Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, June 23, 1888.

      [See indexical note p371.2] Improvement in W.'s condition today. He seems to alternate bad with good days. But on the whole he mends. He said of the change: "I woke right up this morning, which is significant—escaping, this time, the usual strange extreme lethargy. I have eaten freely and seem to digest my food: have felt altogether better, except, perhaps, at the top, which will finally feel the effects of my bodily rehabilitation I am sure. [See indexical note p371.3] So you see, my flag is no more at half mast: I feel the touch of life again!" In his mail was a postal card from Paris addressed to him as "the American poet." This is what was written on the card:

      [See indexical note p371.4] "Read the histories of Lourdes and LaSalette, and, if you relish them, the lives of St. Peter and Paul (Catholic). You might also read the Catholic life of Jesus Christ. Pray St. Peter and Paul to cure you and have votive masses (P. and P.) prayers and communions made on 29 June, 30 June and 1 August. Buy pictures of them and hang them in your room; or buy statues. P. and P. will be pleased at your intercession."

      [See indexical note p371.5] This was unsigned. W. remarked: "When I was in Washington it was surprising how many Catholic priests I came to know—how many took the trouble to get acquainted with me—on what good terms we kept with each other. I

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think we were unified on the strength of the deeply religious, deeply adoring, spirit that was patent behind our differences of technology, theology—our differences of lingo, name. Perhaps this postal is the reflection of that experience—grew out of it—who knows? [See indexical note p372.1] I do not make light of such messages—indeed, they have a profound place in my consideration. Of course I haven't a particle of faith in Lourdes—in faith cures—bones of saints, such things—not a shred of it—not the first sign of a sign of it—but this postal has for me a meaning quite apart from the literal yes or no of Lourdes—a meaning at least of sympathy, helpfulness, service. [See indexical note p372.2] People often speak of the Leaves as wanting in religion, but that is not my view of the book—and I ought to know. I think the Leaves the most religious book among books: crammed full of faith. What would the Leaves be without faith? An empty vessel: faith is its very substance, balance—its one article of assent—its one item of assurance."

     Harned came in. Back from Chicago today. W. inquired a little about events connected with the convention but seemed soon tired of discussing it. Harned said: "The candidate of the convention is as good as elected." W. shook his head. "I don't know about that, Tom. The two hundred thousand strangers in Chicago, the enthusiasm—hurrah—of the convention; the parades, the torchlights, the hilarity, may mean a good deal or seem to; but back of all that, beyond all that, there is a great broad margin of fact in the country at large to be considered. [See indexical note p372.3] The people are lethargic—let things go—suffer themselves to be milked and thrown away by a class of political scoundrels—they are so patient, often so stupid—blind to their own divine descent—but finally they revolt—are up in arms—raise hell. Then look out! But they are so slow—so slow! This year or some year the people will do some new things for America—hardly this year—the soil is not yet sufficiently

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prepared—but some year. I wish the people believed in themselves as much as I believe in them!"
 [See indexical note p373.1] Harned remarked: "Walt, you used to call yourself a Republican?" "So I did." "And don't you still call yourself a Republican?" "God help me, no. I suppose I don't call myself anything. I'm no Democrat, either. Republican? with the Republican high tariff, high property principles or no principles? Hardly." Then W. added: "Anyway, Tom, you look well—the convention did you good: that's the best thing I've heard in connection with it. As to its forty-nine articles—they scare me."

     Asked for the "news." "My Herald is stopped and I do not regret it: my subscription is run out. [See indexical note p373.2] As long as it came I read it as a sort of duty—that is about the truth. I don't suffer for want of papers in any event. I have not sent the Herald anything for a month." Had read some proof today. I brought over two additional galleys of matter. "I hope for the real privilege this time," said W.; "for strength—renewed life. [See indexical note p373.3] I am very eager to go on with our work: nothing can take the place of that. I guess that is the instinct that has kept me alive the past fortnight."

      [See indexical note p373.4] I quoted Kennedy's letter to me, received today, in which he accused Frank Williams of "plagiarizing" him "unmercifully" in The American last week. This seemed to excite W.'s humor. He laughed in his quiet hearty way. "Nonsense," he said: "Kennedy is over-vehement. Frank don't need to steal—he has treasure enough in himself. And Kennedy?—why should he get excited? We might steal a lot from Kennedy and he would have plenty left. [See indexical note p373.5] Nonsense! You might get Kennedy's pamphlet and just look it over if you are at all curious, as I am not."

      [See indexical note p373.6] Gave W. The American, this week's, containing a paper from Charles Morris—anti-Whitman in tendency—starting out with a confession that he knew little of W. W. direct

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—had read little, &c. &c.—but—. W. burst out into an audible smile. [See indexical note p374.1] "It is like them—very like them: to rush into the arena without the necessary weapons. When Morris said that he pleaded guilty—his paper was out of court." Says Bucke saved his life— "his skill, decision, brotherliness, pulled me ashore." Bucke's letter of 21st asks if W. has yet signed the will. He has not. The original will, written by himself, and Harned's draft of another, still lie on the table. [See indexical note p374.2] W. said humorously: "Bucke has not heard: we are not going to die yet." W. was elected a member of the Society of Old Brooklynites in 1880. "I submitted to it as to a necessary courtesy—that was all." I read him Sidney Morse's long letter of the 20th. He spoke appreciatively of Morse's "vivid and telling style." [See indexical note p374.3] "Sidney writes with great ease—without the slightest ponderosity—straight to the point. The best writing has no lace on its sleeves."


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