Original Document
Original Document
"The Real Jay Gould," New York Sun, 1883.

New York Sun.

We observe that the old popular idea of Mr. Jay Gould's personality, that of a hard, crafty, bloodless being, with as little graciousness as a wire mousetrap, is slowly but surely yielding to a juster perception of his habits and tastes.

Every remarkable man–and Mr. Gould is one of the most remarkable men of our day–is likely to be misunderstood at first by his contemporaries. Mr. Jay Gould started in under a peculiar disadvantage. His early partner, the late Col. Fisk, was known to be of
a sentimental, not to say a philanthropic, turn of mind. Bold in war, the colonel could be gentle and even lachrymose under the softening influence of the arts. The public delight in strong contrasts. Because Col. James Fisk, jr., was the possessor of a hearty and somewhat effusive temperament, the patron of genius, the admirer of the beautiful both in nature and in the fine arts, it was assumed that the more retiring member of the firm must be his opposite in every respect save the talent for rigging the market. An ideal Gould was thus constructed by common consent, the caricaturists and satirists lending a hand. The ideal Mr. Gould was a mere money-getting machine, mercenary to the bottom of the soul, as destitute of poetry as a Babbage calculator, with an imagination that never skipped the borders of the multiplication table, and a heart as small and arid as a driedFrench pea.

So long as Mr. Gould kept himself secluded in the little office whose window overlook the tombstones in Trinity churchyard, the world knew him only through the ticker and the tape. It knew nothing of his yearnings for a larger and juicier existence; nothing of his evenings with the classic writers and the modern poets; nothing of his dreams and fancies; nothing of his anguish over the misery of the unfortunate in the street; nothing of the wrenches his heart received whenever the exigencies of the financial situation compelled him to unload, to corner, to slaughter, to consolidate, or to freeze out. The world believed Mr. Jay Gould to be as dead to human feeling and the humanities as the deadest of his neighbors in the churchyard.

How far from the truth was this notion of Mr. Jay Gould, people are beginning to discover. They are beginning to penetrate the veil that his modest and retiring disposition has drawn over a nature full of poetic and sympathetic sensibility. There is no better evidence of a gentle and poetic soul than the sincere love of flowers. Mr. Gould loves flowers. He cultivates them for the sake of their fragrance and beauty. It is said that he knows not only the common and botanical name of every plant in his extensive greenhouse, but also its exact significance in the vocabulary of sentiment. The lily means purity; the olive, peace; the date palm is good faith; the cypress is the tree of Pluto. What more beautiful sight than to see Mr. Jay Gould among his flowers, culling nosegays in which to express to others the particular sentiment of friendship or admiration of individual or universal benevolence, that for the time happens to occupy his breast.

In even so small a matter as the choice of a name for his new yacht, the poetry of Mr. Gould's nature is manifested. The ideal Mr. Gould to whom we have referred would have cared nothing about the name of the vessel. He would have left it to the builders.

If called upon to choose the name himself, he would have taken one at random from geography, or genealogy, or perhaps from the stock list. But the real Mr. Jay Gould, as we are told, devoted more thought to the subject than he would give to the reorganization of half a dozen railroads. He ransacked the stores of a well-informed mind for an appellation that should be at once euphonious and suggestive. He decided at last to call the yacht the Atalanta; and surely no poet could have furnished a prettier name. Atalanta glides from the tongue as a ship is launched from her ways, easily, smoothly, and gracefully. To those who, like Mr. Gould, know the Greek mythology, the word recalls one of the most charming of the legends. The original Atalanta was an Arcadian maiden who had been suckled by a bear. She was the fleetest footed of all mortals. Every suitor for her hand must run a race with her. If the unhappy man was beaten, he was put to death. In this way Atalanta had disposed of many pretenders, when, an astute operator named Milanion vanquished her by dropping three golden apples, one after, another, as he ran. Atalanta paused to pick them up, and Milanion won the race and the girl. The selection by Mr. Gould of this musical and singularly appropriate name for his yacht testifies alike to the extent of his classical knowledge and to the poetic quality of his imagination.

The date of Mr. Jay .Gould's departure on his yacht Atalanta is not yet fixed. There are cynical brokers in Wall street and Exchange place who affect to believe that it never will be fixed. The sinister motive which they impute to Mr. Gould in his elaborate preparations for a long voyage would be unworthy of a poet. We are confident that he will sail according to programme. No golden apple will delay the Atalanta's course. We are already able to picture Mr. Jay Gould standing in the stem of his vessel, watching the fast fading outlines of the Navesink highlands. A fine golden sunset fills the western sky. The sailors of the Atalanta are merrily singing at their tasks. He raises his hand to command silence. The crew respect their commander's emotion. His eyes are a little dim now, yet they still are upon the blue highlands; and he silently tosses a forget-me-not over the stern rail toward the fast receding shore.

Credit: New York Sun, as reprinted in Newark, Ohio Advocate, Thursday, August 30, 1883.
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