Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, June 3, 1888.

     W. arrived at Harned's at 1.20 in his carriage direct from home. He took his drive later in the day. Clifford came to dinner. [See indexical note p254.1] Dr. Bucke surprised us in the midst of an interesting talk on Hicks. Stephen Weston was the last to come. Anne Montgomerie also present. Bucke's appearance was altogether unexpected—very pleasant to W., who, however, took it serenely. At dinner W.'s talk was very animated. He dilated upon "Hicks' worldly providence." [See indexical note p254.2] "How well it would be if Morse had some touch of the disease of saving! I never met a man so little able on that side to take care of himself. Hicks always kept a little nest egg in bank." Talking about no-license W. said: "I take no personal interest in it. I don't accept the temperance advocate so-called—neither do I accept the rum seller: I often say to them—hatchel each other all you can—I shan't grieve over it! [See indexical note p254.3] But then aside from any feeling of that sort that I may have I remember that men are not to be made moral by violent means—by being spurred this way and that and told: 'You shall do so and so and so!' Resolved, that men shall no longer lie, shall no longer steal, shall no longer commit adultery! As a matter of fact I am at times disposed to think that men are so because they are so—that no absence of saloons could in itself prevent them from going to the bad, to the devil, if you've a mind to put it that way: they go or don't go from an impulse within themselves or the want of it. Salvation can't be legislated." [See indexical note p254.4]

     At the table W. remarked: "I want to take a vote on an alternative of titles for the poem section of November Boughs. Should it be 'Sands at Seventy' or 'Sands on the Shores at Seventy' or something in effect the same. I am at a loss about it—don't exactly feel any sure way out of the dilemma. [See indexical note p254.5] Now what do you say—all of you? What do you say, Horace?" I voted for Sands at Seventy. "And you, Clifford—and you Tom—and you there, Anne Montogomerie—

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and Mrs. Harned, you, too: what do you all say?"
All hands were of one notion in the matter. "You see, Walt," said Harned, "we're all agreed." [See indexical note p255.1] W. said at once: "So I see—I am agreed too: I guess 'Sands at Seventy' is best—but I wanted to ask. I never feel so certain of myself I may not feel certainer." Harned addressed W. "I thought you always did things in your own way without advice?" "So I do. Did I take any advice? It happened that you all agreed with me on that title. Suppose you hadn't? What would have happened? Tom, what would have happened?" Harned laughed heartily and said: "I suppose you would have cast your one vote against all our votes and declared your own motion carried!" W. very merrily exclaimed: "Good! Good!" adding, however: I ought to be honest with you all about that, though? I was a good deal uncertain about the title until your unanimous vote removed my uncertainty." [See indexical note p255.2] "That's a big concession for you to make, Walt," said Harned. "Never mind—it's the truth!"

     Drifted into political talk. W. very decided about his politics. "I am for free trade—absolute free trade: for the federation of the world." [See indexical note p255.3] Some one asked him: "But isn't it our first duty to take care of ourselves—our America?" "Yes—that's right," replied W.: "Take care of your family, your state, your nation—that's right from a certain standpoint: some people seem ordained to care for one man, for a dozen men, for a single nation: and some other people—of whom I hope I am one—to care for them all. All sounds so damned much better than one—don't you think? The whole business done at once instead of a little patch of it here and there! [See indexical note p255.4] I don't want the brotherhood of the world to be so long a-coming. I can wait till it comes—it is sure to come—but if I can hurry it by a day or so I am going to do so."

     In mentioning Worthington W. said: "The worst thing I know about Worthington is the fact that he is deacon or

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something in a church. [See indexical note p256.1] Yes—I always mistrust a deacon—a typical deacon—a church functionary. Indeed, I may say I never knew a typical deacon who was not in many respects lacking in the things we have a right to expect of a man. Generally, his standard is low. My first experience with that sort of a character was an unfortunate one: it has become a mere memory now, it was so long ago—but the impression it left upon me was ineradicable. [See indexical note p256.2] The man I mean was a type—the very sort of a man I think I of all men doubt: a pious, sanctimonious, unctuous, oily individual: his victim was my father. I was a boy then—hardly more than ten years old if that old. A Methodist elder—don't the Methodists call them elders?—or something or other of that sort—contracted with my father, who was a builder, for the construction of a house—drawing up the contract so cutely from his own side—so shrewdly worded—as to make it possible for him, when the time for settlement came, to evade here a sum, there a sum, until my poor straightforward father was nearly swindled out of his boots. [See indexical note p256.3] It was a sample case—I could match it with many incidents that have come my way since. I thoroughly disapprove of—hate—yes, even fear, institutional, official, teleological, goodness. I would any time rather trust myself in the hands of an avowed secular merchant. He is less likely to do you up."

      [See indexical note p256.4] W. described New Jersey champagne as "lunar" but added: "Moonshine has its importance and place, too." Again referred to November Boughs as his "last word." Was he still determined to omit the Hicks peace? No—not determined—only afraid: afraid I can't get it done. [See indexical note p256.5] It needs some finishing touches: I do not seem to be equal to them. I can't be hurried—don't dare to be!" Anne Montgomerie having said something about Emerson W. said to her: "Read all the Emerson you can—it is the best preparatory soil. Emerson is not conclusive on all points, but no man more helps to a conclusion." Clifford made same allusion

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to Theodore Parker. W. followed him up. "Theodore Parker? Yes—he was built for mountains and seas—for might, for loyalty." [See indexical note p257.1]

      [See indexical note p257.2] Harned told W. a story about General Sherman, which started W. into quite a monologue: "Yes, I see he is being mentioned for the Presidency—but he's in no danger—he won't be nominated. Have you ever seen Sherman? It is necessary to see him in order to realize the Norse make-up of the man—the hauteur—noble, yet democratic: a hauteur I have always hoped I, too, might possess. Try to picture Sherman—seamy, sinewy, in style—a bit of stern open air made up in the image of a man. [See indexical note p257.3] The best of Sherman was best in the war but has not been destroyed in peace—though peace brought with it military reviews, banquets, bouquets, women, flirtations, flattery. I can see Sherman now, at the head of the line, on Pennsylvania Avenue, the day the army filed before Lincoln—the silent Sherman riding beyond his aides. Yes, Sherman is all very well: I respect him. [See indexical note p257.4] But, after all, Sheridan was the Napoleonic figure of the war—not subjected to the last tests (though I am sure he would have been equal to them) but adequate, it seemed, to whatever duty arose. That is where I place Sheridan—among Napoleonic things. The real military figure of the war, counting the man in, was Grant, whose homely manners, dislike for military frippery—for every form of ostentation, in war and peace—amounted to genius. [See indexical note p257.5] I was still in Washington while Grant was President. I saw a good deal of him about the city. He went quite freely everywhere alone. I remember one spot in particular where I often crossed him—a little cottage on the outskirts of Washington: he was frequently there—going there often. I learned that an old couple of whom he was very fond lived there. [See indexical note p257.6] He had met them in Virginia—they received him in a plain democratic way: I would see him leaning on their window sills outside: all would be talking together: they seeming to treat him

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without deference for place—with dignity, courtesy, appreciation. This reminds me of a Sumner incident. I knew Sumner. I had spent a good deal of time in the South, off and on. Sumner seemed to know about it—once suggested that I should give him my impressions of Southern life and character. [See indexical note p258.1] I went to Sumner but he would not stand for me—not a damned bit of it. My view of the South was a little bit favorable—this seemed to irritate him: he would not have it so: stormed, stormed, would not yield a point. I have no doubt there is just as much chivalry, consideration, of its own kind, north here as south—in expressing some approbation of the southern social spirit I did not intend to accuse Yankeedom. But Sumner would not have the applause on any terms—cast it out of court."
 [See indexical note p258.2] Getting back to Sherman: "He must bear some corporeal resemblance to Tennyson—or what I take to be the Tennyson shape and measure. Tennyson, too, has something of the Norse in him. Some one was here awhile ago, some Englishman—many Englishmen come to see me—who told me a characteristic Tennyson story. Tennyson sat with a group of his friends listening to a description of some act of cowardly cruelty committed by a member of the nobility. [See indexical note p258.3] The question went round: what would you do if you were the victim? When it came Tennyson's turn to answer he made an appropriate gesture and exclaimed: 'I'd rip his damned guts out.' I was very much tickled with the story—it seemed to show Tennyson up in a new light—as being far more human and democratic than some of his work would lead us to suppose."

     When W.'s carriage had arrived he asked Bucke to take a drive off into the country with him. [See indexical note p258.4] "I intended this ride for you," W. said, turning to Clifford, "but Doctor is not often here, so I take him. Your time will come later on." W. said "good-bye" all around, kissing the children, kissing Anne Montgomerie—shaking hands with Harned—flinging

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back at me from the carriage the charge: "You will see to matters at Ferguson's tomorrow, eh? Horace?"


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