Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, April 24, 1888.

      [See indexical note p062.5] In to W. with the Millet picture from Adler. I do not know a title for it. It represents a peasant putting on his clothes after the day's work is done. W. took it from my hands and held it off from himself, regarding it with im-

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mediate approval and fondness. "After all, Horace—it's almost the Sower—it comes to almost as much: it is a piece out of the same cloth. Millet is my painter: he belongs to me: I have written Walt Whitman all over him. [See indexical note p063.1] How about that? or is it the other way about? Has he written Millet all over me?"

     W. had been to Gloucester to a planked shad dinner and was unusually tired. Remarked his bad ears. "I am getting a little deaf—I don't hear little things. [See indexical note p063.2] I have to be pounded and yelled at to hear." This was an exaggeration called out by the fact that I had knocked a long time at the door and rang the bell and was not heard. W. was alone in the house. I asked him how he was managing to go about so readily. He prefers to be alone on these excursions. "The worst of it is I not only sit here and simmer all day long but am growing contented to do it—losing the desire to move. [See indexical note p063.3] I do not enjoy the sign—it seems like the beginning of the end: yet it is more and more marked. I resolutely say I won't get tired and won't stay at home—yet I am tired even while I speak and settle down into my chair as if I was never to leave it. I do not hide the facts from myself. They do not concern me. I never invite trouble to hurry up." I found W. reading Louise Chandler Moulton's book on Marston. "How is that?" I asked. [See indexical note p063.4] W. explained: "She was here yesterday. She left me the book. I have been trying to make something out of it—so far have not succeeded. Marston did some creditable work—work, however, that can hardly live. It lacked grit—it lacked the requisite organs: it was largely in the air. A sweet enough fellow, though, with a life tragedy, which should have taught him how to write. Literary men learn so little from life—borrow so much from the borrowers."

     W. was joyous over what he called "a piece of the best news." [See indexical note p063.5] What was the best news? "The Whitman Club in Boston has petered out. It failed because I sat down on

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it. I wrote Sylvester Baxter, who, you know, is on The Herald there—yes, and to Kennedy, too—discouraging the idea. I said I had no objection to being studied by anybody who thought I was worth studying—God knows I ain't worth it: ask Willie Winter if I am!—I never wish to be studied in that way. [See indexical note p064.1] I seem to need to be studied by each man for himself, not by a club. Anyway, I was agin it. My word was not law, of course: they could have done anything they chose about it: but they asked my opinion and I gave it in a way that seems to have made itself felt."
I referred to the Browning clubs. He waived the comparison by saying: "They no doubt have their own excuse for being."

      [See indexical note p064.2] W. alluded to Goldsmith as "the Jim Scovel of literature," (J. S. a local man "of flaring but unreliable qualities," to quote W's words), and added: "I have not read The Deserted Village and The Traveller, but have read The Vicar of Wakefield more times than I can count."

     Walsh has been saying something in Lippincott's to this effect: Whitman stands for idea, Tennyson stands for expression. [See indexical note p064.3] W. said: "It seems hard to justify such a hard and fast judgment. The idea must always come first—is indispensable. Take my own method—if you call it that. I have the idea clearly and fully realized before I attempt to express it. Then I let it go. The idea becomes so important to me I may perhaps underrate the other element—the expressional element—that first, last and all the time emphasis placed by literary men on the mere implement of words instead of upon the work itself. [See indexical note p064.4] You see it in Doctor Johnson—expression always paramount: you see it in Walsh himself here, who is one among the many who write down everything that comes into their minds without reference to their ultimate meanings. I avoid at all times the temptation to patch up and refine, preferring to let each version or whatever go out substantially as it was first sug-

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gested. This does not mean that I am not careful: it only means that I try not to overdo my cake."


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