Larry Benson, foreword to Bartlett Jere Whiting, Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. v:
Around Harvard Yard one used to hear the story of how President Lowell, motoring down a back road in the countryside near Belfast, Maine, in the late summer of 1921, espied a boy sitting beneath a tree intent upon an open book. Pleased and puzzled at this display of literacy in so unexpected a setting, he stopped his automobile and asked the lad, "What are you reading?" "Aristophanes, sir." "In Greek?" "Why, yes sir." "Get in this car, boy. You are going to Cambridge with me." That, students assured one another, is how Professor Whiting first came to Harvard.
Of course, even those who repeated the story knew it was apocryphal; the young Bartlett J. Whiting applied to and was accepted as a freshman by Harvard College in the usual prosaic manner. But the story persisted because it contained three of the most important facts about him—his close association with his native Maine, his long relationship with Harvard, and his lifelong devotion to reading.
Hat tip: Laura Gibbs