Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, July 1, 1888.

     This is the Burroughs letter which W. spoke of yesterday:


West Park, N.Y., Oct. 7, '85.

Dear Walt:

 [See indexical note p404.1] We left Ocean Grove the next day after I was with you, and are now all home again, safe and snug. I gave up the Ky. trip for the present. Gilder said next spring would do, so I expect to go next May, and see the season open down there.

I hope you are still mending, Walt. I am almost certain you eat too heartily and make too much blood and fat; at least that you eat too hearty food. As I told you, I was profoundly impressed by a couple of articles in the Fortnightly Review by Sir William Thompson, on Diet with relation to Age and Activity. [See indexical note p404.2] He shows very convincingly that as our activities fail by the advance of age, we must cut down in our food. If not the engine makes too much steam, things become clogged and congested and the whole economy of the system deranged. He says a little meat once a day is enough, and recommends the cereals and fruits. I think you make too much blood. This congested condition of your organs at times, shows it. Then you looked to me too fat; and fat at your age clogs and hinders the circulation. I shall talk to my Dr. about you when I see him again, but if I were you I would adopt such a diet as would make my blood as thin as possible, and so lessen the arterial strain. [See indexical note p404.3] This is common sense and I believe good science. In the best health, we grow lean, Sir William Thompson says, like a man training for the ring. I gained much flesh this summer, and am dull and spiritless this fall, as a consequence. I must work it off some way. Drop me a card if you can how you are.

With much love,

John Burroughs.



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      "A good letter—read again," W. had written on the outside. "Yes," he said, "John about hit the truth. [See indexical note p405.1] But I have been very abstemious the past three years—very conservative—as you know, and still here I am thrown down. Well, my time has come—that is all. You see, I am somewhat of a fatalist!" Morse's letter:


Richmond, Ind., June 15, 1888.

Dear W—

 [See indexical note p405.2] I sent word by Horace one day that I had an intuition that you were about to enter upon a new lease of life. The next day the telegraph announced you were slightly improved from a severe attack of "heart failure." Now Horace writes you are quite yourself again. I take it my spirit sense of your condition is not likely to fail after all. But the hot weather is coming, and we shall get it by July good and hot. I hope you can get into comfortable shape by the time it reaches Camden.

 [See indexical note p405.3] Am glad Horace is at hand to afford any help you might need.

I have about concluded not to go to the Cin. Exposition. There is so much red tape it will cost me all of twenty dollars to exhibit a few busts. I am calculating on starting for Chicago middle of next week. I'd like to look in on the Chicago Convention—just to see the shape of the heads that are prominent.

 [See indexical note p405.4] I notice a marked difference in the political atmosphere here and in Mass. People here are more rambunctious; they get mad. The Republicans are high toned and look down on Democrats. If you show any proclivities of Democratic color they wonder how you can. How can white think well of black? And then, the anti-copperhead talk is still rampant here. The Dems are sore some over the slaughter of Gray, and Harrison would catch many sorehead votes. [See indexical note p405.5] If the Republicans have got to have a rushing campaign, they'll get it sooner with the grandson of old Tippecanoe, than with

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the cold-blooded Sherman. But I believe Blaine would sweep the States. Everybody fairly dances when his name is mentioned. Strange. I can't understand it. Somehow I am drawn personally more to Cleveland than any one of the others. [See indexical note p406.1] And yet he's a kind of a pork.


Well, this is a hot day here. I hope you keep mending and that you only went back a little for a new start.

Kindly,

Morse.


     W. amused over Morse's allusion to Cleveland. "'A kind of pork.' How good. I am like your father, too: I never can quite forget that Cleveland once hung a man with his own hands. [See indexical note p406.2] I do not seem inspired by anything that's happening in politics nowadays. In fact, nothing real is happening. New issues are forming and grave issues (among the gravest)—but they are not yet politically expressed." I will also put the W. letter to Schmidt in here. [See indexical note p406.3] W. says of it again today: "It is first-rate autobiography—I rather let myself out in that letter—gave him pointers, this and that, so as to set him right in certain particulars—in matters he could not have known nor even learned about at such a distance." In reply to my question W. said: "Yes, I was at Ocean Grove with Burroughs: it was there that I wrote With Husky Haughty Lips O Sea—a rare experience: John himself was in extra good feather." [See indexical note p406.4] There are two dates on the Schmidt letter—Jan. 16 and 20th, 1872. Here is the letter:

 [See indexical note p406.5] "Supposing that the books and papers I sent you in response to your letter have safely arrived, I thought I would now write you a few lines. What I have to submit and say I will just say without ceremony—confident you will receive it in the same spirit in which it is written. I sent you (By Mr. Clausen) my poems Leaves of Grass, and little prose

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work Democratic Vistas. Also a piece I recited at the opening of the American Institute in New York; and then several criticisms, sketches &c. about the books and about myself by different persons, from different points of view. [See indexical note p407.1] These will furnish you with sufficient material for your examination, digest and proposed review.


 [See indexical note p407.2] "When you are composing your review, I would like to have you bring in, in the proper place, the following mentioned facts—that neither my book of poems or Democratic Vistas is cordially accepted in the United States—nor do any of the chief Literary persons or organs of that country admit Leaves of Grass as having (possessing) any value or recognize the author as a poet at all—that he has indeed been ignominiously dismissed from a moderate government employment by special order of a cabinet officer at Washington, for the sole and avowed reason that he was the writer of the book—that, up to this time, no American publisher will publish it (the author having had to print its various editions himself)—that many of the bookstores refuse to keep it for sale—and that the position of the author both as to literary rank and worldly prosperity, in his own country, has been and remains to day under a heavy and depressing cloud. [See indexical note p407.3]

 [See indexical note p407.4] "Of course at the same time you will hardly need to be told that my book is written in the sun, and with a gay heart—for these surely fully belong to me. But I think a good foreign criticism of my works would be more complete by giving these facts above, for they are substantial facts, notwithstanding a very few exceptions, and in truth they are a necessary part of any complete criticism.

 [See indexical note p407.5] "Abroad, my book and myself have had a welcome quite dazzling. Tennyson writes me friendly letters. Freiligrath translates and commends me. Robert Buchanan, Swinburne, the great English and Dublin colleges, affectionately receive me and doughtily champion me. And

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while I, the author, am without any recompense at all in America, the English pirate-publisher, Hotten, draws a handsome annual income from a bad London reprint of my poems.


 [See indexical note p408.1] "I wish you to speak of the purpose of Democratic Vistas—(It is at present in danger of falling still-born here.)

"I should be glad to hear more from you, your magazine, your country too. For all, accept my friendliest good wishes.

"Direct, W. W. Solicitor's office. Treasury, Washington, D.C. United States America.

Later[See indexical note p408.2] Upon reading over my letter, previous to mailing it, I had almost decided not to send it as a part of it may be open to the suspicion of querulousness—yet as nothing can be further from my real state of mind (which is more than satisfied with my literary fortune upon the whole) I will let it go."


     I said to W.: "I'm glad you put your 'Later' in the Schmidt letter." "Why?" "I hate to seem to hear you growl over the treatment you have received. You have never growled to me." "I should hope not. Did the letter sound like a growl?" "Part of it—yes." "I must have suspected that myself—that's probably the explanation of the 'Later.'" I asked W.: "Did you ever meet with any experience you did not expect? When you started out doing an unusual thing did you not expect an unusual reception or no reception at all?" "Yes—yes: to be sure." "Then a growl would not have been in order." [See indexical note p408.3] "No—it would not: and if I have ever said or written anything to you or anybody which seemed to be a growl I ought to be ashamed of myself." "After all—did you care what the world thought of you?" "Yes, I cared—but not enough to give up my fight."


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     This day, Sunday, in at W.'s at 7.30. Day had been a bad one again, though he had eaten somewhat better than yesterday, especially towards evening. He said to me earnestly: "Physically I seem to be about done for—and mentally, too—all done for, for that matter." [See indexical note p409.1] "Do you mean that you give up?" This fired him. "Hardly that—hardly that: but I don't seem no good nohow"—laughing gently. He has spoken much in the same vein to Mrs. Davis. He went on in this way to Mrs. Davis: "I feel that Dr. Bucke brought me out of the last bad spell. The Doctor called it vertigo, but he's not entirely right—it's paralysis, Mary. I know if Bucke don't, for I've had many of these attacks—know just what they are—all of them coming from the severe illness I had after the war. [See indexical note p409.2] I've pulled through them all, so far, but whether I'll pull through this I don't seem to know. Some day, however, there'll be one from which I won't pull out. I am in the midst of printing my little book—something I ought to have finished six months ago: and now I find I can't work at all. I don't know what I should have done if it hadn't been for Horace's stepping in as he did, lending a hand, helping me out: he is so kind, willing, able—he so well understands the job, understands me."

     W. reading the N. A. Review Lincoln vol. when I entered. [See indexical note p409.3] Closed it, took off his spectacles and said: "Lincoln don't need adorers, worshippers—he needs friends. I take this book up a little now and then, to see what can be made of it. The great danger with Lincoln for the next fifty years will be that he will be overdone—overexplained, over-exploited—made a good deal too much of—gather about himself a rather mythical aureole. There was James Parton, who used to say of Washington: 'He's no real man—no such man ever existed—history warrants no such character.' The same danger threatens Lincoln—dear Lincoln: threatens to remove him from the list of living men and women and set

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him up among the false historic worthies—the wooden gods of the calendar—God save the sad mark! [See indexical note p410.1] Oh! that little Herald piece awhile ago in which something of this kind was said was very keen, cute, profound."

     W. reading "tariff talk" in Phila. Press today. "I believe all this argument in favor of a tariff is stale, flat—utterly and irretrievably stupid beyond any conceivable limit. Such tariff talk is utterly asinine. [See indexical note p410.2] A mixture of dishwater, mud, old rags, dirty personalities, without any title whatever to respect. Certainly there's something to be said for the tariff by somebody, but just as certainly these fellows don't say it." W. showed me a copy of the English edition of his prose—Democratic Vistas, &c.—just out, and of Specimen Days. "I got fifty copies of the book—have given twenty-five away. [See indexical note p410.3] I get published, in spite of my enemies." "Your enemies never really hurt you?" "Never: they delayed me some, that's all." Mrs. Davis brought him an apron full of chicks. He fondled them, called them "dears"—was pleased—hated to have them taken away. Clifford today gave me two portraits of Hilda, his little girl. W. studied them with greedy eyes. "How lovely they are! They make me feel young again—they put new blood into me: they revive my dead ambitions." [See indexical note p410.4] W. had autographed some of the Whitman bas-reliefs made by Morse. Did two for me. "I think highly of the medallion—very highly indeed: it impresses me as a very significant piece of work. Morse gets the spirit of a face: gives up the letter if need be for the spirit." W. gave me an envelope containing a clipping from Bell's Weekly Messenger and Farmers' Journal treating of the celebration of W. W.'s birthday. [See indexical note p410.5] "Yes, we leak out into other countries, too." Said he had as yet no note from any one abroad concerning his recent illness. Sent one of the new English books to Bucke. Gave me copy up to the Hicks. "I hate to admit it," he said, "but I am so devilish poorly I shall be forced to ask you to extricate the Hicks hodge-

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podge from a mass of manuscripts here on my table."
 [See indexical note p411.1] As I was leaving W. said: "You will be hearing from Gilder, Burroughs, Stedman, Kennedy, the boys everywhere: you will know what to say to them: say the right word—say it as from me: say it with love—yes, with dear love: tell them how helpless I am to act for myself except through you: but give them my love—always that, to the last always that."


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