Fellow Craftsmen by Christopher Morley

Story type: Essay

Robert Urwick, the author, was not yet so calloused by success that he was immune from flattery. And so when he received the following letter he was rather pleased:

Mr. Robt. Urwick, dear sir I seen your story in this weeks Saturday Evn Cudgel, not that I can afford to buy journals of that stamp but I pick up the copy on a bench in the park. Now Mr. Urwick I am a poor man but I was brought up a patron of the arts and I am bound to say that story of yours called Brass Nuckles was a fine story and I am proud to compliment you upon it. Mr. Urwick that brings me to another matter upon which I have been intending to write you upon for a long time but did not like to risk an intrusion. I used to dable in literature to some little extent myself if that will lend a fellow feeling for a craftsman in distress. I am a poor man, out of work through no fault of mine but on account of the illness of my wife and my sitting up with her at nights for weeks and weeks I could not hold my job whch required mentle concentration of a vigorous sort. Now Mr. Urwick I have a sick wife and seven children to support, and the rent shortly due and the landlord threatens to eject us if I don’t pay what I owe. As it happens my wife and I are hoping to be blessed again soon, with our eighth. Owing to my love and devotion for the fine arts we have named all the earlier children for noted authors or writers Rudyard Kipling, W.J. Bryan, Mark Twain, Debs, Irvin Cobb, Walt Mason and Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Now Mr. Urwick I thought that I would name the next one after you, seeing you have done so much for literature Robert if a boy or Roberta if a girl with Urwick for a middle name thus making you a godfather in a manner of speaking. I was wondering whether you would not feel like making a little godfathers gift for this innocent babe now about to come into the world and to bare your name. Say twenty dollars, but not a check if it can be avoided as owing to tempry ambarrassment I am not holding any bank account, and currency would be easier for me to convert into the necesity of life.

I wrote this letter once before but tore it up fearing to intrude, but now my need compels me to be frank. I hope you will adorn our literature with many more beautiful compositions similiar to Brass Nuckles.

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Yours truly

Mr Henry Phillips 454 East 34 St.

Mr. Urwick, after reading this remarkable tribute twice, laughed heartily and looked in his bill-folder. Finding there a crisp ten-dollar note, he folded it into an envelope and mailed it to his admirer, inclosing with it a friendly letter wishing success to the coming infant who was to carry his name.

A fortnight later he found on his breakfast table a very soiled postal card with this message:

Dear and kind friend, the babe arrived and to the joy of all is a boy and has been cristened Robert Urwick Phillips. Unfortunately he is a sicly infant and the doctor says he must have port wine at once or he may not survive. His mother and I were overjoyed at your munificant gift and hope some day to tell the boy of his beanefactor, Mr. Kipling only sent five spot to his namesake. Do you think you could spare five dollars to help pay for port wine

Yours gratefully.

Henry Phillips

Mr. Urwick was a little surprised at the thought of port wine for one so young, but happening to be bound down town that morning he thought it might be interesting to look in at Mr. Phillips’ residence and find out how his godchild was faring. If the child were really in distress he might perhaps contribute a small sum to insure proper medical care.

The address proved to be a shabby tenement house hedged by saloons. A ragged little girl (he wondered whether she were Ella Wheeler Wilcox Phillips) pointed him to Mr. Phillips’s door. Meeting no answer, he entered.

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The room was empty–a single room, with a cot bed, an oil stove and a table littered with stationery and stamps. Of Mrs. Phillips, his namesake or the other seven he saw no signs. He advanced to the table.

Evidently Mr. Phillips was not a ready writer and his letters cost him some pains. Several lay open on the table in different stages of composition. They were all exactly the same in wording as the first one Urwick had received. They were addressed to Booth Tarkington, Don Marquis, Ellen Glasgow, Edna Ferber, Agnes Repplier, Holworthy Hall and Fannie Hurst. Each letter offered to name some coming child after these Parnassians. Near by lay a pile of old magazines from which the industrious Mr. Phillips evidently culled the names of his literary favorites.

Urwick smiled grimly and tiptoed from the room. On the stairs he met a fat charwoman. He asked her if Mr. Phillips were married. “Whisky is his wife and child,” she replied.

A month later Urwick put Phillips into a story which he sold to the Saturday Evening Cudgel for $500. When it was published he sent a marked copy of the magazine to the father of Robert Urwick Phillips with the following note:

“Dear Mr. Phillips–I owe you about $490. Come around some day and I’ll blow you to lunch.”

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