Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, June 8, 1888.

     Ferguson gave me the concluding proofs of the Sands today and some of the prose to follow it—Shakespeare, The Mexican Letter and Visitors. In with W. at 7.45 till 9.20. [See indexical note p282.2] When I entered he lay at full length on the sofa from which he at once arose. Upon my protest he said: "No, it's all right: I was just thinking whether I should not go over to the window again." I helped him across the room. "I don't feel worse in any one place from the attacks the other day but weak all through—generally less able to get about. I have for two years been expecting a bad fall at some time or other so that what happened the other day was no surprise. I have always been very cautious—you know, the phrenologist puts my caution at 67"—here he laughed— "cautious enough to be cowardly—and I suppose I owe a good deal to that. [See indexical note p282.3] So far as my sleep is concerned I am doing very well: I get four or five hours of it continuously every night: but the process of locomotion is daily growing more difficult. Today I have been a trifle improved. If Warren was here—Warren, Mrs. Davis' boy (I like him very much—he is such a lusty fellow—has been about the world so much—is a sailor)—I would have arranged with him to drive with me this afternoon: I am a little afraid just now to go out alone. [See indexical note p282.4] The Doctor will be here tomorrow: if he comes in time I can have him for a companion." He took a bunch of flowers from a vase on the window sill. "The white ones

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have no flavor. After all the common red fellows are the best—they come straightest from their roots. [See indexical note p283.1] No rose of culture can transcend or even equal them in fragrance."
Spoke hopefully of the "woodcuts" in newspapers. "Some of them are wonderfully good." He is really talking about half-tones and other process plates. "They promise so much—are prophetic."

      [See indexical note p283.2] While speaking of portraits W. said: "We judge things too much by side-lights: we must have a care lest we pause with the single features, the exaggerated figures, individuals, facts—losing thereby the ensemble." W. pursued the subject of literary proportion. "The big fellows are always the generous fellows: they recognize each other wherever they are. [See indexical note p283.3] It's the generosity that makes the big fellow. It will do for the little crowd to have all the bickerings, the mean jealousies, the quarrelling ambitions, the mean policies. And you know that's the way to distinguish the little from the big. The thing we call smart, clean, skilful—that thing is not big. Those who regard literature as an exercise, a plaything, a joke, a display, are not big—they are small of the small. [See indexical note p283.4] There's nothing so riles me as this exhibition of professional acquirement. Literature is big only in one way—when used as an aid in the growth of the humanities—a furthering of the cause of the masses—a means whereby men may be revealed to each other as brothers."

      [See indexical note p283.5] Except for the Hicks matter the printers have about all the copy for the book. But the book will be a small one. Frank Harned is to try to photograph the Morse bust of W.W. for a frontispiece and the Hicks for an inside illustration. "Things don't always work out," said W.: "Sometimes they work in." He thinks he will bring out the Hicks essay in a special "volumet," as he calls it, later on. Speculated about the development of photography. [See indexical note p283.6] "I doubt color photography: how can it ever be? There seem to be insuperable chemical difficulties in the way. Yet how can

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we doubt anything in this age? Day by day we are surprised by new ideas, theories, facts, experiments—if we can't get our heads one way we can no doubt get them another: the mine of novelty is inexhaustible. [See indexical note p284.1] You saw that portrait of somebody in the builder's magazine that was here the other day?—that I gave to McKay? I like the magazine a good lot—it is about one fifth literary: they are to use my portrait next, or next, or sometime before long."

      [See indexical note p284.2] W. is very amiable towards the portrait hunters. He gives them pretty nearly everything they ask. Cauffman is the last. W. says: "He may come—he is welcome to try—let him take a shot. Frank Fowler was to have come, too. I give the painters all the rope they want: I humor them every way I know. [See indexical note p284.3] Alexander came, saw—but did he conquer? I hardly think so. He was here several times, struggled with me—but since he left Camden I have heard neither of him nor of his picture. The Century purpose using the Alexander picture, which, indeed, I never liked. I am not sorry the picture was painted but I would be sorry to have it accepted as final or even as fairly representing my showdown. [See indexical note p284.4] I am a bit surprised too—I thought Alexander would do better, considering his reputation. Tom Eakins could give Alexander a lot of extra room and yet beat him at the game. Eakins is not a painter, he is a force. Alexander is a painter." I am to write to Morse conveying a message from W. [See indexical note p284.5] "Tell Sidney that the Whitman sent to Boston, refused everywhere there in high quarters, is to be sent to Concord, and deposited temporarily with the Concord School of Philosophy—with that institution as long as it lasts, and, in the event of its demise, with the Concord Library. The London head is still in private hands—with Mary Costelloe—has never been exhibited except that one time with Gilchrist. Mary thoroughly likes it—likes Herbert's picture, too, for that matter, as they all seem to over there. There's something in a head

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painted in that style to appeal to, convince, them: it is a good bit of coloring—is no doubt in a fine frame (you know how much that adds to it in the eyes of the world): it has the formal virtues which nine visitors out of ten in the galleries applaud."
 [See indexical note p285.1]

     W. has never seen the French bust of Emerson at Concord. "Concord is a great place. I always hold Sanborn, Frank Sanborn, to be a true friend—to stand with those who wish me well. [See indexical note p285.2] He has always treated me royally when I have been up his way. I believe Sanborn was instrumental in having the Whitman head established at Concord." W. remarked that he had not yet received any acknowledgment from Griffin of the copy of the Leaves sent to France.

     W. has not read the Emerson-Carlyle correspondence. Asked me about it. [See indexical note p285.3] "I guess I should hunt it up. Do you think I should read it? Yes? Well—I must do so. How big is it?" He wound up by asking me to bring it down to him. "I think Burroughs' analysis of Carlyle about the best I have seen. Carlyle was fed on the pabulum of European libraries: he learned above all to love strong individualities—men who would drive on to their ends through whatever obstacles—men gifted with the genius of extrication—men who were not particular how they did things but very particular to have them done. [See indexical note p285.4] Carlyle had one failing in common with Thoreau—disdain, contempt, for average human beings: for the masses of men: he never could understand that though man was in some ways a devil of a fellow, he was not all devil or even chiefly devil. These are some of the points Burroughs has neglected or not made enough of. But after all the rest is said we have yet to say of Carlyle that all that was Carlyle's was naturally his—he came honestly by it."

      [See indexical note p285.5] Referring to Mill W. said: "He excites my admiration though I have not studied him as I should." Speaking of

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Leaves of Grass editions I commended the original paper issue of Passage to India, W. assenting: "I always took a special shine to that, too. [See indexical note p286.1] My own personal choice among books is for those you can put in your pocket."

     We talked some about college men. I had kicked something on the floor. Stooped and picked it up. W. asked: "What is that?" I passed it over to him. It proved to be two letters tied in a string—both from Corson, of Cornell. [See indexical note p286.2] "College men as a rule would rather get along without me," he said: "they go so far, the best of them—then stop: some of them don't go at all. Corson seems to have signal abilities—accepts me in a general way, without vehemence. As I was saying the other day, the college men this side, the critic classes, the formidable array of the literary celebres, are almost solidly against me." W. read the Corson notes quietly, then handed them over to me. "I wonder," said W., "if Corson knew how significant that last sentence or two may be taken to be? [See indexical note p286.3] —'the tendency towards impassioned prose, which I feel will be the poetic form of the future.' Do you suppose Corson advertises that?—tells it to his classes? I don't say no—I only wonder—only wonder. I am sometimes mystified, having them say flattering things to me, here, in letters—then in their public capacities talking in a qualified or opposite strain." [See indexical note p286.4] "Have you any reason for suspecting Corson?" "None whatever—only, I wonder. His letter is friendly but he has the excessive caution of the university man. The scholar swells rarely—I may say never—let themselves go." I read the Corson notes—both of them short.


The Cornell University,
Ithaca, N.Y., 26 March, 1886.

My dear Mr. Whitman:

 [See indexical note p286.5] Allow me to introduce to your acquaintance my young friend, Mr. E. H. Woodruff, who desires the pleasure and honor of meeting you and exchang-

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ing a few words. [See indexical note p287.1] Mr. Woodruff is one of your many lovers connected with our university, and I am sure it will be a proud satisfaction to him to meet you.


I remember with great pleasure my visit to you last March, when I was on my way home from Johns Hopkins University. I brought, you will remember, a letter from Howard Furness.

I expect to be in Philada on the 1st, 2d and 3d of April, and to visit Mr. Furness; and I shall be much pleased if I can have the opportunity of again meeting you.

Hoping that you are enjoying good health,

I am, my dear sir,
Very truly yours,


Hiram Corson.



The Cornell University,
Ithaca, N.Y., 26 April, '86.

My dear sir:

 [See indexical note p287.2] I received your favor of April 13th and the book, which I am delighted to have. Pardon my delay in acknowledging, due to illness. I'm delighted to learn that your lecture and reading, in the Academy of Music, was so great a success. I hope you may repeat it for many years to come. Americans are apt to forget their great men, unless their work in this world is kept before their minds, through annual presentations of it.

It was a great disapointment to me, when I was last in Philada, that press of work, and shortness of time, did not allow me to see you. [See indexical note p287.3] When I next visit the city, I shall certainly arrange to have a talk with you, on certain points upon which I have been long pondering—one especially, that of language-shaping, and the tendency towards impassioned prose, which I feel will be the poetic form of the future, and of which, I think, your Leaves of Grass is the most marked prophecy.

Very truly yours,

Hiram Corson.



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     I asked W. "What do you want? He seems to concede a good deal." "I want nothing—he does concede: yes, concede: I suppose that is so. [See indexical note p288.1] I started of with no one to say a kind word for me—hardly a soul—and now, when people are saying kind things, I look for enthusiasm. I think Corson is judicial—probably that is what ails him. I like the outright person—the hater, the lover—the unmistakable yes or no: the street 'damn you!' or 'how are you me boy?'"

     W. is always saying to me— "I am nearly blind." He does have trouble with his eyes. But he sees things, too. Tonight he said: "One of the worst signs is my eyes—they seem to be going back on me entirely—I can't see an elephant with 'em." [See indexical note p288.2] Right afterwards while I was looking at a photograph of the Symonds home at Davos Plaz sent him by Symonds W. remarked: "And do you notice Symonds himself is down there by the shed, large as life?" I did notice Symonds. But he wasn't large as life. He was so small it would take divination or a magnifier to see him. I said so to W. and added, rallying him: "And you are the man who says he is blind!" To which W. testily replied: "Who should so well know he is blind as the man who can't see!" I laughed and was about to ask him another question but he would not let me. "Take your question to court—don't bother me with them: you ought to be a detective or a lawyer!" Symonds had written on the back of the photograph: "Am Hof, Davis Platz, Graubunden, Switzerland, 1884."


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