Born 22 March 1844 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died 21 June 1924 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
Elected 7 November 1874 at age thirty
Nobody really knew the Century Club who did not know Beverly [sic: Beverley] Robinson. It was not his medical career, though that was distinguished enough when his clinical achievement, after he had shouldered a musket in the Gettysburg campaign, was marked not only by positions of high responsibility in the hospitals of New York City, but by particular honors from the University of Paris, of which he was the first American graduate and, nearly half a century later, by his receiving, with only four or five other American fellow-practitioners in the World War, the honorary medal of the Paris Faculty of Medicine. It was Robinson’s absolute originality which the Century loved. He did nothing and said nothing exactly as any one else would have done or said it. No experience was more delightful than to watch the obstinate shaking of his head on a controverted question, to listen to his arraignment of ideas and notions of the day to which he objected—not excepting the Eighteenth Amendment—and to hear his showing-up, not so much with indignation as with accumulated first-hand evidence, of the imposture which had been inflicted on an unwary public. Not even in a clinic could he be quite like any other medical professor; one of his internes of days long past has recalled how Robinson, deeply immersed in the diagnosis of a hospital case, would remark reminiscently to his students that “I once saw a heart exactly like this in Paris.” It was the interest that attaches to a simple and straightforward character, with a dash of eccentricity, which attached to him.
He achieved one noteworthy stroke of originality which deserves to be commemorated; that was the preparing and placing in the Century’s hands, not very long before his death, a sketch of himself which would suit the Century’s annual meeting. Most of us know what sort of autobiography that would be which we drew up for ourselves. But the Club shall judge Beverly Robinson’s. “I have been a member fifty years,” the doctor tells us; “among the resident members there are only six who have been members longer. When I first joined the Century, the clubhouse was at 109 East 15th Street. The conversations in the little reception room, to the left as you entered, were very pleasant and often instructive. In those days, too, alcoholic drinks were in vogue and bound together the cockles of the heart of all good fellows. Twelfth Night was celebrated as it has been since, and it had its glories. One night I well remember, when Augustus R. Macdonough was King, which rôle he filled with great distinction. On that occasion, the late Austin Flint Jr. and Edward Curtis stripped to the waist and had a boxing match for the delectation of the onlookers, among whom were Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Henry C. Potter, later our distinguished President, and bishop of New York.
“Sometimes the official monthly meetings were interesting, sometimes not. After they were over, we had chats with friends, a smoke and a drink. Then, later, I went to the supper room and helped solace my inner man with raw oysters, chicken salad or ham, and maybe ended off with ice cream and a demi-tasse. It was already, perhaps, eleven o’clock,—but I was asked to go and have a game of pool, or went to the billiard room unsolicited.
“At one of the suppers, I remember talking with my brother-in-law, Colonel du Pont, and with General George S. Greene, the hero of Gettysburg, whose portrait adorns our walls. The Colonel said: ‘General, my brother-in-law, the doctor, always says keep your bowels open, head cool, don’t sit in wet feet or draughts, eat moderately and you will keep well.’ ‘Nonsense,’ the General answered, ‘I never pay attention to directions; I eat and do as I please, and I am well.’ He was then over ninety years old.
“I remember well also F. Hopkinson Smith, engineer, artist, writer, inimitable raconteur. He always had around him a gathering of men, enjoying his mirthful sallies of humor beyond compare. There was John Q. A. Ward, a great sculptor and a charming companion. Whoever heard him show up the airs and graces of the German Kaiser, as he did, had something to listen to. Before the war it was ‘Hoch der Kaiser’ and not ‘Deutschland über Alles,’ but it was exquisitely funny and our sides, as we listened, ached with laughter.
“Who will or can forget George V. N. Baldwin? When they think of him, they must also remember his stomach. No doubt, it bothered him much and also, no doubt, its history, inclinations, prejudices, tendencies,—dislikes of many kinds of food and drink which we all got to know intimately. There was one kind of Scotch whiskey he would and could drink, and only one. Against all others his stomach cried revolt at the mere mention.
“How many instructive, entertaining talks I have listened to in the Graham Library, either after lunch, or dinner.
“Cow-boy pool, so-called was and is, my special delight in the East corner of the room, where it was and is played. To be perfect in ‘bonhomie,’ there must be four players, fairly well matched, so that the game is never surely won in advance by associates or antagonists. While we were playing, there were onlookers, who took a part by friendly criticism of shots, by friendly banter and by real interest in the game, in which they themselves would sooner or later be contestants.
“This brief record of my associations at the Century is most imperfect, I know, and does not half express what love I feel for it and for its members, for those who are gone from us and for those who, happily for myself, I still daily meet.
“I do indeed miss many, many, from library, dining-room, billiard room. They are away from me for a short time; that is all.”
Alexander Dana Noyes
1925 Century Association Yearbook