Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, April 21, 1888.

     In with W. Complains of headaches. "Rather, not aches, but a sort of congestion. [See indexical note p055.1] I have felt myself for two weeks back to be in a rather dubious condition. Today I have felt worse than any day previous. But what's the use complaining?—Why should I trouble you with my pains? You have pains of your own." He paused for a minute. I said nothing. He then continued: "I don't believe you have any pains of your own: I believe you are a sickless animal—I don't believe you know what it is to be on your back." I confessed that I did not. "Neither did I for the most of my life: I hardly knew I had a stomach or a head for all the trouble I had with either."

     He got talking about New York—its literary men. [See indexical note p055.2] "They are mainly a sad crowd: take the whole raft of them—Stoddard, Fawcett, the rest—what are they saying or doing that is in the least degree significant? I am told that Stoddard is pretty sour on me—hates even to have my name mentioned in his presence, never refers to me with respect. [See indexical note p055.3] I do not blame him. But—I am sorry for Walt Whitman. There is Taylor. He was first rather friendly. Then he went to New York and experienced a change of heart. [See indexical note p055.4] Yet I have been told by a man who was very near to Taylor that he was melting towards me again when he died. I had a couple of letters from Taylor back, back, years and years ago. I don't know where they are: they were good letters. When they turn up, if they turn up, you shall have them. They will add a bit to the material you have collected about me. Did I tell you that I dined with Stoddard at the house of a Mrs. Bleecker? He was courteous but not friendly on that occasion. New York gives the literary man a touch of snow: he is never quite the same human being after New York has really set in: the best fellows have few chances of escape. Take John himself. Burroughs, I mean. [See indexical note p055.5] He lives just far enough off. Even John barely

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got off with his skin. Stedman? Stedman is all right—I love him. But after all I do not think that Stedman ever drew very deep water. His estimate of the American poets misses the chief points—is wide of the truth: he is too judicial, too much concerned about being exactly just. [See indexical note p056.1] The man who tries a too delicate operation with his scales breaks the scales. Don't Stedman break down in the process of his own criticism? He is generous, inclusive, hospitable, a bit overripe here and there, too much cultivated, too little able to be foolish, to be free, (we must all be foolish at times—it is the one condition of liberty)—is always precisely so, always according to program."
W. still talked on, hitting at different themes: "I sometimes waver in opinion as between Emerson and Bryant. Bryant is more significant for his patriotism, Americanism, love of external nature, the woods, the sea, the skies, the rivers, and this at times, the objective features of it especially, seems to outweigh Emerson's urgent intelligence and psychic depth. [See indexical note p056.2] But after every heresy I go back to Emerson. Stedman is cute but he has not attached to Whittier, Emerson and Bryant anything like the peculiar weight that I should, rebel as I am. [See indexical note p056.3] Stedman is cute but hardly more than cute—not a first hander—a fine scholar, with great charms of style, fond of congregating historic names, processional, highly organized, but not in the windup proving that he is aware of what all his erudition, even all his good will (he has plenty of that, God bless him!), leads up to. I should not say such things, should I? I am a hell of a critic. But I just get going and go and can't even stop myself, especially when you come round, damn you! [See indexical note p056.4] You have an odd effect on me—you don't ask me questions, you have learned that I hate to be asked questions, yet I seem to be answering questions all the time whenever you happen in." I laughed at this sally, whereupon he continued: "Well—ask Stedman to forgive me." "To forgive you? He need never hear!" "Ask

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him to forgive me anyhow!"
He chuckled a little. "I am always sure that in some way my friends hear all that I say about them: all the love I say about them, all the questions I ask: don't you think our minds go outside us and meet and exchange life for life?"

     W. gave me another Miller letter. [See indexical note p057.1] "I guess I belong to Miller: he has proved himself in so many ways—his books have proved him, his personal affection has proved him."


Revere House, Boston, May 27, '75.

My dear Walt Whitman,

Your kind letter is received and the sad news of your ill health makes this pleasant weather even seem tiresome and out of place. I had hoped to find you the same hale and whole man I had met in New York a few years ago and now I shall perhaps find you bearing a staff all full of pain and trouble. [See indexical note p057.2] However my dear friend as you have sung from within and not from without I am sure you will be able to bear whatever comes with that beautiful faith and philosophy you have ever given us in your great and immortal chants. I am coming to see you very soon as you request; but I cannot say today or set tomorrow for I am in the midst of work and am not altogether my own master. But I will come and we will talk it all over together. In the meantime, remember that whatever befall you you have the perfect love and sympathy of many if not all of the noblest and loftiest natures of the two hemispheres. My dear friend and fellow toiler good bye.

Yours faithfully,

Joaquin Miller.



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