Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, April 25, 1888.

     Some anarchist was in to see W. today. [See indexical note p065.1] W. did not know his name. "He was a stranger to me—a Russian, I think: clean, earnest, with a beautiful face—but too insistent: he would have me, whether I would or would not, say yes to his political, or revolutionary, program. We had no quarrel—I only made it plain to him that I was not to be impressed into that sort of service. Everybody comes here demanding endorsements: endorse this, endorse that: each man thinks I am radical his way: I suppose I am radical his way, but I am not radical his way alone. Socialists, single tax men, communists, rebels of every sort and all sorts, come here. [See indexical note p065.2] I don't say they shouldn't come—that it's unreasonable for them to come: the Leaves is responsible for them and for more than them. But I am not economically informed—I do not see the fine—even the coarse—points of difference between the contestants. I said to the Russian today: 'Don't ask me for too many definitions. Be satisfied with my general assurance. My heart is with all you rebels—all of you, today, always, wherever: your flag is my flag. Why should you want me to give you more?' The fellow was sensible—said he had learned a thing or two—and went away. [See indexical note p065.3] I think Emerson was sweeter with such men than I am—was more patient, was more willing to wait their talk out."

     Something I said induced him to talk of the New York reception last year. [See indexical note p065.4] "I did not enjoy it: it was too sudden a change from my passive life in Camden: it was too much the New York jamboree—the cosmopolitan drunk. Some of my best friends, coming into the suite of parlors, seeing the crowds about, with me in the midst sitting there dazed, at a loss to know what it all meant, went away, satisfied to

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meet me in an environment more domestic—more cozy. I was glad to get home, though I recognized whatever was spontaneous, simply human, in the New York affair: the root of it, so to speak, and what of the rest was left after the fuss was all over."

     Urged me to read Stedman's American Poets. [See indexical note p066.1] I had read the essays as they appeared in The Century. That was not enough. "Read the book: the book is somewhat different—modified. Stedman has both injured and stengthened his book: it is powerful in spots—rather few spots—and then goes to pieces in general. I should not say this: I should be as fond of Stedman's book as I am of Stedman. How can I? I am making a confession. How can I?" He could not find the book for me. It had got mislaid. "Every time I criticise a man or a book I feel as if I had done something wrong. [See indexical note p066.2] The criticism may be justified in letter and spirit—yet I feel guilty—feel like a man who ought to go to jail. I guess I am weak just there—the love in me breaks loose and floods me. I hate to think any man may not write the best books—any man. When I find any man don't I am disappointed and say things. How lucky is the man who don't say things!"

     As I was going he called after me. I was already outside the parlor door. "Here's something for you to take along—something for your archives: another of William's letters: a bit sad (he speaks of his sick girl here—it was in 1883)—but powerful: a look into our work-shop while we were putting the timbers together for Bucke's life. [See indexical note p066.3] William could not be uninteresting: this is a sort of executive letter, so to speak, yet it is racy, sparkling—a real flame out of William's irrepressible fire." W.'s allusion to the archives followed naturally upon his knowledge that I was systematically collecting W. W. data. Once he said: "I will be handing you stuff from time to time for yourself—for use—perhaps for history: it would get lost here, most of it: some of it

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gets stolen—I miss many things: be careful to put it away safely but in some accessible place."
The O'Connor letter:


Washington, D.C., April 4, 1883.

Dear Walt:

I arrived here last night, ill and exhausted. The parting at Providence was hard. [See indexical note p067.1] I fear I shall never see Jeannie well again.

Although I had a racking headache all the way, I spent time in the cars reading the proof, which I herewith return corrected. I have followed your wishes, and made only verbal corrections, which I wish you would see carried out carefully by the printer, as I know you will.

Of course I yield about the paragraphs, although I can't think I shall ever like them. No matter: the text is the main thing, and every consideration is swallowed up in the consciousness that you like what I have written—that you feel that my utterance has power and fills the bill. I hope, for your sake, that the public will think so also.

My principal corrections—the ones I feel specially desirous to have made—are as follows:

I. Page 78. Small k in the word "Knights.' [See indexical note p067.2] The obstinate printer has twice made this a large K, the effect of which is absurd.

II. Page 82. "Quaternion," not "quarternion."

III. Page 82. "Irresponsible." The allusion, which is one George William will keenly feel, is to Tennyson's "O irresponsible, indolent, reviewers," which is very witty, and sticks to the tribe like a burr.

IV. Page 86. "And it is grand." I think italicising "is" helps the sense.

V. Page 92. I hope I don't bother the printer, but the change here is necessary, for this is the passage I wrote you about, and I don't want to be picked up by some malevolent reviewer. Please see to this yourself, if you can. It should read "to ride with bared head in the warm and

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perfumed rains of Spring that he might feel upon him, he said, the universal spirit of the world." (How this anecdote reveals the poet in Bacon!—how it allies him to the Shakespeare literature!) [See indexical note p068.1]


VI. Page 94. I am not sure I understand the printer's work here. But there should be a paragraph—which I think the fiend tried to abolish.

VII. Page 95. "Furthest," not "furtherest," good printer's devil!

The Good Gray Poet.

VIII. Bucke sent me my foot note, and I have made the change (Page 100). [See indexical note p068.2] I think it better, and the five words which commence it, are a blow at Lowell, planted straight home.

IX. Page 113. I hope it won't bother the printer to take out Munro's name. I don't know how I ever made such a blunder. Munro's translation (prose) is really admirable for courage and fidelity, so far as I can judge.

X. Page 124. For heaven's sake, make the diabolical printer-man restore the two articles—"the" and "the"—to their proper places. The effect of the sentence is ruined by their elision.

The remaining corrections are trifles.

I'll write again soon. This is hurried, to go off with the proof, which I don't want to delay.

Bucke wrote me to find an epigraph for the appendix—leaving the matter entirely to me!!! So you didn't make anything by soliciting him. As yet I have not been able to think of anything—in fact, I have been in too much trouble to think effectually—that is to give my mind to it.

More anon. [See indexical note p068.3] Have you seen Grant White's article in the Atlantic for April on the Bacon-Shakespeare craze? It is rich. Supercilious ass!

Faithfully,

W. D. O'C.



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