. And wisdom is what we are after, we
Knights of the Mystic Sign. Wisdom--the essence of lives lived;
knocks, blows, pains, tortures reduced to fears, and these
incorporated into a string or queue of people who have eyes,
nerves, and powers of inference, and the initiative to experiment
and the impulse to try, and try again. Result--a nugget no larger
than a mustard seed of intellectual or spiritual radium, y-clept
wisdom. It does not grow on ancestral trees or on college
campuses, nor does it come out of laboratories or hospitals, tho'
it is sometimes found in all these places. A Carpenter is known to
have possessed more of it than any other man; tho' most of us
don't possess enough wisdom to know that He did possess so much of
it. An Indian Prince is also celebrated for the richness of his
supply. These men have been followed by others who sometimes
carried mirrors, but some had tiny grains of the real thing also.
And those are called Optimists and Transcendentalists and
Idealists and Fools who think that more and more of these grains
will come into the hearts and minds of men; while those are called
sensible, and shrewd, and sane, who assert that the supply is
uniform, stationary in quantity but moved about from time to time,
producing nothing but the illusion that something is worth while.

But you and I say, "Suffer the Illusion to come into me, for of
such is the Kingdom of Heaven." Emerson says each man is an
"inlet" of the Divine Spirit--just a bit on the side, out of the
infinite ocean. Thus all of us are connected up, and thus there is
hope that some day doctors will be wiser than today. ...

I should like to hold your hand for a time. It's the best service
one man can give another. We are great hand-holders, we men,
natural dependents, transfusers of sympathy and understanding and
heartening stuff. They tell me here that your blood for purposes
of transfusion is 1, 2, 3 or 4. The last is common denominator
blood and will go into anyone safely, but is uncommon. All the
other three will kill if not put into those of corresponding
quality of blood. Well, you and I like each other because we have
the same wave-length to our nerve current, perhaps, and we could
hold hands without danger to the other fellow, and possibly with
some benefit to the world,--for human sympathy makes good

Good fortune betide you! My brother, who is sitting by, wishes his
affectionate regards to go with mine, and he hopes you will some
day see him in that vale of Paradise where he lives.

F. K. L.

To Adolph C. Miller Federal Reserve Board

Rochester, Minnesota, May 1, [1921]

May Day, Glad Day, Day of Festival and Frolic,--once. Now Day of
Portent, of Threats and the Evil Eye. Such is the miracle worked
by Steam Engine, Mechanics, Quick Exchanges, Industry!

With this happy opening let me to your letter in which you love me
a little, which I very much like, calling me baby,--child,
anyway. And so I am. I laugh at myself. I cannot think of myself
as Grandad or possible Grandad. In fact, I should not be Grandad
or Dad, notwithstanding the beauty and noblemindedness and
capacity of my dear kids. But I have always been a priest, married
to things undomestic, and without the time which every father
should have to train and educe the mind of his offspring;
especially to give sound and substantial bread and meat to their
subconscious mind when they are young. Then, too, a father should
have a religion, a sense of relation between himself and the
Master, and be able to instill this by gentle and non-didactive
method into his bairns, so that they may steer by the North Star
and not by shiftier, flashier stars.

Yes, altho' I am now tottering, bruised, battered, down on the
floor like a prostrate prize-fighter "taking the count" and hoping
for strength enough to rise, altho' an "aged man" as I was once
described in my hearing, I am the youngest thing inside that I
know; in my curiosity and my trustfulness and my imagination, and
my desire to help and my belief in goodness and justice. I want to
strike right out now and see the world, and having found the good
bring it back and distribute it. And I see every day things that
should be done which make me long to live, even tho' I only tell
others that they should be done. And one thing that bothers me
right now is our money scheme. I know I am far off from your
standpoint, but there is something wrong when there is so great a
variation in the purchasing power of things produced. Why is not
Irving Fisher on the right road? I should like to lay a quieting
hand upon the feverish desire for things which so possesses our
people. So few things will do, rich, beautiful, solid things, but
not many; and then to live with them, proud of them, revelling in
them, and making them to shine like well-handled bronze--not
glossily but deeply. The great luxury we will not allow ourselves
is repose; that is because we are not essentially dignified. The
soul is not respected sufficiently; it is not given that food on
which it grows. Curious, the turn of my mind now, too. Having been
thinking, and while I still am thinking, in large terms,--the
city, the state, the nation, all peoples (I have grown through
them all, never really thinking of the family unit)--I am now
thinking of a nest, a roof of my own, a bit of garden, a tree of
my planting--little things, indeed, on which the mind can rest,
after casting an eye over the world and talking in terms of
continents. (And I wonder if the gardens of the British--their
week-ends at home with flowers and birds, may not bring them down
to those little things which make for good sense, sanity, wisdom!)
But I fear me I may never so indulge myself, and that is wrong--
that a man should live for fifty-seven years and never thrust his
hand into his own bit of his country's soil--such condition makes
against loyalties that are essential.

Now I have talked with you for a long time, but not long enough.
How I should like to sit in the big re-upholstered chair beside
the lamp, beyond the fire, and throw a match into your brain stuff
that would start it blazing. Yes, and I would like to gather
around that fire a few whom I love. You and Aleck and Sid. and
Pfeiffer and Jack Hallo well and John Burns and Brydon Lamb and
Lathrop Brown and Cotton Smith and John Finley and Dr. Gehring and
John Wigmore--the real world is very small, isn't it?

It just may be that the verdict here will be one of exile to
California, to my brother George's farm; ah, yes he should be with
the few great, and I say 'exile' for I wonder if I should ever see
any of you then? My doctor in Pasadena said that I should live as
a country gentleman, and I answered, "But that takes money." Yet I
would not know where the farm should be, for climate is not all.
So long, old man.


Many months later, writing to Mrs. Lane this friend of many years
says, "I want also to recall the remark Frank made when you and
Mary, and he and I, were rain-bound in the little chalet at St.
Mary's in Glacier Park, nine years ago. That was an outstanding
experience in my long friendship with Frank. We had many hours to
discuss things, and no matter on what road we started, we always
came back to a discussion of life; what it was all for, and what
it was about, and what principle a chivalrous man should take in
adjusting himself usefully to the going world. I remember late one
night we sat in the dimly lighted room after a long discussion, he
arose, and turning to me said: 'Doesn't it, after all, just come
to this,--To spend and to be spent--isn't that what life is?'
Every subsequent experience with Frank confirmed me in the belief
that that was his personal philosophy. That is why he lived
greatly while he lived, and died nobly when his life was spent."

To Robert Lansing

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2, [1921]

MY DEAR LANSING,--I am to be operated on on Friday and so send you
this line that you may know that I have yours of April sixteenth,
and have rejoiced very much at its good news, that you were
better, and that you were not bitter because of the come-back

Really, I think Harding is doing well, or rather that the whole
administration is being supported well by the country. Oh, these
Republicans have the art of governing, and we do so much better at
talking! No one knows just what his foreign policy is, but
something will work through that will satisfy a very tired people.
There seem to be comparatively few out of work now. We are not out
of the woods yet. But the Lord will take care of them. He may even
keep Johnson from bolting Harding. They will temporize through;
that's my guess.

Good English the people don't know. Ideality they have had enough
of for a time. They just want to get down to brass tacks and make
some money, so that the Mrs. can have more new dresses. I do
earnestly wish them luck. God gave us the great day, and you and
I, anyway, are not ashamed of the parts we played. In fact, the
party loomed pretty large those days--the whole country breathed
lung-fuls and felt heroic. We shall not look upon such another
time nor act for a people so nobly inspired.

Please give to Mrs. Lansing my very best regards--fine spirit,
that she is--and to you, as always, dear Lansing, my affection and


To James D. Pkelan

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2, 1921

MY DEAR JIM,--Glad to hear from you and to get so cheerful a word,
for surely you are justified in looking upon the world as very
much of a friend of yours. You have a rare home, in which to
gather your many friends, and you have had honors in abundance,
and now may rest and write and speak and adjust yourself to
things--terrestrial and celestial--and other service will call
you. There must be some Democrats appointed to adjust European or
other difficulties, even by a Republican, and you will be the
prominent one. So I can look across the mountains to Montalvo and
find you ripening into a fine old mellow age, conscious of
usefulness, in health and in happiness. May it be so!

Just as soon as my boy gets here, I shall be operated on. ... Ned
is now on his honeymoon with his darling little bride, a Catholic
Irish girl named Catherine McCahill, whose grey-whiskered
grandfather of ninety quite took the shine off the bride at the
wedding. He is a Democrat (State Senator for thirty years) a Sinn
Feiner of the most robust sort, and a fanner of many acres.

Poor Anne, she is in for a bad time, with Nancy sick, but she has
a good stout heart and a most adequate and comfortable religious
faith, which throws things that are personal into a very minor
place. The theory of relativity has more than one expression
indeed, and things are small when looked at from a height. And it
is good to find one who can be both religious and large.

The country seems to be liking Harding and his cabinet more and
more. They do have a faculty for getting things done, those
Republicans, and they are subjected to so little criticism. It is
really good to see them do their work and get away with things so
neatly. ... As always,


To Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hertle Gunston Hall on the Potomac

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2

DEAR PEOPLE,--What good angel ever put it into your heart to wire
us--and such a warm electric message!

I tell you this is not Gunston Hall--so few birds, flowers, trees
--but I like the great sweep of the sky out here. There is nothing
mean about this land of ours. It gives you something, and gives it
to you generously, something lovable wherever you are.

The Doctors have not decided what to do with me. ... But we'll be
out of suspense this week, I expect.

I can see your garden now--fountain, hedge, roses, bird-boxes,
pergola, box and all--with the dignified, stately Potomac way out
yonder, beyond the cleared fields and the timber. Lucky people,
and you deserve it all. No one, not even the Bolsheviks, would
take it from you. Cordially yours always,


To Alexander Vogelsang

Rochester, Minnesota, May 4, 1921

DEAR ALECK,--I must pass under the knife, that is the verdict. On
Friday morning the act takes place. And out will come gall-
bladder, adhesions, appendix and all things appertaining thereto,
including hereditaments, reversions, lives in posse, and
sinecures. So that's that!

They say that my heart has grown much worse in the last three
months, but that I probably have four chances out of five of
pulling through, which is more chance than I ever had in politics
in California. I believe I am to be operated on while conscious,
as they fear to give ether. I trust my curiosity will not
interfere with the surgeon's facility.

Ah well, this old shell is not myself, and I have never felt that
the world's axis was located with reference to my habitat. But
this is so interesting an old world that I don't want to leave it
prematurely, because one does run the risk of not coming upon one
equally interesting. So I shall think of you and try to see you
later, in the new offices in the Mills Building. May clients come
thick as dogwood in Rock Creek Park; and trout streams in hidden
places be revealed unto you, within an hour's flight by aero.


P. S. Give my regards to the boys with you and in the office, when
you see them--and to Wade Ellis and Ira Bennett and others who may
be interested. Love to your dear Lady!

To John Finley New York Times

Rochester, Minnesota, May 4, [1921]

MY DEAR FINLEY,--I have your postal from London and it cheereth
me--Yea, thou hast done a kindly act to one who is sore beset. ...

When you and I can talk together I want to urge a new field upon
your great paper. Perhaps you can take it up with Mr. Ochs and
perhaps he can see how he can add to his usefulness and to the
glory of his paper's name.

My thought is that there should be somewhere--and why not in New
York?--a Place of Exchange for the New Ideas that the world
evolves each year, a central spot where all that is new in
science, philosophy, practical political machinery, and all else
of the world's mind-products shall be placed on exhibition where
those interested may see. Why should not the Times do this?

It would cost very little. All the plant needs would be a building
which would contain one or two fine halls for public speaking, and
a few properly appointed apartments. No faculty--but a super-
university with all the searchers and researchers, inventors,
experimenters, thinkers of the world for faculty. No students--but
every man the world round interested in the theme under
consideration, welcome, as student without pay. The only executive
officer a Director, whose business would be to see that the great
minds were tapped,--a high class impresario, who would know who
had thought thoughts, developed a theory, found a new problem, or
a new method of solving an old one, and [would] bring the thinker
on the stage and present him to those who knew of what he talked;
and could intelligently, quickly, distribute it to the ends of the

Money? The lecturer would get his expenses from his home and back
again, and be cared for appropriately in one of the apartments.
Otherwise the incidental expenses of administration. Aside from
the single and simple building the whole thing should not cost
more than $100,000 a year.

To illustrate--it took years for the world to know what Rutherford
was doing with radium. Why should he not have been brought to some
central place and there, before all the students who might choose
to come, tell his story? Pasteur, Einstein, Bergson, Wright
Brothers, Wells (theory of Education). These names are suggestive.
The great of the world could walk, as it were, in the groves with
their pupils and critics, and we could have a new Athens. Whatever
progress the world had made, in whatever line, would be reported
at that time. And the world would know in advance that this was to
be so. Germany has been the world thought center for forty years.
England is now planning to take Germany's place. Why not America?
But the government has not the imagination, and this must be done

Why not the Times? And why shouldn't you start it for the Times--
be the first Director?

Then I want someone to take over another of my ideas--a sort of
Federal Reserve Board on the good of the nation, an unofficial
group of men with foresight, who would be a spur to government and
suggest direction. Somebody whose business it would be to attend
to that which is nobody's business and so waits, and waits, until
sometimes too late. Why should we have had no plans for caring for
our soldiers as to employment and giving them the right bent on
their return?

There was no one to concentrate attention--the attention of
Congress and the public--on any definite plan. I tried it with my
scheme for making farms for soldiers, but Congress, as soon as it
found that I was really agitating, passed laws making it
impossible for me to use a sheet of paper or the frank for the
purpose. I do not say my plan was the best possible. Then someone
should have come forward with another, and pushed it against a
Congress made up of Republicans who feared that Democrats would
get the credit, and Democrats who feared Republicans would. Hence,
deadlock, and a great opportunity lost! ...

Seers, or see-ers, that's what these men should be. Elder
Statesmen, if you please, independent, away above politics.

Doesn't it seem to you that we are coming to be altogether too
dependent on the President? That office will be ruined. Every one
with a sore thumb has come into the habit of running to the
President. This is all wrong, all wrong. He cannot do his job well
now. And he is only nominally doing it, and only nominally has
been doing it for years. But each month seems to add to his duties
as arbiter of everything from clothes to strikes, from baseball to

I see a tremendous field for a body of a few ripe minds who would
talk so little, and so wisely, and so collectively, that they
could get and hold the ear of the country, governmental and

I outlined for Mezes, in your old job, a series of lectures by
Americans who have done things on Why America is Worth While--and
he has expanded it into a whole course on America, so that I
believe he will have something new and great--teaching history,
geology, art, everything, by the history of that thing in America,
and how it came to come here, or be here, or what it means here.

Well, I have written you a book and must stop--I don't know where
to address you but will send this to the Times. Please remember me
to Mr. Ochs--who can see things, and here's hoping it won't be
long before we meet. Yours always,


To James H. Barry San Francisco Star

Rochester, Minnesota, May 5, [1921]

MY DEAR JIM,--I have nothing of importance to say, except that I
am to be operated on tomorrow and hope for the best, for Dr. Will
Mayo is to do the operating, and I am not in a very run-down

I find myself quite serene, for I can look forward even to the
very worst result with the feeling that there is no one to meet me
over there to whom I've done any wrong. And while I haven't done
my best, my score hasn't been blank. I honestly believe I've added
a farthing or two to the talent that was given me.

My brother George is here, with his splendid philosophy and his
Scotch songs; and Ned, my boy, and his bride have just come back,
so that Anne and I are very well content that things are just as
they should be. I go to St. Mary's Hospital where they have nuns
for nurses, and when time comes for recuperation I shall go to the
near-by estate of my old friend, Severance, the big St. Paul
lawyer, whom I have known these thirty years.

I hope, my dear old man, that you will find new occupation soon
that will give you use for your pen, and sterling love of justice.
My regards, sincere and hearty to your family, and my other


To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Rochester, Minnesota, May 5, [1921]

Just because I like you very much, and being a very old man dare
to say so, I am sending this line, which has no excuse in its
news, philosophy or advice; has no excuse, in fact, except what
might be called affection, but of course this being way past the
Victorian era, no one admits to affections! I will not belittle my
own feeling by saying that I have a wife who thinks you the best
Eastern product--and probably she'd move to strike out the word
"Eastern." At any rate, I think I should tell you myself that I am
to be operated on tomorrow, by Dr. Will Mayo, and am glad of it.
We shall see what we shall see.

I find myself quite serene about the matter, altho' I believe my
heart is so bad that they fear giving ether and will keep me
conscious if they can, applying only a local anesthetic.

I'd like to have Anne's perfect sureness as to the future, but
lacking it, I do not look forward with fear, even if the worst
should happen. I've never done a wrong to any man or woman or
child that I can now recall--but maybe my memory is failing.

My boy and his bride came back this morning--happy! Oh, so happy!
And my "best beloved" brother who sings Scotch songs is here--a
great philosopher whom you would deeply admire--and our friends
the Severances of St. Paul, thirty year-old friends, they come
over tonight. So we will be a merry, merry company. I'd love to
see you and the gay Cavalier, but let us hope it won't be long
till we meet! Au revoir!

F. K. L.

To friends who had telegraphed and written urgently for news

May 11, 1921

It is Wednesday afternoon and I am now sitting up in bed talking
to my good friend, Cotter. Until yesterday I did not clearly
visualize any one thing in this room and did not know that it had
a window, except that there was a place that noise came through,
but I did know that it had a yellow oak door that stared at me
with its great, big, square eye, all day and all night.

Last Friday, you see, about ten in the morning, I took the step
that I should have taken months, yes, years ago. I was stretched
on a stiff, hard table, my arms were clamped down and in three-
quarters of an hour I had my appendix and my gall bladder removed,
which latter was a stone quarry and the former a cesspool. Today,
most tentatively, I crawled on to a chair and ate my first
mouthful of solid food. But four days ago I managed to shave
myself, and I am regarded as pretty spry.

I have seen death come to men in various ways, some rather novel
and western. I once saw a man hanged. And I have seen several men
shot, and came very near going out that way myself two or three
times, but always the other fellow aimed poorly. I was being shot
at because I was a newspaper man, and I should have been shot at.
There must be public concern in what is printed, as well as its
truth, to justify it. That is something that newspapers should get
to know in this country. After the earthquake in San Francisco, I
saw walls topple out upon a man. And I have had more intimate
glimpses still of the picturesque and of the prosaic ways by which
men come to their taking off.

But never before have I been called upon deliberately to walk into
the Valley of the Shadow and, say what you will, it is a great
act. I have said, during the past months of endless examination,
that a man with little curiosity and little humor and a little
money who was not in too great pain could enjoy himself studying
the ways of doctors and nurses, as he journeyed the invalid's
path. It was indeed made a flowery path for me, as much as any
path could be in which a man suffered more humiliation and
distress and thwarting and frustration, on the whole, than he did

But here was a path, the end of which I could not see. I was not
compelled to take it. My very latest doctor advised me against
taking it. I could live some time without taking it. It was a bet
on the high card with a chance to win, and I took it.

I undressed myself with my boy's help, in one of the hospital
rooms, and then arraying myself in my best suit of pajamas and an
antique samurai robe which I use as a dressing gown, submitted
myself to being given a dose of dazing opiate, which was to do its
work in about fifteen minutes. I then mounted a chair and was
wheeled along the corridor to the elevator, stopping meantime to
say "adieu" to my dear ones, who would somehow or other insist
upon saying "good-bye," which is a different word. I was not to be
given the usual anesthetic, because my heart had been cutting up
some didos, so I must take a local anesthetic which Was to be
administered by a very celebrated Frenchman. I need not tell you
that this whole performance was managed with considerable eclat,
and Doctor Will Mayo, probably the first surgeon of the world, was
to use the knife; and in the gallery looking on were Doctor
Finney, of Johns Hopkins, Doctor Billings, of Chicago, Doctor
Vaughan of the Michigan University, and others. On the whole, it
was what the society reporter would call a recherche affair. The
local anesthetic consists of morphine and scopolamin. It is
administered directly by needle to the nerves that lead to those
particular parts which are to be affected by the operation. This I
watched myself with the profoundest interest. It was painful,
somewhat, but it was done with the niceness and precision that
make this new method of anesthesia a real work of art. I should
think that the Japanese, with their very rare power at embroidery,
might come to be past masters in this work. There were some
insertions very superficial and some extremely deep. Over the
operator's head, there were a half dozen heads peering intently at
each move he made, while the patient himself was free to lift his
head and look down and see just what was being done. I did not
test myself, as I should have, to see whether I was paralyzed in
any part.

Just when this performance came to a head, Doctor Mayo came in and
said, "Well, I am going in for something." I said, "That's right,
and I hope you will get it."

His statement did not conclusively prove confidence that he would
find the cause of my trouble by going in. ... I knew there could
be no such definiteness, but I said to myself, "He will get it, if
it's there."

For two days I had had knowledge that this operation was to take
place at this time, and my nerves had not been just as good as
they should have been. Those men who sleep twelve hours perfectly
before being electrocuted have evidently led more tranquil lives
than I have, or have less concern as to the future. Ah, now I was
to know the great secret! For forty years I had been wondering,
wondering. Often I had said to myself that I should summon to my
mind when this moment came, some words that would be somewhat a
synthesis of my philosophy. Socrates said to those who stood by,
after he had drunk the hemlock, "No evil can befall a good man,
whether he be alive or dead." I don't know how far from that we
have gone in these twenty-four hundred years. The apothegm,
however, was not apposite to me, because it involved a declaration
that I was a good man, and I don't know anyone who has the right
so to appreciate himself. And I had come to the conclusion that
perhaps the best statement of my creed could be fitted into the
words, "I accept," which to me meant that if in the law of nature
my individual spirit was to go back into the great Ocean of
Spirits, my one duty was to conform. "Lead Kindly Light" was all
the gospel I had. I accepted. I made pretense to put out my hand
in submission and lay there.

"All through, doctor?"

"Yes, doctor."

"Very well, we will proceed."

And I was gradually pushed through the hall into the operating
room. The process there was lightning-like. I was in torture.

"Lift me up, lift me up."

"What for?"

"I have one of those angina pains and I must ease it by getting up
and taking some nitro."

That had been my practice, but I did not reason that never before
had the pain come on my right side.

"Give him a whiff of ether." The tenderest arms stole around my
head and the softest possible voice--Ulysses must have heard it
long ago--"Now do take a deep breath." I resisted. I had been told
that I would see the performance.

"Please do, breathe very deeply--just one good deep breath." That
pain was burning the side out of me. I tried to get my hand up to
my side. Of course it was tied down. I swore.

"Oh Christ! This is terrible."

"It will stop if you will reach for a big breath,"--and I resigned
myself. Men who are given the third degree have no stronger will
than mine. I knew I was helpless. I must go through. I must
surrender to that Circean voice.

I heard the doctor in a commonplace monotone say, "This is an
unusual case--"--the rest of this sentence I never heard.

There was a long ray of gray light leading from my bed to my door.
I had opened my eyes. "I had not died." I had come through the

"I wonder what he got."

In the broad part of the ray was my wife smiling, and stretching
out to that unreachable door were others whom I recognized, all
smiling. Things were dim, but my mind seemed definite.

"What did he get?" I had expected eternal mysteries to be
unraveled. Either I would know, or not know, and I would not know
that I would not know.

"He got a gall-bladder filled with stones and a bad appendix, and
now you are to lie still."

Then to this the drama had come, the drama beyond all dramas--a
handful of brownish secretions and a couple of pieces of morbid
flesh!! Ah me!

I am doing well, cared for well, as happy as can be; have had none
of my angina pains since the operation. And as I lie here, I
contemplate [making] a frieze--a procession of doctors and nurses
and internes, of diagnosticians and technicians and experts and
mechanics and servitors and cooks--all, the great and the small,
in profile. They are to look like those who have made their
pretenses before me during the past year;--the solemn and the
stupid; the kindly, the reckless; the offhand; the erudite, the
practical; the many men with tubes and the many men with
electrical machines. Old Esculapius must begin the procession but
the Man with the Knife, regnant, heroic size, must end it.

What a great thing, what a pride, to have the two men of greatest
constructive imagination and courage in surgery in the world as
Americans, Dr. Charles and Dr. Will Mayo.

To Alexander Vogelsang

Rochester, Minnesota, May 14, [1921]

This is a line by my own hand, dear Aleck, just to show you that I
am still this much master of myself. ...

I am going through much pain. Inside I am a great boil. But Nature
is doing all she can, and I am helping. They think me a right
model sort of patient, for I made a showing of exceptional
recovery. When T.R. shaved the day after, I said, "Hip Hip!" Well,
I done it too! I guess as how I haven't been so very bad a boy all
these fifty-seven years or I couldn't play as good as "par" at
this game, and they say they have no better record than mine on
the books.

The National Geographic Society did a nice thing. Today I got a
resolution of the most sympathetic kind from them. Some gentlemen
still alive, eh?

I dictated a bit of a thing about my experience the other day to
Cotter--something to send off to the chaps who wrote or wired--and
sent you one. I hope it wasn't soft or slobby. Did you think it
was all right to come from a sick bed?

It will be three weeks or more yet of hospital, and then much of
recuperation. But I have no complaint. I feel a faith growing in
me, and I may yet draw my sword in some good fight.


To John W. Hallowell

Rochester, Minnesota, May 14, 1921

DEAR JACK,--I've been down into the Valley since I heard from you,
but I'm up once more and with new light in my eye, new faith in my
heart, more sense of the things that count and those that don't.
And affection, love for the good thing of any kind; loyalty, even
mistaken loyalty, these are the things that the Gods treasure.
They live longest. So I turn to give you my hand, dear boy,

[Illustration with caption: LANE PEAK IN RAINIER NATIONAL PARK]

I was most badly infected, but I really never felt better than
when I stepped out of the auto on to the hospital steps. And it
took some nerve for me to say, "Go to it," under such
circumstances. (I am patting myself on the back a bit now.)

Well, Glory be!--that step is taken and now I must fight to get
fit. They say I am making as good a record as a boy, as to
recovery, so all my Scotch whiskies, and big cigars and late
nights with you politicians have not ruined me.

Say dear things to your Mother for me, Jack, and give greetings to
all your family.

F. K. L.

To Robert Lansing

Rochester, 14 [May, 1921]

MY DEAR LANSING,--I am disturbed because you may be disturbed. As
I lie in bed I read and am read to, and some of the papers do not
treat you decently. The very ones that were loudest in their
declarations against W. W. at every stage, now suggest that you
might have quit his service if you didn't like it. I hope it will
not get under your skin ...

What comfort you would have given the enemy if you had resigned!
Have they thought of that? I came to the brink when the President
blew up my coal agreement to save three or four hundred million
dollars for the people, But I was stopped by the thought, "Give no
comfort to Berlin." ... Good night and good luck.


Manuscript fragment written May 17, 1921, and found in his room.
Franklin K. Lane died May 18, 1921.

And if I had passed into that other land, whom would I have
sought--and what should I have done?

No doubt, first of all I would have sought the few loved ones
whose common life with me had given us matter for talk, and whom I
had known so well that I had loved dearly. Then perhaps there
might have [been] some gratifying of a cheap curiosity, some
searching and craning after the names that had been sierras along
my skyline. But I know now there would have been little of that.
It would not have been in me to have gone about asking Alexander
and Cromwell little questions. For what would signify the trifle
which made a personal fortune, that put a new name up upon some
pilaster men bowed to as they passed? Were Aristotle there,
holding in his hand the strings and cables that tied together all
the swinging and surging and lagging movements of the whole
earth's life--an informed, pregnant Aristotle,--Ah! there would be
the man to talk with! What satisfaction to see him take, like
reins from between his fingers the long ribbons of man's life and
trace it through the mystifying maze of all the wonderful
adventure of his coming up. The crooked made straight. The
'Daedalian plan' simplified by a look from above--smeared out as
it were by the splotch of some master thumb that made the whole
involuted, boggling thing one beautiful, straight line. And one
could see, as on a map of ocean currents, the swing and movements
of a thousand million years. I think that I would not expect that
he could tell the reason why the way began, nor where it would
end. That's divine business, yet for the free-going of the mind it
would lend such impulse, to see clearly. Thus much for curiosity!
The way up which we've stumbled.

But for my heart's content in that new land, I think I'd rather
loaf with Lincoln along a river bank. I know I could understand
him. I would not have to learn who were his friends and who his
enemies, what theories he was committed to, and what against. We
could just talk and open out our minds, and tell our doubts and
swap the longings of our hearts that others never heard of. He
wouldn't try to master me nor to make me feel how small I was. I'd
dare to ask him things and know that he felt awkward about them,
too. And I would find, I know I would, that he had hit his shin
just on those very stumps that had hit me. We'd talk of men a lot,
the kind they call the great. I would not find him scornful. Yet
boys that he knew in New Salem would somehow appear larger in
their souls, than some of these that I had called the great. His
wise eyes saw qualities that weighed more than smartness. Yes, we
would sit down where the bank sloped gently to the quiet stream
and glance at the picture of our people, the negroes being
lynched, the miners' civil war, labor's hold ups, employers'
ruthlessness, the subordination of humanity to industry,--


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