Here's the rest of what Welles had to say about Cornelia Lunt: "...and Alfred Lunt used to pretend to be her cousin - they weren't related at all - they loved each other - and she was, when I knew her in her middle 90s and had been a hostess of great importance although very young in the Civil War in America and knew intimately all the great names of the civil (war) and she could tell you what Lincoln said and what my great-grandfather Gideon Welles said to his secretary maybe in the cabinet - a great kind of raconteur on the Civil War...she went over to London or she was at the American Embassy and where she knew everybody in England; all those fabulous people that seemed to have been dead for 200 years you know in the Victorian Age and it was... You could only get her to tell you about these things with great difficulty. She didn't go on and on like I do, you had to drag it out of her and she was delicious. She was an old lady when she gave a big party...sat on a little stool and she gave you a big chair - if you can imagine an old lady like that - she was very beautiful. She must have been not very beautiful when she was young but one of those people that old age glorifies. And she had a little bell and when she wanted everyone to be quiet so she could say something she'd ring her bell and then we'd all be quiet and then she'd make her little statement and then she'd ring it again and everybody could talk. And she's one of the great people I've known - you know as great certainly as Churchill or Roosevelt or George Marshall and I suppose Marshall is the greatest man I ever met..."
Wow! That is quite a testimonial from as great a "raconteur" as Welles himself. Let's look at what the Chicago Tribune had to say about Cornelia Lunt when she died on December 26. 1934:
She recalled her father's excursions more than eighty years ago to what is now Evanston, in search of a site for a university. Mr. Lunt selected 379 acres of marshy land north of Chicago, paid $25,000 for it, and gave it to Northwestern university and Garrett Biblical Institute. He refused to allow his associates to name the town Orrington. It was named Evanston after Dr. John Evans, another earl;y settler and one of Northwestern's founders, who later moved west and became one of the early governors of Colorado.
With her father Miss Lunt visited the White House on several occasions as a guest of President Lincoln, a warm friend of Mr. Lunt and Dr. Evans. In 1864 she was escorted through the came of the Army of the Potomac.
Most of Miss Lunt's life was devoted to leadership in social, intellectual and artistic activities. Of recent years she made a journey to Europe each summer. She was said to be the last surviving charter member of the Fortnightly, the oldest woman's club in Chicago. She was the first president of the Fort Dearborn chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was a member of the Chicago branch of the Colonial Dames of America. She also belonged to the University Guild of Northwestern. She served for many years as a trustee of Northwestern university, retiring from that post several years ago.
Funeral services will be held from the residence at 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon. Interment in Rosehill cemetery.
Quite an interesting person, to say the least. I wish Orson Welles had told us more about those parties he attended at "Anchorfast."
In June of 1925, Cornelia Lunt privately published what was billed as the first (but turned out to be the only) volume of her autobiography. She called it Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864. Since Miss Lunt was kind enough to leave us her own words, I have decided to let her tell her own story. Over the next weeks I will share chapters of "Sketches" with you.
Here is a scan of the front cover - she had each volume bound in gold-tooled brown leather:
Here is the inscription page (in fountain pen, of course) from my volume:
To The Cousin, dearer and dearer as years go by - their shared experiences uniting us with memories that cannot fade.
To Susan A. Lunt.
One of the "Little Lunts" that has fulfilled the promise of early days in spiritual growth; giving unstintedly service of immeasurable value to those she loved that now crown her beautiful age with true devotion and an ever-growing appreciation.
With the affectionate greeting and assurance of unfailing remembrance-
of her "Cousin Nina"
Cornelia Gray Lunt
Evanston, Illinois "Xmas" of 1925
By writing these "Leaves of Memory" you have it in your power to put at interest whatever this gift may bring you. Thus all who love you may benefit. In giving us a record of your memories we shall, as the case may be - enjoy delight - be inspired to noble deeds - or perhaps, reach for the Stars!
"Anchorfast" Evanston, February 4, 1923
Beloved Niece Regina:
When last Christmas brought that attractive Blank Book, blue covered and gold lettered, I smiled at the idea of filling it as your tender words suggested. I thought of the genuine disabilities of age that are apt to affect our entire conception of the value of various incidents; and of the danger of always an excessive sympathy with oneself which fails to bring out errors or admit deficiencies. But your letter has moved me by its affectionate claim for the young of our family - and that I may not be wholly forgotten, and at your asking, the tide of existence drifts backwards the films of memory unroll and I recall how unknown to me many small and indifferent currents altered unexpectedly the whole course of life. There are no little things, all are vital forces which for me could be neither measured nor altered. The simplest incidents develop in such widely different directions, and make a mark there is no obliterating.
Most of us in the few years of a very ordinary existence have witnessed many strange things, have stumbled across fundamentally curious ones, and after all have often found ourselves sitting on the wrong side of the fence! There is nothing in my life remarkable, or worthy of any record as I see it now. I mean it is distinctly on the average plane, except for the act of enjoyment, and the surroundings of comfort and indulgence, which made for buoyancy and developed ease and freedom. But if you think that your children will find value, or feel interest in scenes or sketches of their Grand-Aunt's youth, as events are still familiar to a living memory, I will try to tell them what moved me most or delighted me most in those earliest years. They will be merely pictures of my childhood and young girlhood in descriptions or in episodes as the occur to me, adopting no strict method in the recounting, nor shall I make essential distinctions in following chronologically the time and place.
After over three quarters of a century with the Gulf forever widening, vision to me is not remote only the points of view are changed. The interest is as poignant today as in those far off yesterdays, and this I can promise you - a truthful summary in accurate detail of those first experiences and lessons - which will show simply the inevitable expression of inborn qualities and tastes - the result of heritage and the product of environment, and of that age. It is curious to observe under what impulses youth or middle age or old age expresses itself, and I do not wish in what follows to write under impulses any more than I wish to be judged by errors in dates or by seeming contradictions. One is too apt to offer paradoxes because sophisticated; but if enthusiasm undertakes to grapple with the simple events of a simple life enthusiasm will be rewarded. It is a pity to travel the path of life without that companion to light up so many intangible and irremediable obscurities; to create a beautiful atmosphere and enshrine harmoniously the commonest associations of common every-day life. Someone has said that the Unknown is a nut to crack, for in it may lie the secret of the Universe!
Sometimes pleasantly hypnotized, softened by the glare of these late afternoons, watching the changing specks of gold on my Lake; drifting-drifting-drifting out to sea - waiting - no longer speculating on what is to come. Silence, and a blessed calm, that makes security better than jubilance; here in my lovely back-water cove, my Anchorfast, you ask that I should reinstate myself in the World of activities and excitements, which can so easily again envelop and transfigure as one writes?
I look out now as I did in babyhood across blue waters under blue skies to the far horizon, and think what a wonderful world it is and that I couldn't have lived but for its beauty. One has to have fellowship with the trees that give shelter and the flowers that scent the air, and all living things that are a part of our world - and of all living things beings are the strongest and the most interesting for with them lies responsibility.
Oh it has been good to live - I love it. And very early certain longings beset me not to be merely a passenger but one of the Crew of the Great Ship we call the World. It was not for me to rule or reign or serve mightily. I was never in the van of the battle as conqueror or leader. I was no climber of mountains. Mine were not gifts that were made for struggle and sacrificial labours or royal victories. Life never became spectacular or severe but sheltered, joyous, confident with a message of love I wish I could pass on. The lessons I have learned are comforting; that the trees, the flowers, the hills, the forests, the mountains and the oceans are gifts of Heaven in sight; and above all the rich gifts of loving words are Heaven's own Birthday gifts to the world as we speak them - and it is for us to make every day a Birthday of delight or a Christmas of joy.
Walter Pater speaking of the Eternal glamours of childhood says our susceptibilities, the discovery of our powers, our manifold experiences belong to this or the other well-remembered habitation! And so it is that instinctive longings come to us to renew our childhood - "Even in the Shadows where we shall find the ones we have played with and have lost."
And so I greet you Children dear, in the gathering darkness with its sacred message to light the lamp of patience and press on. You, too, will hear "the still small voice" that says we must all wait in patience, in the beginning as at the end - and strive for life -
And here are the Reminiscences, Regina, with the tender assurance and devotion of -