Works of Annie Fields

Robert Kendall Darrah*
  Robert Kendall Darrah, Esq., of Boston, a resident member, admitted Feb. 8, 1883, was born in the year 1818, in the town of Charlestown (No. 4), N. H. His father Joseph Darrah and his mother Lefe Putnam were Massachusetts people, of the real Puritanic type; somewhat stern, but with their faces set to walk in the right way if they could find it, no matter how narrow or how difficult. Their boy. the seventh of nine children, was brought up therefore with an educated, as well as an inherited, sense of truthfulness and honor. These qualities were combined in him with a singular simplicity of disposition and boyishness of temper which never left him, and which might be called his dominant characteristics.
    His sister writes: "My dear brother received what little education he had in a district school, which he left at the age of fourteen to go into a store in his native village, where he remained until he was eighteen. Robert often said this was an education in a certain way." The fact is very interesting viewed from the stand¬point of his later life. Few men knew English literature so well as he. He was full of good reading, and when his health failed and he was left alone, he still found in good books a delightful and consoling companionship.
    At the age of eighteen Mr. Darrah came to Boston and entered mercantile life, though he never lost his fondness for his native place, nor drifted away from his old home loves.
    He was not destined for a successful business career, but his probity and patriot¬ism fitted him admirably for public service. In 1861 he was appointed by Gover¬nor Andrew as appraiser in the Boston Custom House, an office which he filled ac¬ceptably for the almost unprecedented term of twenty-two years in spite of changing administrations.
    In 1846 he married Sophia Towne, of Philadelphia, a lovely woman possessed of uncommon character and talent. They had no children, therefore she was enabled to devote herself to painting, cultivating her gift with peculiar energy and devo¬tion, and winning at the last an honorable place in the great world of art. They were deeply attached to each other; what was the wish of one was the will of the other; and they continued to live in the closest union and sympathy to the end. No account of his life, however brief, would be possible without some record of his life-long companion.
    It was not many years after coming to Boston that Mr. Darrah injured himself at a gymnasium. Naturally strong and athletic, the loss of health, combined with failure in business, could not fail to depress him for a season, He soon rallied, however, and tried to accommodate himself cheerfully to new ways of life. These were necessarily monotonous, as he was no longer able to walk much nor to take active exercise of any kind, but he was seldom to be outdone in good cheer. He made a new life for himself in books. Every day, whether he was by the sea-side in summer, or in town in winter, he would go to the custom-house at nine o'clock in the morning, would dine frugally upon his return, and would then occupy him¬self in reading for the remainder of the day, except for occasional visits received or made. There was very little variation from this method of his life during thirty years.
    Meanwhile Mrs, Darrah's industry was gathering in its harvest. After her death a very large number of pictures were sold in accordance with her will, and the sum of ten thousand dollars was presented to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mr. Darrah survived his wife only two years, two years of beneficent kindliness to everyone within his reach. From a letter written to his sister by his former business partner after his death, a relation which tries the spirit of the best man, we read: "When you consider an uninterrupted friendship of nearly fifty years without even an unpleasant word, and on my side not even a hard thought, and I am sure of the same on his part, it is an unusual occurrence. We were in business together for years, where very few men get along without some differences."
    Mr. Darrah was a loyal American, He was always profoundly interested in the politics of the day, and always a Republican. Like many New England people he was a theorist in government, a position which is hardly tenable for more active men. We have at length learned that government is not an Idea alone, but a power of acting in response to the needs of a people,  He was of such gentle nature that even if he not been disqualified for active service by physical weakness, it is doubtful if he could have borne the strain of public affairs.
    He was especially fond of little children and of homely ways and scenes, and his kindliness was ever on the alert for others. When various forms of benevolence were presented to his consideration in the city, his mind would first revert to his beautiful home in New Hampshire, and he would satisfy himself that he had done what he could for those who needed his help at home before he could willingly turn to other objects.
    His nature was deeply religious; he "put his creed into his deed:" he was enthusiastic, and eager, and affectionate.  It is not wonderful that with such a charac¬ter he was ready, when the moment came, to follow his beloved one; nor, however brief we make the written record of his life, that he should live long among the tenderest memories in the heart of those who knew him.

By Mrs. James T. Fields, of Boston.


This obituary appears in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 40 (July 1886), pp. 332-3.

only two years:  Fields is incorrect about how long Robert Darrah survived his wife, Ann: 
    Robert K. Darrah (1818-1885)
    Ann Sophia (Towne) Darrah (1819-1881),

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.
Works of Annie Fields