Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 524] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, October 24, 1888.

     8 P. M. When I called, found the vestibule door unfastened and apparently no one about—neither nurse nor Mrs. Davis nor

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 525] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
any other. W. reading when I entered. Shook hands and asked me at once: "How did you get in?—was the door open?" and then: "Mr. Musgrove went away several hours ago—has not appeared since—so I sent Mary to the postoffice." I had never heard him in all the months before express any desire for the presence of a nurse—even care where the nurse might be—but this evening he said: "I do not like his staying so long and saying nothing: when he goes off for any length of time he should leave word,"—not disagreeably said, or irritatedly. He insists on that evening mail: it is always a matter of greatest interest to him. Mrs. Davis entered a few minutes after to say there was nothing. He was satisfied. Said there had been no mail to-day anyhow—not a letter, not a paper— "no letter even from Bucke." Still professes great satisfaction with the little picture.

     McKay has sent copies of N. B. to some papers. W. said: "I don't attach much importance to sending the book broadcast: a half dozen papers in New York, wisely chosen—they seem to be required—and one or two in Boston and Philadelphia and Chicago: why should we go farther than that? There will be enough reviews and to spare by and bye—at the best they offer no attraction to me. I do not agree with Dave that the book will sell: it may have a purchaser here or there but will get no vogue. I never have sold to any extent except on the two or three occasions when the law got after me and stirred up a sort of indecent curiosity concerning my work. In the case of the big book my design is to get everything safely into authentic shape before speculating upon the money returns. Bucke calls this my 'bible.' Call it that—call it anything: it is important for me just now to get it out, leaving its fate to the world. My anxiety is all centered at one spot—to get the job well done before I receive another blow between the eyes making any further literary work altogether impossible." "You have said you didn't believe you would ever receive such a blow." "Yes—so I have—and I still say so: but I want to provide for the other contingency." Showed him another proof of title

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 526] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
page text. He liked its general appearance. He regarded it dubiously at one spot. Pointing with his finger to the lines below the portrait, "authenticated," &c., he asked: "Didn't I have the word 'revisions' there in the copy? Was it not there?" then answering himself: "Yet I guess not." I said: "Well—put it in now." He hesitated a minute, looked at me, then shook his head: "No: if it was there I might say it should stay there, but as it is not there I am not moved to insert it." Then asked about the line "Walt Whitman": "Is it too big?" Finally satisfied with it.

     Mentioned Lippincott's. "The whole of that Rebel editor's diary appears in the November issue. I sent it to Dr. Bucke—tore out the leaves: rolled the rest of the magazine up with some other papers and mailed it to the Asylum. You know, I send a bundle of stuff—papers, odds and ends—every week." He pointed across the room to the trunk: "You might throw those leaves out in the hall-way: they commence to smell rather strong: Musgrove objects to them strongly—I suppose I should yield: but I like anything that savors of the open air—flowers, anything. Some one kindly brought that bunch of green in the other day: I have derived great pleasure from it." W. is worried some over O'Connor. "I'm afraid something pretty serious is the matter with him: Bucke is down in the mouth about it all: Bucke is very shrewd—knows. I look into my mail hoping to get some intelligence to cheer me but the chances of that are very slight." He turned to the table picked up a letter written so faintly with thin ink it was almost impossible to decipher. "What do you think of that?" Then leaned over and pushed books and papers about on the floor until he found an envelope addressed in his own hand and postmarked "Burlington, Vermont." "Is there any excuse for that going wrong?" he asked, and indeed there was not. "Yet it went to Englewood and came here a day or two belated marked 'Missent.' It is about my dear sister at Burlington. Doctor handed me the letter while you were here: I opened it just after you had gone—hurried as best I could to the door to call you back, thought you

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 527] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
could read it for me: but you had got away. So Mary came up: she has cute eyes: she read it for me—studied it out. It is written by a woman who helps my sister: my sister has jaundice—is in bed—can do little for herself: I have been in a great worry about her."
Here he picked up the letter again: "And then this letter is very indefinite, too: I sent some money and other things I wished her to have—but there is no word of acknowledgment here."

     He returned me this evening the Mrs. Carlyle letters and two volumes of the Emerson-Carlyle correspondence—third volume missing; could not with his "best efforts hit upon it in the mess on the floor." Tom Harned had said something about reading them. W. said: "Let him go at it: it's a great mixture—there are a great many things in that pot." He is "glad" he has "taken it all in now that it is done." I asked if he had yet examined the Conway books. "Yes, I have read them—as much of them as I care to: they're too much in the essay line to suit me. Conway always excites both my interest and my suspicion." We spoke of the "Hobby Horse Guild" periodical which I casually picked up from the floor. "It's whole virtue is in the printing and paper," he believed: "See the printing! and this paper"—feeling it: "As for the matter, it's poor enough, I guess: I do not read it." He pointed to a picture—Rene's Honeymoon: "See this—see the pictures: what are they? Not for us, at any rate. But as for paper and printing—where can we find another periodical like it: where such splendid paper, such press work? Surely not in America. The book is produced by a circle of young fellows over there—artists, writers: seems to me to show some color of affectation—style." He asked me further whether I didn't think anyhow that "the English artists are bitten with the ambition of richness, luxury?" "Yet these fellows," he reflected again, "are most of them poor enough, I guess; work for a living, some or all of them—get pay for all their work." "Was William Morris one of them?" he questioned himself. I doubted, and he said: "He appears at times—you'll find his name in some of the numbers: if not one of them,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 528] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
they hang on to the tail of his coat, anyhow."
He referred to Rhys. "I don't think he mingles with that crowd: his circle is quite another: he gets into generally wholesome connections." A little later in my stay W. handed me an English letter with the remark: "You will like to see this." He had drawn his blue pencil across both pages. Laughed. "It seemed such a nice sheet of paper I thought I would use the back of it for something or other: afterwards it occurred to me that the letter really belonged to you: now you have it. It came from that Hobby Horse crowd we have just been talking about." This is the letter.


London, Oct. 1, 1888.

Dear Mr. Whitman—

I have asked our new agents for America to send you a copy of the October number of the Hobby Horse, hoping you may find something in it to interest you.

I am glad to hear from Mrs. Costelloe that you have recovered from your late illness. Ernest Rhys, who is now away in Wales, brought back golden accounts of the delightful time he had in America and during his stay with you.

I do not know if you write much fresh work now. But if you would see your way to send us some little contribution of your own for our Magazine, nothing would give us greater pleasure. Unlike in so many ways as our own efforts may seem to your poetry, we have a very genuine and great admiration for your work, and to see your name on our pages, although the contribution be only a few lines, we should regard as a distinct privilege. I believe you are aware that the Hobby Horse is entirely a labor of love.

Now that Herbert Gilchrist is in Philadelphia I suppose you see him often. Pray give my love to him and say I am expecting a letter saying where I may write to him.

Sincerely yours,

Herbert P. Horne.


     I said to W. : "That don't sound degenerate." "Did I say degenerate? Hardly: that certainly would not be the word: I

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 529] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
would say, rather—disciples of finesse—advocates of taste, laces, bindings, ornamentation—protagonists of filigree: tailor-men—an estheticism that far from meaning beauty means to me only a sickly sweetness: that's more what I meant."
No word to either of us about N. B. from Burroughs, Morse, Stedman or T. Williams. W. said last: "How can I ever pay my debt to you?" I asked in return: "How can I ever pay my debt to you?" He took my hand, pressed it—then said: "How can we?" I finally suggested: "Let's pair off and say no more about it either side." He nodded a smiling assent: "You have a way sometimes of settling my difficulties for me. Yes, let's pair off." "It's easy for love to pair off," I said. He added: "It's easy for love to do miracles!"


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.