Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, April 9, 1888.

      [See indexical note p022.1] "Tucker," said W., "has been giving me the very devil in Liberty for calling the Emperor William a 'faithful shepherd' in my poem. In fact, Tucker is not alone: I have got a whole batch of letters of protest—one, two, three, a dozen; but too many of the fellows forget that I include emperors, lords, kingdoms, as well as presidents, workmen, republics." We talked the matter over for some time. W. was good natured about it all. Yet he was disposed to regard the criticism rather seriously. As he said: "It is all from my friends. Take William O'Connor—take Tucker himself—they deserve to be listened to." In winding up our chat he said: "I see I must be careful in such things or maybe the boys will think I am apostate. [See indexical note p022.2] Yet they ought to be just to me, too. There was nothing in this little poem to contradict my earlier philosophy. It all comes to the same thing. I am as radical now as ever—just as radical—but I am not asleep to the fact that among radicals as among the others there are hoggishnesses, narrownesses, inhumanities, which at times almost scare me for the future—for the future belongs to the radical and I want to see him do good things with it."

      [See indexical note p022.3] Matthew Arnold was mentioned: "Arnold has been writing new things about the United States. Arnold could know nothing about the States—essentially nothing: the real things here—the real dangers as well as the real promises—a man of his sort would always miss. Arnold knows

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nothing of elements—nothing of things as they start. I know he is a significant figure—I do not propose to wipe him out. He came in at the rear of a procession two thousand years old—the great army of critics, parlor apostles, worshippers of hangings, laces, and so forth and so forth—they never have anything properly at first hand. Naturally I have little inclination their way. [See indexical note p023.1] But take Emerson, now—Emerson: some ways rather of thin blood—yet a man who with all his culture and refinement, superficial and intrinsic, was elemental and a born democrat."
I put in: "I think Emerson was born to be but never quite succeeded in being a democrat." W. was still for an instant. Then: "I guess the amendment is a just one—I guess so, I guess so. But I hate to allow anything that qualifies Emerson."

     Just as I was about to leave W. reverted to the Emperor William affair: "Do you think I had better write a little note to my friends making that line a little clearer?" "I thought you never explained?" "I never do explain—rather, I never have explained: yet the rule is not arbitrary." "A rule you can't break is no good even as a rule." "That is true—true—if I wrote I would do no more than make it clear that my reference was to the Emperor as a person—that my democracy included him: not the William the tyrant, the aristocrat, but the William the man who lived according to his light: I do not see why a democrat may not say such a thing and remain a democrat." [See indexical note p023.2]


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