Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, April 29, 1888.

     W. took a drive at eleven, forenoon, and came in at Harned's after we were done supper at 6:30. Had been to see the Staffords at Glen Dale. [See indexical note p080.2] In good feather, "feeling rather peart," as he said. Drove up alone. No one at Harned's door. I saw him from the window. He held the reins and called out, waiting for some one to see or hear. When we had helped him into the hallway he said instantly: "I came for a drink—oh! I am that thirsty for it. I could wait no longer—have had it in mind, could not get rid of it, for an hour past." Someone remarked the fine day and he exclaimed: "Oh! it is perfect! And I saw out there such a field of fine new sweet wheat."

     W. sat up at the table. We were gathered about him, he eating and drinking and talking. Got telling about the dinner the other day at Gloucester. "They wanted a toast from me—a toast to three eminent good fellows—and I gave them President Cleveland, Gladstone, and the Emperor of Germany. [See indexical note p080.3] I got myself into trouble. You should have heard the uproar. They all kicked on one or another of

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the three—some of them kicked on all three. But I held my own. [See indexical note p081.1] I don't believe in Cleveland because I think he is any great shakes in himself but because he has done some honor to his office—has done his best: not your best or my best but his best. I never knew a President to totally fail."
Johnson was mentioned. But W. stuck to his plea. [See indexical note p081.2] "Even Andy Johnson. In all the line of Presidents I do not think we have had one absolute failure—I think every President so far as made more or less honest use of the office. You object to the Emperor Frederick William? [See indexical note p081.3] Well—object: objection is right, too. I called him a good fellow—he is one, too. He is one of the very best Emperors in all history—tries to do right—makes a big strain to size up to the emperor ideal he has had in his mind: why should we gag at it? As long as we consent to have emperors why shouldn't we be glad to have the good fellow emperors? Someone cried out there at Gloucester: 'You're damned tolerant, Walt!' Am I? Call it toleration, if you choose. [See indexical note p081.4] I only call it common sense—philosophy. I am extreme? Perhaps. But then it is with America as it is with nature: I believe our institutions can digest, absorb, all elements, good or bad, godlike or devilish, that come along: it seems impossible for nature to fail to make good in the processes peculiar to her: in the same way it is impossible for America to fail to turn the worst luck into best—curses into blessings."

     Harned told W. that Gladstone had come out with a reply to Ingersoll. This excited W.'s humor. He laughed gently. Said: "Gladstone is no match for Ingersoll—at least not in such a controversy. Of course, he is a great man, or was—has had a past—but in questions of the theological sort, in questions of Homeric scholarship, he is by no means much. [See indexical note p081.5] Oh! There will be a funny time of it!" Here he put his two hands together scoop-wise. "Bob will take him up this fashion, turn him over (all sides of him), look at him sweetly, ever so sweetly, smile, then crunch him!"—to illus-

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trate which he worked his two hands together as if to crush their imagined burden— "Yes, crunch him, much as a cat would a mouse, till there's no life left to fool with." [See indexical note p082.1] Someone present demurred somewhat as to Ingersoll. "Ain't you exaggerating his importance, Walt?" "Not a bit: Ingersoll is a man whose importance to the time could not be overfigured: not literal importance, not argumentative importance, not anti-theological Republican party importance: but spiritual importance—importance as a force, as consuming energy—a fiery blast for the new virtues, which are only the old virtues done over for honest use again." [See indexical note p082.2] Futher of Ingersoll: "It was one of the mistakes of Jerry Black's life that he got into that fight with the Colonel. I knew Black—he frequently came to see me in Washington—was a good fellow—but in that discussion he met, as he deserved, with the most scathing chastisement."

     My sister Agnes remarked: "The drives are certainly doing you good—you show it." He assented. "They do indeed: yes they do. [See indexical note p082.3] I have been out each day now for three or four days—the season is opening some: I had got to feeling so I knew I had to do something or go flunk." He turned to Tom: "I say Tom what's the matter with that tipple? Did you put in the cork again? What's the good of a tipple with the cork in?" Then after his glass was filled. "Well, I forgive you. I forgive everybody: I am in a good mood for gentle things: the beautiful day, my hearty reception here, all of you about me: there's no room left for malice." [See indexical note p082.4] "Do you know, my philosophy sees a place and a time for everybody—even Judas Iscariot—yes, for all: all of us are parties to the same bargain: the worst, the best, the middling—all parties to the same bargain. We are as we are, all of us—and that's both the very bad and the very good that's to be said."

     I was to go to Philadelphia to hear Adler speak. Had W. any message? "Yes, surely. Give him my love: describe

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the last hour here at Harned's—the talk, the good feed, the good drink; say to him that Walt Whitman had been out in the country for a long drive and at the end of the drive had come to Harned's and asked for something to eat and drink and had not been refused—was in fact royally entertained: tell him about the Millet—that I thank him for it: it is so much Millet—three times over and more: not the Sower, with the strong arm casting forth the seed, so, so [indicating it by a fling of the hand] but a quieter motif—a passive bit of atmosphere for a moment of prayer. Tell him such things, and other things. [See indexical note p083.1] Tell him he must come over to Harned's soon again and spend an hour and a half with Walt Whitman and the rest."
 [See indexical note p083.2]


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