Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, May 30, 1888.

     Decoration Day. [See indexical note p232.1] Saw W. in forenoon. Alone. In very good shape, for him. I have been a little anxious. Would he be in trim for the 31st? I confessed my concern. He said: "I've had the same concern myself: my body is nowadays so easily shoved off its balance: but I am feeling quite myself today—head, belly, all."

     W. said after a pause: "You remember our talk over Arnold yesterday? [See indexical note p232.2] I was mousing about, looking for something else, awhile ago, and came across this. It explains itself. It bears more or less upon the thing I was saying in connection with Arnold—you remember? I was contending for the average good heart of the people: the sterling common soil of the race. [See indexical note p232.3] Arnold always gives you the notion that he hates to touch the dirt—the dirt is so dirty! But everything comes out of the dirt—everything: everything comes out of the people, the everyday people, the people as you find and leave them: not university people, not F.F.V. people: people, people, just people!" [See indexical note p232.4] W. laughed. He had handed me a folded sheet of paper. I opened the paper and read it. It contained the penciled draft of a note written by W. to a Miss Gregg, a hospital worker, during the war. "Read it," said W., "if you can: it is a chirographic mixup, but you are a printer and will get through with it. [See indexical note p232.5] It cuts to the marrow—at least to my marrow: is a sort of confession of faith on my part. Can you imagine Arnold going into such work, standing all its wrenchings, wreckings—coming out whole?" Before I started to read W. added: "I don't mean that for egotism: I mean it only as indicating a distinction which it is entirely proper for us to make. [See indexical note p232.6] You of course understand that plenty of others then did and always will do as I did: I do not admit that we will ever fall short of that simple first sympathy man for man which drove me as it drove others into hospital work during

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the war. What I object to in so much that we call education, culture, scholarship, is that it seems to invest its avatars with contempt for the elemental qualities in character. [See indexical note p233.1] The hospitals put our feet right on the ground—put us into immediate association with the bottom facts of virtue."
I read W.'s note.


Sept. 7, '63

Dear friend.

 [See indexical note p233.2] You spoke the other day, partly in fun, about the men being so undemonstrative. I thought I would write you a line as I hear you leave the hospital tomorrow for a few weeks. Your labor of love and disinterestedness here in Hospital is appreciated. I have heard the ward A patients speak of you with gratitude, sometimes with enthusiasm. They have their own invariable ways (not outside éclat, but in manly American hearts however rude however undemonstrative to you.) I thought it would be sweet to your tender and womanly heart to know what I have so often heard from the soldiers about you as I sat by their sick cots. I too have learnt to love you, seeing your tender heart, and your goodness to these wounded and dying young men—for they have grown to seem to me as my sons or dear young brothers. [See indexical note p233.3]

As I am poor I cannot make you a present, but I write you this note dear girl, knowing you will receive it in the same candor and good faith it is written.


      [See indexical note p233.4] W. said: "I can hardly wait for tomorrow: I want to see my first proofs." Left him. Went to Harned's for dinner. Kennedy came in at Harned's while we were eating and stayed there two hours, talking of various matters, but mostly about W., to whom the three of us afterwards went. W. at the front window as we arrived. W. waved his right hand, crying: "Walk in! Walk in!" Kennedy asked: "Don't you get tired of having so many callers?" [See indexical note p233.5] W. answered gaily: "Oh! No—come right in—all of you"—laughing—

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"I'll take the whole dose at once!" Stayed the best portion of two hours, W. talking very freely all the while. [See indexical note p234.1] Kennedy said to me: "I hardly expected to find the old man so wide awake. He's as lively as a cricket!"

     W. talked of the Donnelly Cryptogram again. "It is my final belief that the Shakespearean plays were written by another hand than Shaksper's—I don't say whose that other hand was—but I am confident it was another hand." [See indexical note p234.2] Kennedy asked: "Why is it necessary to infer the other hand?" To which W. answered: "It is not necessary to infer it: I infer it: that's all there is to it, to me. Donnelly's book has only served to confirm—to bring to a head—certain ideas which have long lain there in my mind nebulously—half formed—though the cipher argument, attaching the authorship to Bacon, is by no means so convincing. [See indexical note p234.3] You see, I am much less sure for Bacon than I am sure against Shaksper." W. discussed with Harned some legal features involved in the plays. "I know it is said that that legal knowledge is very faulty, imperfect. Suppose it is—grant it: still, it is there: the legal phrase: the legal habit, atmosphere, what not. I am more and more amazed at the little verity we can attach to the man, the player, the Stratford Shaksper. [See indexical note p234.4] There is much in the plays that is offensive to me, anyhow: yes, in all the plays of that period: a grandiose sweep of expression: forced, false, phrasing: much of it, much of it: indeed, I find myself often laughing over its sophistications."

     Kennedy spoke to W. about his own Whitman volume, which is to come out through Wilson, of Edinburgh. [See indexical note p234.5] McKay has offered to market it on this side of the Atlantic. K. said: "It's no use even asking a Boston publisher to handle the volume." McKay is to bring out a Whitman book compiled by Elizabeth Porter Gould—selections. [See indexical note p234.6] W. assents to it. "I don't like the idea of having it done but I like still less the idea of telling her not to do it." Harned asked: "Have

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you written anything for Decoration Day?"
"Yes—a bit for The Herald, which probably was published this morning, though my today's paper is not yet here. [See indexical note p235.1] Tomorrow is my real Decoration Day: the Harneds are going to take me in hand tomorrow—garland me: set me up. You will be there, of course, both of you"—nodding to K. and to me. "I have already had four or five little remembrances by mail—two from Rhys: a bouquet of roses and two bottles of Jersey champagne. And by the way, that champagne—let's have some of it now—let's open one of the bottles." [See indexical note p235.2] The bottle was opened. I took a sip from W.'s own glass—he barely tasted it—W. then sending this glass out by me to Mrs. Davis in the back room. "I am right up against my birthday now—feel quite chipper, for me: I am sure I can go through with it without lowering my colors. I am always more or less on tenter hooks about my health these times."

     W. showed us a Walter Scott volume—an edition of 1833—with a title page drawn and written in his own hand, in red and black ink. [See indexical note p235.3] Pasted on the inside of the front cover was a process facsimile of Governor Dix's "shoot him on the sport" order, made for W., as he explained, "by a clerk in Washington, a girl, who was sweet on me." [See indexical note p235.4] We laughed. W. added: "I used to get love letters galore, those days—perfumed letters—from girls down there." Reference being again made to Scott, W. said: "I prefer the Border Minstrelsy to anything else: it is to me the richest vein he worked." Harned and Kennedy talked some together about Europe. Both had been abroad. [See indexical note p235.5] As to monuments W. said: "I don't think I'd take any interest at all in them." A neighbor's little girl came up to the window. W. greeted her and smiled and handed her out one of the Rhys roses. The report that Rhys was in town yesterday was false. [See indexical note p235.6] Harned's maid mistook the name. This seemed to comfort W. "I would find it hard to believe Rhys could come to Camden

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and skip me."
W. finally said: "Well—we will all meet tomorrow: good luck! good luck! [See indexical note p236.1] And you, Tom—let me thank you in advance—and Mrs. Harned, too—thank her, too: tell her I told you to say this." And addressing me as I hesitated a minute after the other two had withdrawn: "God bless you, boy! And don't forget the proofs: the birthday won't be complete without the proofs."

     Among the notes above, made in the morning, I forgot to say that W. gave me one of the promised Clapp letters. "Henry Clapp was always loyal—always very close to me—in that particular period—there in New York. [See indexical note p236.2] You can get much significant material out of his notes. I want to talk with you at length some day about Henry Clapp. In the meantime take this letter with you—read it—see if what I tell you is not true. Henry Clapp stepped out from the crowd of hooters—was my friend: a much needed ally at that time (having a paper of his own) when almost the whole press of America when it mentioned me at all treated me with derision or worse. If you ever write anything about me in which it may be properly alluded to I hope you will say good things about Henry Clapp: indeed, I charge you to say them. [See indexical note p236.3] To ignore him, or to say what should not be said about him, would be more unjust to me than to him." Clapp wrote on a letter head of the New York Saturday Press.


New York, Mch 27, 1860.

My dear Walt

 [See indexical note p236.4] I am so busy that I hardly have time to breathe; moreover, I am in the greatest possible difficulties on account of one or two past liabilities still.

This must explain my not answering your letter promptly.

Do write and let me know about when the book is to be ready.

I can do a great deal for it.


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I meant to have done more last week, but followed your advice and made a modest and copyable announcement. [See indexical note p237.1] The papers all over the land have noticed your poem in the Atlantic and have generally pitched into it strong; which I take to be good for you and your new publishers, who if they move rapidly and concentrate their forces will make a Napoleonic thing of it.

It just occurs to me that you might get Messrs. T. & E. to do a good thing for me: to wit, advance me say one hundred dollars on advertising account—that is if they mean to advertise with me. Or if they don't to let me act for them here as a kind of N.Y. agent to push the book, and advance me the money on that score. [See indexical note p237.2]

I must have one hundred dollars before Saturday night or be in a scrape the horror of which keeps me awake o' nights. I could if necessary give my note at three mos. for the amount and it is a good note since we have never been protested.

Of course I know how extremely improbable it is that Messrs. T. & E. to whom I am an entire stranger will do anything of the kind: but in suggesting it, I have done only my duty to the Sat. Press, and, as I think, to the cause of sound literature.

Yrs truly,

H. Clapp Jr.
 [See indexical note p237.3] I need not say, we are all anxious to see you back at Pfaff's, and are eagerly looking for your proposed letter to the crowd.


      [See indexical note p237.4] This letter was addressed to W. care of Thayer & Eldridge, Boston. W. added to me: "Poor Henry! He, too, was always hard up. Poor Walt! Poor most everybody! Always hard up!" And as to the papers that "pitched into" him W. said: "Henry was right: better to have people stirred against you if they can't be stirred for you—better that than not to stir them at all. I think I first thrived on opposition: the allies came later." W. reverted to

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Clapp. "You may think Henry was hard up because of his extravagance—of something personal. That is not the point: he was generous, careful: the trouble was, he tried to carry an impossible load. [See indexical note p238.1] Henry was in our sense a pioneer, breaking ground before the public was ready to settle."


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