Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, April 30, 1888.

      [See indexical note p083.3] W. said: "I want you to have this letter of William's for your archives. It would be valuable enough if it was only William's—but it happens to be more than that. You see the date—1865. He encloses a letter from George William Curtis—it makes good history. Curtis always had the big manner—yes, big without being offish: his personality has a large swing, as if it had plenty of time and space in which to live. [See indexical note p083.4] William elicited a noble reply. I don't know which is finer, the man who could have provoked such a letter or the man who wrote it: I suppose neither is finer—one is necessary to the other: it takes both to make the complete affair." Again: "It is an eloquent letter all through—rather silent, still, pastoral, for William: his tempest is lulled: the best soldiers are often the best men of peace." [See indexical note p083.5] This is the letter:


New Ipswich, New Hampshire, October 19, 1865.

My dear Walt:

The article you sent Nelly from the London Leader is in my possession. Good! I shall incorporate it. Part of it is very fine.


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I wonder if young William Allingham wrote it? The Leader is the paper he is on. He is a poet, you remember—one of the most promising of the young British choir. He is an Irishman and a reverent lover of Emerson's genius. [See indexical note p084.1] I shouldn't wonder if he wrote this critique.

Anyhow it's good and I shall put a great deal of it in.

If, ever since I have been here, I have not had the worst cold I ever had in my life—a cold which has made me really sick and spoiled the pleasure of my visit—I should doubtless have ere this sent off the MS. to Curtis. [See indexical note p084.2] It will probably go soon. It is just as well and even better than I have delayed it, for in the first place it will be enriched with this quotation, and besides you will like it better by the excision of nearly all the personality, new light having come to me on this point as time has passed and the sweet country air and relief from labor cleared and refreshed my poor boiled brains.

On my way through New York I enquired at Harper's for Curtis and found he was out of town. So I brought the MS. with me up here. [See indexical note p084.3] Then came Curtis' answer; of which I send you a copy that you may see how true the reply this splended gentleman and noble heart sends back to my call.

I really did not expect so much from Curtis. I relied on his literary chivalry, but did not look for the rest. As George would say, he has "elements"!

I have written to him saying that I want him to endeavor to find me a publisher and mentioning Hurd and Houghton: also saying that in a few days I shall send him the MS.

I wish you could come up here. The landscape is exquisite. Fields, farms, the quiet rustic town, the gorgeous foliage, the Temple and Peterboro hills enclosing all. And then, drive out a few miles and lo! [See indexical note p084.4] Monadnoc! O Walt, what a sight! A purple breadth of mountain, spreading calm in sleepy light and filling the landscape with grandeur.

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It is the finest mountain I have seen. Its characteristic is breadth.


I am staying here at the house of Miss Jenny Bullard, a friend of whom I believe I have spoken to you. [See indexical note p085.1] I wish you knew her. You would like her. She is handsome, bountiful, generous, cordial, strong, careless, laughing, large, regardless of dress or personal appearance, and appreciates and likes Leaves of Grass. The first thing she read in the book was Enfans d'Adam, which she cordially liked and wondered how anyone could mistake its atmosphere and purport. She is a very particular friend of mine. I wish you knew her. She told me today that she wanted me to invite you to come up here for a few days before I go, but I said I wouldn't because I knew you wouldn't come. [See indexical note p085.2]

I shall probably leave here about the twenty-fifth and go to Boston. Then home.

Spite of dear friends and respite from the treadmill and the superb scenery, I have had considerably of a bad time, chiefly owing to the horrible cold I have had and the weary state I have been in. But I am better now and the world looks brighter.

Now I hope to be able to announce to you that the MS. has a publisher. But oh, Walt, the literary shortcomings of it oppress me. It is not the thing that should be said of your book—not the thing that it is in even me to say—as I feel. However. Good bye. I will write you again.

Your faithful

W. D. O'Connor.


     The enclosed letter of Curtis follows:


Ashfield, Mass. 30 Sept. 1865.

My dear O'Connor:

 [See indexical note p085.3] Here, up among the Autumn Hills, I get your interesting letter of the 20th and you may be very sure that I will do all I can to redress the wrong of which you speak.


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The task you undertake is not easy, as you know. The public sympathy will be with the Secretary for removing a man who will be considered an obscene author and a free lover. [See indexical note p086.1] But your hearty vindication of free letters will not be less welcome to all liberal men.

Personally I do not know Whitman; and while his Leaves of Grass impressed me less than it impressed many better men than I, I have never heard anything of him but what was noble nor believed anything of him but what was honorable.

That a man should be expelled from office and held up to public contumely, because of an honest book which no candid mind can truly regard as hurtful to public morality, is an offence which demands exposure and censure. [See indexical note p086.2]

I know Carleton but he has several times asked of me favors which I could not grant and I do not believe your offer would be strengthened if made through me. If you think otherwise, I shall most cheerfully go to him,—but would it not be better for you to write to him and refer him to me, saying, if you choose, that you had asked me to call upon him? Think of it and let me know.

It was very pleasant to see your comely chirography again, altho' I wish I could think of you as having had some vacation. We have been here for two months, far from railroads, telegraphs, and gossip, and are just going home. My wife returns your friendly remembrance and yours, I hope, has not forgotten me. [See indexical note p086.3] I should be glad, too, if I thought you felt as cheerfully as I feel at the real gain in the Good Fight made by the war. Andy may Tylerize but the country will not. The wave may be lower, but the tide is rising.

Good bye. Let me hear as soon as you will. You know how gladly I shall serve you and how truly I am

Your friend

G. W. Curtis.



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