Selected Prose & Poems of Louis Clarke Irvine
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Warning: These are original writings of Louis Clarke Irvine and therefore ALL rights are reserved to the Author



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Compiled by
his granddaughter
Sarah Irvine Slater
as a tribute to the

100th Wedding Anniversary
Louis Clarke Irvine
(1862 - 1947)


Julia Richardson Upham
(1872 - 1945)

June 22, 1893
Portland Place
Mobile, Alabama

To The Reader :

    The following must not be construed as self-exploitation. After 84 years of life, 66 of which have been individualistic and independent, it can hardly be presumptuous to think that possible benefit might result from knowledge of the major events by the inheritors of my name even minus fame. Shortly after our bereavement, one of our sons requested that I set down many of the accounts he had heard, of my successful ventures, disasters and recoveries, as possible good medicine for their children or grandchildren who might be benefited by knowing about them. Hence, I commence this brief with episodes from the past.

    As each of my numerous business tragedies, however disastrous, have proven truly a "STEPPING STONE TO BETTER THINGS", the knowledge of them might give courage to despair of some of our children's’ children. As my even major tragic failures each left me within one year thanking God that the disaster happened, I cannot doubt that "A DIVINITY SHAPES OUR ENDS."

All during my later school years, I was victim of depressions, blues to the nth degree. I was always fond of poetry and began imitating classic authors. Finally I found that such exercises relieved depression, in fact a safety valve for pent-up feelings. Later, I found that after every collapse of my plans, the poetic exercise banished depression. So it happened that I had a "DOUBLE LIFE" — the one intensely material, mingling active business with civic work most of the time, but secretly a dream-life among the stars and mystic recesses of the soul. Therefore in proceeding with my brief it occurred to me that this inner life should be included. For its possible clarification of the dual personality, I have used these exercises as a sort of appendix. Many of them were evoked by political
and military wrongs as I view Government activities. Most of them however were simply reactions to sentiment and purely personal musings.

    HERE FOLLOW, some lines written at 18 years of age, almost to forecast the philosophy of our normal tragedies as a self-cure of our sorrows.

As the day declines to even’
Falling in the arms of night
One by one the stars of heaven
Shed on earth their silvery light,
So when life’s bright skies are hidden
‘Neath the heavy gloom of woe,
True friends like the stars — unbidden
One by one their luster show.

(Written after the collapse of Inclined-Plane RR)

Upon a sun-kissed bank of green
Whose graceful waves now hid and now revealed
Daisies bright and sweet-faced violets,
A child was wont long years ago
To lie and watch the clouds that rolled
Like vapor-mountains billowing high
From the mighty deep they rose, wherein
Had plunged the flaming orb of Day
To quench his own effulgence.

From out that shifting, strange, cloud-world
In prophecy of events
(That to his sense a time portrayed
That were to be) - floated a FORM majestical
Whose widely flowing robes glowed golden-bright
Against a massive throne, ‘neath golden dome, -
Such as should adorn a QUEEN.

This vision fell with mingled sense upon the child
Of night and day amidst the shadows
Which soft twilight sheds, that come and go
And ARE and then ARE NOT. - His tired eyes
Grown dim with strained searching
To see BEYOND in quest of hidden depths
Within that restless changing scene, -
Closed calmly as night fell slowly
On his slumbers in still stranger dreams.

Behold! Long years of youth's life-tides
Ebbed and flowed about his pillowed head
Upon the scented grass! Boyhood loves
And their sweet "make-believe" that divine nectar
That animates the heart of youth, to view
Its earthly EDEN with its becoming on.
The vision shifts to graver scenes.
The VICTOR’S wrath in college strife appears.
Ambition’ pride to lead the man in scholarship.

Then over all, the deluge falls
From powers expanding in the soul
As REASON’S FLOOD GATES are up-raised
And "mighty deeps" of SCIENCE, grand,
And HISTORY ‘s rich treasure submerge the mind,
The vision grows. Step by step the child
Ascends the "golden stair" of FAME
Till on some imperial height he stands
Wrapt in fadeless glory. Night deepens now
To shift his cloud-wrought world
As o’er his sleep-bound soul, the brooding gloom
Of threatened woes descends. Ghost-like,
How he seems to strive in blind confusion,
With some foe whose weapon, keen as envy’s thrust
Now wounds the soul; - whose dispairing cry
Betrays the self-devouring wolf
Or monster yet more terrible
Whose MIEN o’er-powers e’re his might destroys.
A dread NIGHTMARE of futile strife,
With man-in-beast, or beast-in-man.
Then, over-come, as one in fatal quicksands caught
May feel the creeping surface line
As serpent’s coil arise and fold
Him in its slimey-cold embrace,
To close his life out at the last,
So seemed the dreamer in his dream.
With that dark, warning dream,
The child awoke, - a sense of DOOM ESCAPED
Sounded in his heavy sigh
A mystic guiding hand he felt
Whose power had rescue brought.


Sorrow’s Retrospection

The flood of years ... Ah — signing on the brink
I pause to peer into its depths to think
‘Mid feeling beyond words and pain surpassing tears!
The dream of life ... Ah! — wak’ning in a daze,
The path I came by glooms, a maze
Of earth-mounds — each a tomb of cherished memories.

Oh! What labyrinth is this we thread
‘Twixt life’s living and it’s dead!
Groping for faith with power to save ---
Whilst only broken at the open grave ---
Only in presence of that second birth
Of some loved spirit called from earth,
Doth life’s immortal phase emerge,
Sine death alone holds power to purge
Vain records of our tragedies!


Friendly Stars of Life

As the day declines to even’
Falling in the arms of night,
One by one the stars of heaven
Shed on earth their silvery light;
So when life’s bright sun is hidden
By the heavy gloom of woe
True friends, like the stars unbidden,
One by one, their luster show.

May 18, 1883

Flight of Life

Time is flying, years have flown
Acons, ages, — not alone,
But replete with noble strife,
Petty cares and baser life.

Days are passing, hours have passed,
Weeks and months; the year at last,
Swiftly seems to flee away
As the sunny showers of May.

Worlds are wasting, stars have waned,
Suns and planets, lost and gained,
While the constant guards of light
Lend their glory to the night.

Man is dying, men have died;
Races, nations, side by side
Now are silent, hushed to sleep
Amid the wrecks of the mighty deep.

Life is fleeing, death is sure,
End must come to base and pure, ---
Dust to dust again consume,
Darkness settle o’er the tomb.

Day is dawning on the night
Star by star withholds its light,
Till the love of heaven’s son
Tells that time’s last night is done;

Clears away life’s distant haze
Banishes the grave’s dark maze ---
Victory crowns our mortal strife
And death is swallowed up in life.


    The following verses resulted from a brief association with a talented girl, literary and mature in mind with whom several month’s of casual association in which our mutual literary efforts had been discussed, caused her to submit her "SONNET" on DEATH written a few days before she had received news of the suicide death of a close friend. The implications of that coincidence caused her to submit it to my judgment. Reading it evoked my CRITICAL response in the same form of expression.  As this mere casual REPLY pictures in miniature the ALMOST MINUTE reflection of my spiritual outlook thru out all our years. "Mama" no doubt laid the text away with my first verses to her among which the yellowed script was found after our tragedy.

To Death (A Proposal)

AFRAID OF DEATH? - Ah no! - I can only FEAR
To crave him so. I cannot calmly wait
To live my life out and encounter FATE
To the last sigh and bitterest blist’ring tear: -
But must reach out to DEATH and drag him near
With eager, hungry heart, - grown satiate
With life and hope, - despair and love and hate; -
All consciousness of what was once so dear!
O pulseless DEATH draped in the graves dank mould,
Hated and feared by those whom life has blest!
I tell thee Now I love thee! Be thou bold
And take me, warm and LIVING, to thy breast
Wherein no HEART LIES, - that my heart now grown cold
Shall cease its fretful throbbing and know REST.


My Reply (In Criticism)

Persuades thee to the cold embrace of DEATH.
HIS pulseless breath that yields a clammy breath
All fetid with decay of passions, - rife
With poisonous exhalations from the strife
Of soul with BASER elements awakeneth
No sense of POWER, - no spiritual FIRE
To thrill and satiate the strong desire
Of mortal flesh for IMMORTALITY!
For ALL thou art. --- I love thy bounding streams
Of joy’s and hopes and fears and vainest dreams
Close-locked unto thy love — full pulsing breast
Let my heart lie, - and GIVING, - TAKE SWEET REST!




     ... Returning to Mobile with still undiminished faith in a FUTURE despite all obstacles, I settled to simply try to get rid of some of our land thin loans on homes and in that effort, I rented an office, the 2nd floor of the then Telegraph Office Building (which is still tenanted by the company). I had arranged with Mr. George Fearn, Sr., to take a room at his home and board with him and share my office with him. The effects of the approaching depression were slowing down all activities in our line and economy was of prime importance.

    I mingled in local social circles modestly, visiting in the best homes casually and playing tennis and enjoying Bay Sailing and Shell Road driving diversions without any special attachments resulting but with genuine interest in the "SOUTHERN GIRL" psychology. I had particularly yielded to the wooing of the salubrious climate, drank in the intoxicating gulf-breezes, the gorgeous moonlit nights the Bay and among the encircling hills, - the majestic grandeur of the Live Oak giants, and the endless display of home-flowers, the Crepe Myrtle and Oleander and Japonica especially evoking dream like reveries long nights together. In fact my youthful courtship of the MUSE reinvigorated by these ins

pirations, often got hold of me and many a long night was devoted to attempts at expressing some measure of what I felt. (My "Veteran's DREAM" [see last poem] was born in one of these sprees, sitting out on the oak-clad Earth-works that then surrounded the City left by the war of regretful memory.)     While thus apparently becalmed on my "SEA OF PROMOTION" and enjoying life in hopeful spirit, Mr. Fearn’s son Geo. and I boarded a street car at its terminus on Dauphin, (his home being on S. Julia from which we were going for a tennis match with the Irwin Girls over on Government St. As we passed Ann St. a young lady in mourning, carrying a music "roll" stepped on the front of the car and took her seat on the little "side" seat. Geo. and I were seated about midway on the cross seats, and hence I being on the opposite side of the car from the lady, I could see her distinctly and did so most interestedly just at the moment she turned her face toward us with a slight smile in recognition of Geo. But that smile carried a delightfully poisoned arrow (which I still feel within my heart). I could not withhold my gaze after she resumed her straight-front position. But as I watched her, she again turned toward us but "CAUGHT ME" in the act and quickly turned her face. Once more I tried a glance and CAUGHT HER eye squarely fixed on my face.

    All this occurred in the short moment of a slow-mule-car ride from Ann down only to Hallett St. where Geo. and I left the car to walk across to Julia St. Geo. had taken account of my "STARING" at the girl and joshed me about it as a flirtatious effort with a girl in deep mourning, and said "Old man, you can’t get away with that sort of thing". I replied with some lame alibi which brought his retort, - Oh! I see you are really HIT!"  As a strange prophetic "bluff" I replied, "You need not guy me, I am just going to MARRY THAT GIRL, - THAT’S ALL!" He made a great joke of it and finally told me who she was and said, "If you really fell that strongly about it, I’ll make a date to take you out for an introduction." Thus the program was set up and the next week he had so arranged it for a Sunday afternoon call at the grand old "PORTLAND PLACE"!

    However, FATE was against us. The day before our date, a message from old home in Oregon, (Mo.) called me to the "DEATH-BED" of my mother. A mouth of such tragic watching and nursing, by me in spite of the despair of doctors and family alike, which kept me at her side day and night with only "cat-nap" snatches of sleep, found her "out of danger" and able to be left with "Aunt Mat" who had visited us to take my place.  Returning to Mobile, I spent a week in hectic efforts to catch up the lose-ends of my neglected business which the Fearn's had done much together for me. Finally George arranged the new date for my long nursed goal of "MEETING THE GIRL."

    But again tragedy intervened and just before the time set, I was called back by our family doctor by the startling news of mother’s relapse and hopeless condition without me. Taking the first train out, I again reached home in time to restore her to hopeful condition. That required several weeks and it was mid-April before I felt safe in leaving her after installing a trusted old friend as her constant attendant to see that my program which had restored her was not again neglected.  At last returning to Mobile, I found business less promising than ever as the porteous shadow of ‘93 darkened the outlook and the Fearns had moved to Spring Hill to try to help expenses by operating the old INN. My time was taken up in trying out lending money for my Indiana backers but I found little encouragement in that. Just as I had about decided to try a new promotion, a trio of Chicago men who had bought the state franchise for KEELEY INSTITUTES, called on me to talk me into renting my floor to them, and moving my doubtful activities in with some firm with more room than business required. They explained how they could use it as no hospital technique was involved and that my offices would answer every need till later on when a SANITARIUM technique might be substituted. As I was dubious just how long I could EAT on my Indiana backers, I decided to offer them my lease for fifty dollars per month.  ($30.00 above my lease.) Offer was accepted with permission for immediate use while I sought other  location for one desk. My other furnishings going with the lease. I was certain to be able to EAT AT LEAST if my backers got weary of honoring my drafts.

    I was meantime too busy with doubts and plans to get set for a third date with my "FATE". While curiously interested in the KEELEY Experiment, I helped the manager prepare his opening  Advertisements, and very naturally avidly devoured all the KEELEY literature. (A personal interest intrigued me because my father was a MORPHINE ADDICT of thirty years or more indulgence, due to unfortunate circumstances, had given up any hope of relief and just lived on his dreams. (His early accumulation from law practice had saved him the dangers of disability and loss of earning power.) But I had visions of seeing my mother happy over knowledge of his cure if such were possible.

    As one more SINGULAR evidence of "THAT DIVINITY THAT SHAPES OUR ENDS" - this event most striking. The KEELEY ANNOUNCEMENT, on plans of FREE TREATMENT for test cases (a plan suggested by me in warning the manager that no social, moral or business appeal to tie prejudiced SOUTHERNERS would win him patronage.) He agreed to my plan for undermining prejudice. On a Sunday morning the full page ad was to appear. Saturday morning previous a dispatch from TORONTO, the manager’s home, called him to the death-bed of his father. He came to me madly distracted and dumped his duties on me, to substitute for him till he could hurry back. He showed me the wire from the KEELEY PHYSICIAN authorized by KEELEY to administer under his contract. He was to arrive Sunday night. No possible patients could be expected without a few days delay anyway and lie assured me the Dr. had all the responsibility, except the accounting and advertising end of tie business. Thus I was substitute manager. To skip the details, I was too engrossed with these surprising events to think of "MY FATE" except in dreams.

    Instead of a week’s absence, the manager’s father lingered at the brink of the grave several weeks and then recovered. When the manager got back he found the RECORD BUSINESS of the KEELEY experiment, in a cash income of $3,000.00 for the first mouth. (Of course much of this had yet to be earned out by the THREE WEEKS treatment, but the cash in advance plan showed the cash in hand.)

    That settled my business fate for some time! He refused to take back tie job but insisted I stay and let him go to Birmingham or elsewhere and start a second INSTITUTE. Like a drowning man, I accepted rescue from advancing disaster and was more than busy till our project had become a sensation over the CURES it had effected. Meantime George Fearn had made the final engagement for my visit to PORTLAND PLACE.

    Strangely, it was for her BIRTH-DAY (20 years old) I was ten years older. The casual meeting on that glorious front gallery shaded by the immortal Oaks, was to me more than a view of HEAVEN. Nothing startling occurred, no rememberable conversation, just "PROXIMITY OF KINDRED SOULS" seemed to fill the cup of expectancy. An engagement was made for later in the week to bring out friends and enjoy tennis. Social chit-chat, intimate little curiosities as to my strange "BUSINESS" and now and then a "buggy ride" down the famous "BAY SHELL ROAD" whiled away several months. I had warnings of dangerous pit-falls "to presumptuous suitors from "OLD TIME attachments" likely to dispel my dreams. But I moved steadily in a test program, on my own supposed "FICKLENESS" based on many and various heart cracking experiences during my ten years of bachelorhood and "sweet-hearting".

    To explain my testing purpose: I had always been inordinately jealous of any attention to girls I was FAVORING with my "self-important" affection The green-eyed monster made my love-life from youth up a scorching hell. So that at this period, I had about determined never to allow myself to marry. Selfishly, I wished to avoid suffering and UNSELFISHLY, I also felt that NO WOMAN COULD BE DESERVING OF SUCH PUNISHMENT AS MY JEALOUS NATURE WOULD AFFLICT HER WITH. What a setting for this over-whelming event in my life.

    Hence it was that I associated with my "FATE" all the summer and fall, hearing all about me, gossip of my coming "AWAKENING", and when the "OLD-LOVER" would claim her as society ordained and custom suggested.


Mrs. Edward Richardson Upham

invites you to be present

at the marriage of her daughter

Julia Richardson


Louis Clarke Irvine

on Thursday evening the twenty-second of June

at quarter to nine o’clock

Portland Place, Spring Hill Avenue

Mobile, Alabama

No presents.


"First Tears"

(Written on board old Miss River Steamer "NATCHEZ" —
last of the Mark Twain fleet — en route to St. Louis on our
second day together, June 25th, 1893 after seeing Julia’s first tears.)

I looked on my bride held in fondest embrace, -
(Breast heaving as ocean-swell following storm)
The glow of love’s dawn burning warm in her face;
Eyes calm and restful from ‘bodings of harm;
Heart swept by vision of raptures untold
Flooding each pulse-beat that shook her fair frame
While up from the "future" a threat’ning cloud rose
With darkest forebodings in harsh sorrows name
Traced in the foam of her passion-waves crest,
Then love flashed to love in its mystical light
A warning of danger that each heart confessed
Might bring fairest promise to premature blight.

Like dew on the grasses at earliest dawn
Glowed the spray of "FIRST TEARS" in her affrighted EYES
from the deep of her love-swept heart up-borne.
Quick as love-spark from heart to heart flies
I quaffed the light spray of her passionate sea
And it gave me the vision of what "IS TO BE."
And with it a voice deep down in my heart
Assured me - "Now you have chosen "love’s better part:
"This her sweet sorrow’s pure crystal flow
"Into live’s beautiful fountain shall grow,
"To water the garden of your holy love
Which shall bloom in "IMMORTALS", forever to prove
"The depth of her trust and the faith of her pledge
"To go with thee, e’en to the dark river’s edge; -
"To love and to comfort thee, e’en unto death. -
"Thus blessing thy life to its last falt’ring breath."

(Script of above was found in her secret file)

"To My Christmas Gifts"

(The baby faces came to me this morn.)
December 25, 1894


Baby Clarke, sweet little elf,
This laughing image of yourself
Has melted all the gloom away
And left me to enjoy the day,
It broke the mists of somber gray
That brooded o’er my lonely way,
Just as, through a rift of clouds
Burst forth the sun to cheer the crowds
That filled the streets in guest of joy, —
From the bearded man to the shouting boy,
Above it all, and rich and low,
I hear a gingling liquid flow
Of music, gliding to and fro
As up and down the "rompers" go,
With thee as center of their fun
Dispensing joy to ever one
About the great old fashioned home
Where Santa Claus has been and gone.

No. 2

This other face, in sweet surprise
Opens wide its staring eyes,
As though it heard the merry ring
Of sleigh-bellied reindeers galloping
Across the roof, and half suspect
From instinct, what is coming next.
Say? You precious little rogue
What knew you of our Christmas vogue
You never had a Santa Clause —
      In that long time "before was you"!
And who has told you all the fun,
      Of sleigh bells, toys and popping gun.
I hear the answer - an’ tis true
      A-goo le-goo le-goo le-goo.

And little matters what I ask, like reward
      comes to my task,
With laughing eyes, and dimpled cheek, and
      sweetest tongue that e’re did speak,
And sweetest coral tinted lips,
Enwreathed in smiles, to pink ear-tips,
And nodding head, and tossing hands
(As if to burst restraining bands.)
I hear it now - the liquid flow
Of sweetest music hers below —
"A-la—a-la—a-la—a-la— a-low!"


New Year’s Love ‘99
(St. Louis)

The seventh "New Year" since I began to live
Dawns upon my buoyant spirit
Back as it did that fateful first
From out whose golden clasp was given
That love, to me, out rivaling Heaven.

Then out of dubious and uncertain night
My heart had groped toward a path-like way
Lit by rays of new awakened hope
That seemed to glow from an eternal pyre
On which my soul might take Promethian fire.

And so at Fate’s best that spark immortal
The misty caverns of my being struck
To light and life and you - as legend tells
Of ancient dark and ghostly haunted halls
Transformed to jeweled palaces when some enchantment falls,
So now, again, the glad New year’s advance,
Richly prodigal of purest loves increase
Sweet usury bestows and for the gloom
And gathering clouds our fearful spirits scanned,
Behold! As against the storm, our Bow of Promise, spanned.

October 1, 1900

The World Appalled Looked On!
(Deploring Philippine War)

But yesterday, and round the Earth
Bang loud the plaudits of the world
Our FLAG to warlike blasts unfurled!
The blood that flowed at Lexington, -
Heroic dead of Bunker Hill, -
The souls that ride where battle’s on
And God-like bid the storm be still
Or rage o’er stricken foe and friend
All re-incarnate haste to lend
Gen’rous purpose to our arms, -
To martial death, its superb charms.

The battle lulls. A truce succeeds.
Down ‘monst mangled men and weeds
Deep trenches sink, roul, long and wide.
Yonder the white tends side by side
Tell of agonies swift and dread, -
Wounded dying and heroes dead.
THE WORLD weeps with us. Its deep "amen"
Echoes back to our moan of pain!
PEACE, soft winged, glorious peace
Spreads her pinions. The battles cease.
The busy mart and Senate Hall
Back from the field, our heroes call.
The NATION, anew baptized with fire
Divine from freedoms sacred pyre.
Proclaims proud vict’ory in a fight
Made not for SELF but FOR THE RIGHT!

Hark! Anew the land awakes
To War’s harsh notes. The wide sea takes
Our armed hosts in hot haste called
To battle’s front. The WORLD APPALLED
LOOKS ON, as "FREEDOM", revenging, wild
From her cradle rends the stricken child
Whose flowing wounds now stain with blood
Which flashed HOPE’s signal on that night!


Oh! Thou all-pitying HEAVEN, stay
The lustful arm now raised to slay!
Flash ‘er the sky thy warning scroll!
Let it speak in the thunder’s roll
THIS TRUTH was writ deep on our land
In print of blood by brothers’ hand
From brother drawn! And from the plains
That drank that precious flood, the STAINS
Draw down by rivers to the sea, -

(NOTE) Happily this prayer was answered in the Government’s final

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