Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, May 28, 1888.

     Received from Ferguson today formal engagement for November Boughs and took it to W. this evening. [See indexical note p221.1] W. will not accede to Ferguson's condition that fifty dollars advance should be paid. "I am willing to pay a good instalment when the work is half done and the entire sum remaining on the completion of the plates. Any other conditions I shall decidedly oppose." Gave me My Book and I to take over in the morning—that "to be the opening piece." He has changed the headline to A backward Glimpse o'er travel'd Roads and has put two papers in one—the Lippincott piece being reinforced by another. Long primer finally chosen."

     Rhys, he said, had been in today—was going to New York to stay with Stedman for some days and would then sail, June 2d or 3d. [See indexical note p221.2] W. was happy that Rhys had seen Dr. Bucke and Niagara, saying smilingly: "I am proud of both." "Rhys is the type of the young men who are to come our way and learn the best we have to teach—of the young men who will rightly perceive, measure, us, and then go back and democratize Great Britain." [See indexical note p221.3] Reference having been made to William Morris W. said: "Rhys and those fellows set great store by him—seem to rally about him as the one who best expresses the things that noble group of English socialists stand for." "Do you have any sympathy for the socialism of these men? " [See indexical note p221.4] "Lots of it—lots—lots. In the large sense, whatever the political process, the social end is bound to be achieved: too much is made of property, here, now, in our noisy, bragging civilization—too little of men. [See indexical note p221.5] As I understand these men they are for putting the crown on man—taking it off things. Ain't we all socialists, after all?"

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"But about their political program—how about that?" "Of that I'm not so sure—I rather rebel. I am with them in the result—that's about all I can say."

      [See indexical note p222.1] Talking of his art W. said: "People often speak of me as if I was very new—original. I am in fact very old as well as very new. I don't so much come announcing new things as resuming the correct perspective on old things. I am very homely, plain, easy to know, if you take me right. Three or four years ago I spoke to some soldier boys in Brooklyn. I started by saying I did not come to reveal new things but to speak of those particular things about which all of them knew. [See indexical note p222.2] When I see how damned hard everybody strains to say bright things, I think it well to recall them to plain facts—plain divine facts—from time to time."

     W. had been reading in Liberty Tucker's account of his encounter with a tax collector. "Tucker is like Thoreau: why should they pay taxes to a government they do not believe in? [See indexical note p222.3] That's so—why should they? And it's also so—why shouldn't they? Tucker made his protest and paid. Didn't you tell me once that he refused to pay and went to jail up there in Massachusetts? It seems like kicking against night and day—the course of nature—the rainfall."

     W. showed me some literary item concerning Stedman. [See indexical note p222.4] "You can't put a quart of water into a pint bottle: Stedman holds a good pint, but the pint is his limit. It seems ungracious to say that—I do not mean it for being severe. Stedman is miraculously deft—does certain things with wonderful precision. He is after all our best man in his specialty—criticism. He can measure some of the fellows—Longfellow certainly—perhaps Whittier and Bryant—though hardly Bryant—Bryant is a bit Greek. [See indexical note p222.5] As for Emerson—I do not think he can touch Emerson at all." I put in: "Your opinions about Stedman do not always agree." "I suppose not. That's because I don't always agree with my-

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self about Stedman. If I could admire Stedman as much as I love him I wouldn't have much trouble making up my mind."

     W. jumped on me for my "radical violence." [See indexical note p223.1] "Some of your vehemence is all right—will stand: some of it is the impatience of youth. You must be on your guard—don't let your dislike for the conventions lead you to do the old things any injustice: lots of the old stuff is just as new as it is old. There is no doubt more than most of us see even in the stagnant pool. [See indexical note p223.2] Be radical—be radical—be not too damned radical!" W. wrote to Walsh for the return of the "sixty-nine" poem which was to have been used in Lippincott's. "He has not sent the poem back—has not answered my note in any way. I do not understand it."

     W. spoke of Hugo. [See indexical note p223.3] "I do not like his insularity. He never said a good word for us—was rather inclined towards the Carlylean point of view with respect to America. Hugo was full of contempt for all things not Parisian—at least, not French. [See indexical note p223.4] Castelar: Oh! How much greater—how quickly, surely, through his poetic insight, did he catch our points—do us justice. [See indexical note p223.5] And I think of Garibaldi—a beautiful character—nobly noble—the most unworldly man of them all. How much comes from the South—from Italy, from Spain—that is rich and permanent! I have such vast love for Mazzini—he, too, was so unworldly, so sacrificing, full of dreams, dreams of human progress—full, too, of courage, courage!" [See indexical note p223.6]

     Some one spoke today of a "pee-a-nist". [See indexical note p223.7] W. laughed and asked: "Do you mean a pianner player?" W. objected to the piano anyway. "It seems to be so unequal to the big things." When some dissent was expressed W. added: "I know. The obvious retort is, that I have never really heard it played. That may be true: I wouldn't go to the stake for my opinion on this subject."

     W. gave me a Dowden letter. "That last passage hits me very hard—is memorable for letter writing. 'You make

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no slaves, however many lovers.'
Dowden has divined the whole secret. [See indexical note p224.1] Any love that involves slavery is a false love—any love. If I wished to put a final signature upon the Leaves, a sort of consummating entablature, some phrase to round its story—give it the seal, sanction of my motive—I would use that epigram of Dowden: 'To make no slaves however many lovers.' Dowden is a confirmed scholar—the people who call my friends ignoramuses, unscholarly, off the streets, cannot quarrel with the equipment of Dowden. [See indexical note p224.2] Dowden has all the points they insist upon—yet he can tolerate Walt Whitman. There is something to be explained in that."
"Explain it." "I don't have to—let the other fellows explain it. Again: That is one of Dowden's early letters—one of the first: he has lasted, still firmly adheres to his original view. [See indexical note p224.3] I have seen many defections—have had quite an experience of that sort: young fellows who take to me strong, then, as they get older, recede—sometimes come to entirely disavow me. Dowden is still haunting the corridors."


8 Montenotte, Cork, Ireland, Sept. 5, 1871.

My dear Sir.

 [See indexical note p224.4] It was very kind of you to send me the photographs of yourself, which I value much. I had previously received one, carte de visite size, from Mr. Rossetti, in which you wear your hat. These I like better, though I liked that.

I will name some of your friends on this side of the water whom I know myself. I wish I could make it appear how various these natures are which have come into relation with you. [See indexical note p224.5] There is a clergyman, who finds his truth halved between John H. Newman (of Oxford celebrity) and you. There is a doctor—a man of science, and a mystic—a Quaker, he has had a wish to write on the subject of your poems, and may perhaps accomplish it. There is a barrister (an ardent nature, much interested in social and

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political principles), he overflows with two authors, Carlyle and yourself. There is a clergyman (the most sterling piece of manhood I know) he has I daresay taken you in more thoroughly than any of us, in proportion to his own soundness and integrity of nature. [See indexical note p225.1] There is an excellent Greek scholar. There is a woman of most fine character and powerful intellect. She, I hope, will at some time write and publish the impression your writings have made upon her, as she is at present about to do in the case of Robert Browning. Then I know three painters in London, all men of decided genius, who care very much for all you do (one of them has, I believe, in MS. some study of your poems, which at some time may come to be printed)—and Nettleship, whom Rossetti knows, and who has published a book on R. Browning. I have been told that Nettleship at one time when Leaves of Grass was out of print and scarce, parted with his last guinea or two to buy a copy.


All I have named, (and I myself may be included) are young, and may, I think, be fairly taken to represent ideas in literature which are becoming, or which will become, dominant. [See indexical note p225.2]

One thing strikes me about every one who cares for what you write—while your attraction is most absolute, and the impression you make as powerful as that of any teacher or vates, you do not rob the mind of its independence, or divert it from its true direction. [See indexical note p225.3] You make no slaves, however many lovers.

Very truly yours,

Edward Dowden.
Should you care to carry out a half intention you had of writing me diret to 50, Wellington Road, Dublin.


     I said to W. "There's some interesting history in that letter." "Yes there is. And by the way, talking of history

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—I have found you a letter or two from Henry Clapp to me. [See indexical note p226.1] They, too, are good history: I will give them to you the next time you come, or some time. I can't just put my fingers on them: I had them out today—found them in a bunch of old smeared letters—such things: then laid them down again, I don't know where."

     W. said he has received "no less than three invitations to dinners the last week." Did he decline all of them? "All of them—all. Old men who have enjoyed a certain amount of fame—done great work—require to be fêted, noticed, flattered, commended, cultivated by the ladies, taken the rounds of clubs, of the towns, of meals—of dinners and suppers. [See indexical note p226.2] I don't seem to like that sort of attention myself. [See indexical note p226.3] I have heard that Bryant—still a cute, wise old man—would go of an evening from club to club—the Union League, the Goethe club, what not—being everywhere deferred to—meetings often 'perceiving the great so and so present,' inviting him to the platform, and so forth and so forth. [See indexical note p226.4] I except Emerson from the catalogue of the honeyfugled old men—and Tennyson—though I believe Browning was a club man. Even Longfellow yielded to some extent. The best thing I have lately heard about Browning is that he disapproves of the Browning clubs. Bravo for Browning! Down with the clubs! [See indexical note p226.5] Good bye clubs! Bryant was anyway a good fellow—I always liked to meet him—to have him around, to be around with him—liked to sit next him: I often met and debated with him. When I last saw Bryant he was the very color of death—like this paper here"—reaching forward and touching the cover of a brown-yellow magazine— "the very color of death. [See indexical note p226.6] He never had a ruddy face, but until that occasion had never seemed to me of a sickly hue."


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