Edward William Bok > The Americanization of Edward Bok > Page 19



Edward William Bok (1863–1930). The Americanization of Edward Bok. 1921.

Page 19

something useful. It never occurred to the boy that these men might not answer him.

So he took his Encyclopædia—its trustworthiness now established in his mind by General Garfield’s letter—and began to study the lives of successful men and women. Then, with boyish frankness, he wrote on some mooted question in one famous person’s life; he asked about the date of some important event in another’s, not given in the Encyclopædia; or he asked one man why he did this or why some other man did that.

Most interesting were, of course, the replies. Thus General Grant sketched on an improvised map the exact spot where General Lee surrendered to him; Longfellow told him how he came to write “Excelsior”; Whittier told the story of “The Barefoot Boy”; Tennyson wrote out a stanza or two of “The Brook,” upon condition that Edward would not again use the word “awful,” which the poet said “is slang for ‘very,’” and “I hate slang.”

One day the boy received a letter from the Confederate general Jubal A. Early, giving the real reason why he burned Chambersburg. A friend visiting Edward’s father, happening to see the letter, recognized in it a hitherto-missing bit of history, and suggested that it be published in the New York Tribune. The letter attracted wide attention and provoked national discussion.

This suggested to the editor of The Tribune that Edward might have other equally interesting letters; so he despatched a reporter to the boy’s home. This reporter was Ripley Hitchcock, who afterward became



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