Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, June 1, 1888.

     Took to Ferguson today (after meeting and receiving the package from Mrs. Davis at the ferry) the copy for Sands at Seventy belonging to November Boughs. Then in with W. this evening to confer. [See indexical note p242.5] Much discussion of plans—headlines, &c. Arrangement yet a little nebulous. W. tremendously pleased with the proofsheets. "They are the best I have ever received—those fellows must be first-class: I have

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written a note to say so—enclosed it in the package."
In this note W. extended his thanks to the foreman, proofreader and compositors of the Ferguson office. [See indexical note p243.1] W. is getting into the traces—wants now "to go straight ahead with the book," adding: "I am almost in a hurry, which is remarkable for me. And besides, I have quite a feeling for the printers—for the two you said were laid off: I do not want them to suffer on my account: Ferguson got them for me—I should keep them going."

     Did he feel any the worse for yesterday's dissipation? [See indexical note p243.2] "No—not at all—better I believe, in all ways." W. talked of Kennedy: "Kennedy and Rhys do not seem to get on well together. Kennedy seems to experience a sort of antipathy for Rhys, who, in his own way, probably reciprocates in kind. I tried all I could to get at the bottom of it—questioned Kennedy himself—Kennedy—but he showed that he was averse to going into particulars. [See indexical note p243.3] Probably there are no particulars—probably it is only a clash of temperaments. Rhys intimated the thing when he was here but he was quite as indefinite as Kennedy. Rhys was more placid about it—did not seem to think it was worth fussing over."

     W. has been reading Burroughs on Matthew Arnold in The Century. [See indexical note p243.4] "Ah! yes John puts a good deal more weight into the scales than I should for Arnold: but no doubt he justifies it—John always has best reasons for everything he does, says. I myself think Arnold's place a very much smaller one—sometimes think he has no permanent place at all."

     Going back to the Kennedy-Rhys matter W. said: "Kennedy wanted to take Rhys out to Cambridge to see Sempers, who wrote the Harvard Monthly paper on me. [See indexical note p243.5] Rhys wouldn't go. That made some friction. But why should I umpire in that kind of a game? I suppose both the fellows were right—both wrong: I think too well of both to think ill of either!" Laughed.


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      [See indexical note p244.1] General Sheridan is very sick. W. spoke of it. "I think it comes a great deal from high living. These military men have a curious experience—first on the field, inured to all possible hardship: there they do their work—get their fame. Then peace comes—then they are coddled, fêted, dined, out of sense—out of health: in fact, ruined." This led him to talk of the sick emperor Unser Fritz. "How it seems to mock human greatness, the catastrophe that has fallen upon that man! There is a man who went through sieges, agitations, battles, woundings, horrors, deaths—yes, even dying deaths, many of them, in a sense—a man who finally 'got there,' as people say, yet who at the last turn of the road is brought down with a diseased stomach or a rotted throat or some other such mortal adversity too disgusting and cruel in its form to be contemplated without a shudder. [See indexical note p244.2] Lay not your treasures up upon the earth! God knows! no one even heard me preach against life—its final joyous realities: yet the physical ingredients of life, the things we often set the most store by, are perishable, perishable, perishable! We have them in our hands! It all comes on such fast feet! It do not say 'all is vanity': I only say certain things are vain. I have seemed to enter into the tragedy of Unser Fritz—to have felt the flame of the fire that is consuming him."

      [See indexical note p244.3] W. said again: "One of you fellows asked me about Gosse—you or Harned or Corning or somebody—how Gosse felt towards me. I said Gosse had shown a leaning my way—was more than cursorily courteous and warm. I have since unearthed a letter I had from him fifteen years ago. I was not looking for it—it just turned up in a litter of other documents. [See indexical note p244.4] It will serve to back up my answer. Was it you who asked me?" "Yes—I asked the question." W. added: "It is very odd to me that such men on the other side—Symonds, Dowden, Gosse, Carpenter—such men—should take such a shine to me—should show themselves to

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be so friendly to my work—yes, should seem so truly to understand me. [See indexical note p245.1] The same sort of men on this side are opposed—the essay, critical, scholar, class is dead against me—the whole clan, with scarcely an exception."
"Is it the same class?" "Yes and no: the very fact that they regard me with such suspicion seems to put them in another class, spiritually speaking. But technically, professionally, they are the same class. The fellows over there in England are always writing me accounts of the scholars who espouse my cause (not me, my cause)—Dowden writes me—gives me their names (I will show you that by Dowden's letters)—Symonds, Roden Noel, Rhys, Rolleston—clean, cultured, quoted among the literary êlite. [See indexical note p245.2] In America that class has presented a solid front of opposition. I do not complain: who knows who is right? It is interesting, curious—not conclusive of anything in particular." Gosse's letter was written from the Library of the British Museum.


London, Dec. 12th 1873.

Dear Sir:

 [See indexical note p245.3] When my friend Mr. Linton was here last, I asked him, during one of our conversations about you, whether I might venture to send you the book I was then writing, as soon as it came out. If he had not encouraged me to do so, I should hardly have liked to trouble you with it, and yet there is no one living by whom I am more desirous to be known than by you. The Leaves of Grass have become a part of my every-day thought and experience. [See indexical note p245.4] I have considered myself as "the new person drawn toward" you; I have taken your warning, I have weighed all the doubts and the dangers, and the result is that I draw only closer and closer towards you.

As I write this I consider how little it can matter to you in America, how you are regarded by a young man in England, of whom you have never heard. [See indexical note p245.5] And yet I cannot believe that you, the poet of comrades, will refuse the sym-

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pathy I lay at your feet. In any case I can but thank you for all that I have learned form you, all the beauty you have taught me to see in the common life of healthy men and women, and all the pleasure there is in the mere humanity of other people. [See indexical note p246.1] The sense of all this was in me, but it was you, and you alone, who really gave it power to express itself. Often when I have been alone in the company of one or other of my dearest friends, in the very deliciousness of nearness and sympathy, it has seemed to me that you were somewhere invisibly with us. [See indexical note p246.2] Accept the homage and love, and forgive the importunity of your sincere disciple


Edmund W. Gosse.


     After reading the letter I said to W.: "I call that pretty good." "So do I," said he. "Gosse must have been young then. Does he last?" W. smiled. "Who knows? [See indexical note p246.3] I think he does—but I would not be surprised if he does not: I am used to defections—especially of the young enthusiasts that grow old—yes, old and cold." Again: "Take Lowell, Whipple, Ripley, such men, in this country: they have no use for me: they are all against me." [See indexical note p246.4] "Do you think the same men in England would have been on your side?" "Not the same men—probably not: but men doing their kind of work."

     W. spoke of Harry Bonsall's account of yesterday's affair in today's Post. "Harry made rather a mess of it. Harry's Post never gets much beyond being an apology for a newspaper. [See indexical note p246.5] Harry himself is not without ability, but he does not seem to see any reason for making the Post worth its salt. We all love Harry—but the Post: well, the Post is never a full meal nor even a decent lunch." "The Post has one virtue. It has always been loyal to you." [See indexical note p246.6] "That is so: Harry has never swerved from his adhesion: I could never forget that. Harry has always been ten times over my friend where once would have done. I don't think I want to be misunderstood on that score." We talked book

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a little. Then I left. W. said: "It now looks like pretty clear sailing—Ferguson is getting to understand me—we are getting to understand him."


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