John Higginson Cabot

Sunday 6 March 2016

I was in the library yesterday, and wandered into the Brookline room, where books particular to Brookline are kept. They have annual town directories going back more than a century. I pulled one down and looked up my street address.

Of course, when we bought the house, the realtor had little stories about previous occupants. We were told it was built by a Cabot, and that he was a bachelor.

The town records gave me two names: John H. Cabot, and F. Ernest Cabot, living in the house in 1905. Googling around a little bit, I found a notice about John H’s death:

John Higginson Cabot, of Brookline, died Feb. 5, 1916, aged 85. ... Mr. Cabot was for a while engaged in the iron business, but early retired, as lameness from childhood unfitted him for an active life, and his tastes and attainments were very decidedly toward literature. He was a devoted lover of Shakespeare, and occasionally read some of the plays in public, and frequently did so privately for the pleasure of his friends. He excelled notably as an actor in private theatricals, and took part in many of the receptions of the Brookline Comedy Club. He was a bachelor, and the last of his immediate family.

Is it safe to say that today he would be out of the closet? It goes on:

He is survived by a number of nephews and nieces and their children, representing three generations. Frederick P. Cabot, judge of the Boston Juvenille Court, and F. Ernest Cabot are his nephews. Like others of his family, he had a distaste for retrospect.

I love that line: a distaste for retrospect!

He lived in the present, keenly alive to the world’s great movements. Toward the close of his life, failing health confined him for a year to his chamber, but he was surrounded by loving relatives, close association with whom proved very happy for all.

“His chamber!” That’s a room in our house! Of course living in an old house, you know that people have lived there before, had entire lives there, and felt as proprietary and private about the house as you do. But this sentence somehow made it much more real. This weekend as I have moved through my house, I’ve been more aware that others have preceded me.

A little more digging shows that John H. is buried in Mt. Auburn cemetery, along with some close family, so in the spring I may look them up...

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