Some years back, in a boarding house, I met a natural-to-get-acquainted-with man whose name was Emrich. He was a teacher of mathematics in a private school. He certainly had a lot of friends, and held them well.
I won’t say he neglected his work, but he was forever going out socially. I would call him homely, at that, but he certainly got along with the ladies amazingly well.
He claimed to have been engaged to a fine young lady in his college days, a graduate from Bates, but he neglected her. And after a long time she found someone else. He seemed he could not keep an appointment, which was often, we could safely say there was a woman in the case.
Often I refused to make any dates with him, and even got mad, but I never saw him ruffled in my life. He would always come back. Even years after this, when he obtained a better position as a traveling man with headquarters in Pittsburg, when he was in town he would call me up at 2 A.M. to come out somewhere nearby and dine, and none could ever pay the bill.
My lawyer friend used to say that we had a fund of information that he liked to get out of us in that way, and in later years would have nothing to do with him except in a strictly business transaction. We both were of the opinion that he was the cause of a certain married man’s committing suicide, by familiarities with his wife, though nothing of the kind was even whispered about.
[Background: here’s the preface, forward, and notes from the editor of R.L.W.’s memoir; here’s his account of his upbringing through medical school; here’s when he self-inoculated with tuberculosis and went off to Paris with a charlatan; here’s where he treated typhoid, learned to dance, theorized, and sutured guinea pigs together; here’s where he contracts cholera and hooks his uncle up with testicular juice; here’s his misadventures in self-publishing while treating a slow-motion suicide-by-drinking; here’s where he hangs out with a magician and a vaudevillian; here’s where he recounts his singing career; here’s his ode to a Fulton Market butcher; here’s where he explains his profound love of music; and here’s a piece I wrote for New York Press upon first reading the memoir.]
One day I received a call from Pittsburgh to go there, for he was sick. When I arrived, he was sitting on a couch with a half-lit cigar in his mouth. He could neither walk nor stand. He could understand, but not express himself. His wife, for he had been married about 9 months, explained things.
I stayed three nights and days, and saw considerable improvement. I corrected his diet and habits and put him on a regular treatment. He had a strong will, and while I was there did exactly as directed.
His wife remarked, “If he doesn’t get well, it will look bad for me.”
I said, “You had nothing to do with this.” And to myself, but not to her, “Wine, women, and song.”
After my second visit some two weeks later, he consulted a neighborhood physician, since I was far away, who called a professor from the university, who told him that nothing more could be done. The next I heard was that he was no more. I really believe he realized the predicament all would be in, even if he had partially recovered and purposely took an overdose of medicine.
At one of those 2 A.M. diners, this man once told that his sister, a maiden advanced the usual marriageable age, who had apparently just recovered from tuberculosis, was engaged to a young minister who had been installed in a church a year or two. Later he told me in his usual unruffled eway that the minister had been caught sensually playing with little girls in his parish, and run away. When my friend heard of it, he reached out and found the man and through the influence of his father, a minister out west, the church let him off easily and another parish was procured for him. When his sister still wished to keep the engagement, his father married them in at the new country parish.
My friend was a good-hearted man. He had practically brought up little boy of a large family whose parents were poor. The boy grew up to be a fine man, married, and was never at all like his benefactor in sporting proclivities. He is much respected in his successful business and by his neighbors.
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