Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, April 16, 1888.

      "I found the Gosse letter today," said W. as I entered: "I knew it was about somewhere. I wasn't looking for it—it just turned up." I took it and read it.


1 East 28th St.,
New York City, Dec. 29, 1887.

Dear Mr. Whitman:

 [See indexical note p040.2] I am very anxious not to leave this country without paying my respects to you, and bearing to you in person the messages which I bring from Mr. Swinburne and other common friends in England. I propose, therefore, if it be not inconvenient to you, to call upon you in Camden on Saturday next, in the forenoon.

Pray believe me to be, Dear Mr. Whitman

Faithfully yours

Edmund Gosse.


      "This was the letter—this was the meeting—that O'Connor seemed to think was so significant. [See indexical note p040.3] I do not know about the significance—I was glad to hear from him, glad to have him come. Gosse is very largely a formal craftsman but he has a little disposition our way."

     W. was in excellent humor. He directed me to the hatchet and had me open the Hicks box. Meanwhile he kept up a running talk. "Half an hour ago I was wired by The Herald for some word on Matthew Arnold, who died suddenly today, and that is already finished and mailed. [See indexical note p040.4] Did you ever know me to be so fast before? What's to be said of Arnold? Do you know? My judgment would, on the whole, the judgment I sent to The Herald, be considered

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unfavorable."
The bust was taken out and set on a box, displacing a Whitman, which I took up stairs and deposited in W.'s spareroom. "Morse has done well, better, almost best. [See indexical note p041.1] It more than meets my expectations: its serenity, its seriosity—which stops finely short of ministerial goody-goodishness. It impresses me, with regard to the head above the eyes, however, that Morse has given it too much mass—has idealized it; in fact, I never knew of but one artist, and that's Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is. And yet I am pleased. Morse, you have done first rate. A good piece of work I should say. Its points strike you as you stay with it. Morse is getting stronger. He never could have done such work till last summer, when he got in the back yard here, away from the art schools, and slashed and dashed away—and hit it!"

     Gilchrist sends W. a card invite to an exhibit of his Whitman in London. [See indexical note p041.2] W. said: "Horace, I can't go. You go as my representative." "All right. And what shall I say of the picture when I get there?" "Nothing unless you must." "And if I must?" "Well, if you must be careful what you do. Don't set it very far up—but don't damn it, either." Arnold was referred to again. Arnold had recently said of Lincoln that he "lacked distinction." This seemed to irritate W. [See indexical note p041.3] "That makes me think of some one who once said there were two kinds of jokers—the damned good one and the damned bad one. Arnold is a damned bad one. Swinburne resorted to similar strategy to destroy Byron but it would not work. Byron has fire enough to burn forever." [See indexical note p041.4] W. continued: "I have a warm place even for Shelley. He seems so opposite—so ethereal—all ethereal—always living in the presence of a great ideal, as I do not. [See indexical note p041.5] He was not sensual—he was not even sensuous."

     The poem The Cosmopolitan rejected was sent by W. to The Herald, in which it appeared this morning. His con-

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tract with The Herald calls for ten pieces (no size stipulated) a month, for which he is paid one hundred dollars. W. has hung the Eakins portrait in a better light. "Does it look glum?" he inquired: "that is its one doubtful feature: if I thought it would finally look glum I would hate it. [See indexical note p042.1] There was a woman from the South here the other day: she called it the picture of a jolly joker. There was a good deal of comfort to me in having her say that—just as there was when you said at Tom's the other day that it make you think of a rubicund sailor with his hands folded across his belly about to tell a story."

     Speaking of the "strain of American life" W. declared that "every man is trying to outdo every other man—giving up modesty, giving up honesty, giving up generosity, to do it: creating a war, every man against every man: the whole wretched business falsely keyed by money ideals, money politics, money religions, money men." [See indexical note p042.2]


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