Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, July 8, 1888.

      [See indexical note p433.5] In at W.'s three times today. In the forenoon. At five P.M. In the evening. Day good until afternoon. Osler over in morning. Said: "Well, Mrs. Davis, I think your old man is better." Afterwards O. added: "It looks as though he would go all right through the summer in this way." W. not so sure. Said to Mrs. Davis: "I'm done for, Mary." "But you'll be better tomorrow." "I mean I'm all done for." "Nonsense." "Nonsense? I guess I know." [See indexical note p433.6] Osler is to go away. Will substitute Mitchell, J. K., Weir's son. "Ah! these doctors! after all, Horace, do they know much?" Again: "I love doctors and hate their medicine."

     Tom Donaldson over in the forenoon and saw W. W.

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said: "Eakins, I am told, is quite a Rabelaisian. [See indexical note p434.1] When I get better or well enough—on my feet again—I shall have him come over and talk while I listen. O'Connor, too, is full of Rabelais." I recalled the Stilwell letter. "It is very beautiful—very wholesome," I said. He remarked: "I hope wholesome is the word: I like to feel that the things I do are wholesome. [See indexical note p434.2] So you think the letter is wholesome?" After I had repeated myself he talked of it again: "I did a lot of that work in the hospitals: it was in a sense the most nearly real work of my life. Books are all very well but this sort of thing is so much better—as life is always better than books—as life in life is always superior to life in a book." I read the letter aloud—rather to myself than to him. I noticed that he listened intently. When I was through—parts of it put a shake into my voice—he said fervently: "I thank God for having permitted me to write that letter." [See indexical note p434.3] We were both silent after that. I then said: "I, too, thank God for having permitted you to write that letter—and others thank God, and others, and you could not count them all." "Do you say that, Horace? Thank God again, Horace!" The letter was drafted in pencil on Sanitary Commission paper. It was addressed to Julia Elizabeth Stilwell, South Norwalk, Connecticut, and was memorandumed as having been "sent Oct. 21, '63."


Dear friend,

 [See indexical note p434.4] Jimmy is getting along favorably but of course slowly. I was with him night before last and am going again this afternoon. It requires a good deal of patience in him to lay so steadily confined in bed, but he has the good luck to continue remarkably free from any acute suffering so far. Night before last he had some pain and swelling in the foot below the wound, but nothing of serious account. They bandaged it pretty tightly and that relieved it. He wished me to write to you this time, and I promised him to do so night before last. I wrote at that time from

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the hospital to your parents at Comac, and sent the letter yesterday. Jim is not satisfied unless I write pretty often, whether there is anything to tell or not.


 [See indexical note p435.1] My friend I received your note about your folks getting your dear brother's body from down in Virginia. Lately, as you doubtless know, the Rebels have advanced upon us, and have held Culpepper and around there for many days past; and of course nothing could be done. The rumor just now is that they are falling back, and may soon yield us our old ground. At present still I should think nothing could be done. The authorities here don't grant passes yet. But I suppose you inferred all this from what you read in the papers.

 [See indexical note p435.2] Dear friends all I say to you as I have to Jimmy's parents, that I shall try to keep watch of the boy, as according to all I know at present I shall probably continue in Washington for some time, and if any thing should occur I will write you. Dear friends, as it may be some reliance to you and make you feel less uneasy to know Jim can have nothing happen to him without you being informed. Though as far as now appears he will go on favorably, and his wound will heal up, so that he can sit up, and then gradually move about, and then in due time be able to travel.

 [See indexical note p435.3] So farewell for [the] present, and I pray that God may be with you, and though we are strangers I send my love to you and Jimmy's sisters and brothers in law, for in times of trouble and death, I see we draw near in spirit, regardless of being separated by distance, or of being unknown.


     W. speaks of L. of G. as "ours." Will say, for instance, of some one or other, "he is not our friend," or "he is favorably disposed towards us," or "we must face that criticism and see what it means to us," or "that is wrong—we must brave it down." [See indexical note p435.4] Always talks of "our portion"—ours, us, rarely says, mine. "This affair is our affair, not any one

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man's affair."
Even speaks of November Boughs as "our" book. "Leaves of Grass is not one man's book but all men's book." [See indexical note p436.1] He got off on this sort of a strain, too: "You radical young fellows don't see it as I do—don't quite so plainly comprehend, concede, that it is best for any man to be tried by fire, to draw all the shot of the reactionaries, the wise conservatives and the fool conservatives, the asses in authority, the granitic stupidities of the average world. It all has its place—all. I, too, used to grow impatient, angry, about it, but now I want it all to be spoken, heard, passed upon: I want the full fire of the enemy. [See indexical note p436.2] If the work we try to do cannot stand up against the total opposition we may be sure we have gone off on a false scent." As to L. of G.: "It does not seem like my book—it is your book, too: anybody's book who chooses to claim it." "Leaves of Grass stands for a movement—a new-born soul—the Adamic democracy: is significant (if significant at all) as affecting a world, not simply an American, purpose. [See indexical note p436.3] I always contemplated meeting with opposition—I invited it. The other fellows don't understand me or I don't understand them or both. I guess something—a lot—can be said on the conservative side: my contention is not that much cannot be said but that after it is all said I have a bigger option to offer." Again: "Leaves of Grass may be only an indication—a forerunner—a crude offender against the usual canons—a barbaric road-breaker—but it still has a place, a season, I am convinced. [See indexical note p436.4] What is that place? that season? I don't know—I give up guessing." I copy the letter from William Michael Rossetti given me by W. day before yesterday.


London, 1 Jany, '85.

Dear Whitman,

 [See indexical note p436.5] Some while ago I received your kind present of the 2 vols—Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days: received them, I am certain you will believe, with extreme pleasure, and with a grateful sense of your continuing to re-

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member me across a somewhat long lapse of years. To be remembered by Walt Whitman is what any man shd be proud of, and none is more so than I.


 [See indexical note p437.1] I have read the Specimen Days vol. right thro: finding various new things, and continual pleasure in renewing my acquaintance with the old ones. Am extremely pleased to find in this copy of the book something which is absent even from Mrs. Gilchrist's copy—the photographs of your mother and father. If you were blessed with an unsurpassably good mother, I can with truth say the same of myself. [See indexical note p437.2] My mother is still with us—aged nearly eighty-five: health and faculties sound on the whole, but naturally bowed and stricken with the weight of years.

 [See indexical note p437.3] I have also scanned with a good deal of attention (short of complete re-reading) my old and constant admiration, the Leaves of Grass vol. I observe that some edition (I think the Philadelphia edition is named, but my vol. is not under my hand at the moment for reference) is mentioned as the only final and complete form of Leaves of Grass. The vol. with which you favored me is not the Philadelphia edition, but I am in hopes it may none the less be regarded as complete.

 [See indexical note p437.4] I am glad to notice in this country from time to time symptoms of the increasing appreciation of your works, especially something written by Ruskin and the Sonata from the Lincoln Dirge.

Accept as heretofore the affectionate respect and regard of

Yours always

W. M. Rossetti.


      [See indexical note p437.5] "When Burroughs was abroad," said W., "he went once to see Rossetti—the first visit—they did not seem altogether to hit it—were not in the right mood to mix up pleasantly: I could never quite make it out: I know it could not have been John's fault—I know it could not have been Rossetti's fault—probably it was nobody's fault. Sometimes our tem-

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peratures don't exactly get adjusted. [See indexical note p438.1] That Rossetti family was and is a remarkable one—steeped in finished soil—cultivated, rich in its yield—perhaps a little too refined, too delicate, for the brush, break, of this tumultuous world. As I said to you yesterday the best thing about all these fellows—yes, about any fellows—is the noble quality of their love. When some people were here awhile ago and one of them said he was sorry I was poor I made a kick. Who was poor? Not I. [See indexical note p438.2] I thought of just a few of the fellows—William, John, Dowden, Symonds, others: thought of them—the thought of them almost choked me with gladness. Was I poor? Others may be deceived because I have no money in the bank: I am not deceived."


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