Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, March 30, 1888.

      [See indexical note p004.4] Happening to refer to something Ellen Terry had said about him in Chicago, which had been repeated to me in a letter, W. laughingly exclaimed: "We have heard from her

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direct on that point. Let me see—where is that letter? Oh, yes! I know!"
He reached to the floor and picked up a book. "I remembered I had used it for a bookmark. It came several months ago. Here it is." This is the letter:


Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, January 4th, '88.

Honored Sir—and Dear Poet—

I beg you to accept my appreciative thanks for your great kindness in sending me by Mr. Stoker the little big book of poems—As a Strong Bird, etc., etc. [See indexical note p005.1]

Since I am not personally known to you I conclude Mr. Stoker 'asked' for me—it was good of him—I know he loves you very much.

God bless you dear sir—believe me to be with much respect

Yours affectionately,

Ellen Terry.


     W. had written on the outside of the envelope: "from Ellen Terry." He regarded me with a whimsical eye: "You have a hungry look: I think you want the letter. Well—take it along. You seem to cultivate that hungry look: it is a species of pantalooned coquetry." [See indexical note p005.2] I put the letter in my pocket. "These actor people," pursued W., "always make themselves at home with me and always make me easily at home with them. I feel rather close to them—very close—almost like one of their kind. When I was much younger— way back: in the Brooklyn days—and even behind Brooklyn—I was to be an orator—to go about the country spouting my pieces, proclaiming my faith. I trained for all that—spouted in the woods, down by the shore, in the noise of Broadway where nobody could hear me: spouted, eternally spouted, and spouted again. [See indexical note p005.3] I thought I had something to say—I was afraid I would get no chance to say it through books: so I was to lecture and get myself delivered that way. I think I had a

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good voice: I think I was never afraid—I had no stage reticences (I tried the thing often enough to see that).  [See indexical note p006.1] For awhile I speechified in politics, but that, of course, would not satisfy me—that at the best was only come-day go-day palaver: what I really had to give out was something more serious, more off from politics and towards the general life. But the Leaves got out after all—in spite of the howl and slander of the opposition, got out under far better conditions than I expected: and once out went along— stormily, fiercely, rocked and shaken—until within hail of its audience. [See indexical note p006.2] I have wandered some distance from Terry: her letter made me reminiscent—this largely because the actors have always been more friendly to me than almost any other professional class, and she reminded me of it. Great woman! She reminded me of it."


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