Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 036] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, July 25, 1888.

     W. reasonably well. "My head is behaving itself right decently just now. But it's funny, how unambitious my body is. I am possessed of an incredible inclination to flop. I am like a wet rag—I seem to be eligible to do anything except stand erect. Bucke has evidently got scared about me. You haven't been telling him things to scare him? Don't do it. Just send him hurrahs. I got a letter from him today or yesterday, in which he says to me: 'Stop—stop all labor: your mind won't stand it: put the Hicks aside instantly—the book—let Horace finish it—let anybody finish it—but stop, stop, stop at once!'" W. laughed heartily. "Why, Maurice wouldn't a' made more fuss if the town was afire. I have written him that the work is doing me no harm. Why, I have been here for six weeks or more—imprisoned, practically—with nothing to think of but this. Instead of a hindrance it has been a tonic in all the dreary days. I would have died sure if I had not had this book to do. The siege is a long one—I don't know how long or when or where I shall get through with it: but I am satisfied whatever eventuates so I get my book out before the curtain is rung down."

     Spoke regretfully of the Hicks. "My infernal laziness, neglect, inanition, for thirty years or fifty or more has put this off and off till now it is no longer possible. My fatal procrastination has tripped me up at last. I wanted to write of Hicks as a democrat—the only real democrat among all religious teachers: the democrat in religion as Jefferson was the democrat in politics—and not merely to say it as I say it to you now, assertively, nakedly, but to show it, picture it, follow the lines of evidence. No one, no writer, I mean no writer of the requisite quality, has done this for Hicks. The Quakers themselves, with their damnable worldliness and fashions (or no fashions) do not understand Hicks—even those who go by his name rather fear him, do not comprehend the gospel he preached and lived. Hicks was a greater hero than any man Carlyle celebrated in his book. But is does not surprise me that nobody has written him up: he was

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 037] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
not sensational—he was too commonplace—too much like the rest of the people in his bravery to be taken for an official hero. I would have had a lot to say about his democracy. There were features in his mysticism with which I had little sympathy but the purport of his message had my entire approval. Hicks was in the last degree a simple character—carried no aureole or shrine about with him—liked to be taken for one of the crowd. He kept a house over his head and a little money in bank. He was not irresponsible—he did not default in his obligations: he lived the plainest life and he paid his bills."
Had worked on the Fox today. "My notes are very accurate. I have found by experience that when I undertook to make a historic statement my facts were straight. I have made a headline, George Fox (and Shakspere) just as I once wrote of Father Taylor (and oratory)."

     W. had a letter "from the German-Japanese Sadakichi Hartmann" today. Spoke of Hartmann's attempted Whitman club in Boston. "I want no club founded in my name." "Suppose a Whitman club could be founded without a Whitman doctrine—how would that strike you?" "That might strike me—but it is impossible." Again: "There's Sylvester Baxter—he's a theosophist and says I'm one. I had a letter from London the other day—from a young man there. He says he's a socialist—then says I'm a socialist, too. Tucker sees anarchism in the Leaves—sees me for an anarchist. So it goes." "Every man thinks you are his personal fellowman, Walt. You are in the Plato class—the world class. You include all if you can't be included." "Do you say that, knowing all it implies? Thank God! I hope I make room for all—include all—exclude nobody—nobody whatever—shut no door. If I have not achieved all I hoped for in that direction I hope I have hinted of it, started for it, made some motion as if to break the way." W. spoke of Boyle O'Reilly and O'Connor as "like as two peas in some ways"—said they both belong to the "tempest class." "Ardent Irish natures—clean, clear, afire with ideals of justice—willing, eager, anytime to live or die for justice." This was called out by a letter which W. told me to "take along and pigeon-hole."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 038] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Pilot Editorial Rooms,
March 5th, 1885.

Dear Mr. Whitman:

I am delighted to hear from you—and that you are well. The books came all right. I enclose check for them.

Phil. Bagenal writes me from London that he has lost your picture by an accident to his house—fire, I suppose; and he wants another copy, with your autograph addressed to him. (You remember that I introduced Bagenal to you; and he wrote an article about you in The Gentleman's Magazine; and he was an old friend of Standish O'Grady, &c. His name is O. H. Bagenal. He is now, by the way, doing well: assistant editor of the St. James Gazette, and private Sec. Of the Earl of Dunraven.)

When sending the photo for him, I wish you would send one to me also with your autograph, and one to Dr. Kelly. It will gratify him exceedingly. I enclose the price of the photographs. Good bye. Love to you.

John Boyle O'Reilly.


      "If you take a pinch of the best Irish salt you get the best salt of the earth," said W., again referring to O'Connor and O'Reilly. Then talked of his paralysis and the blood poisoning that led up to it. "The surgeons there in the hospitals got on to my trouble before I did myself. I seem to be remarkably constituted in one way—for being slow to affect things or be affected. I would never take a disease in a hurry—never make a convert in a hurry—and so on, so on. The trouble at Washington was the culmination of an unusual sympathetic and emotional expenditure of vital energy during those years 63-4-5: partly this and perhaps directly from the singular humor of a New York lad there in the hospitals who demanded to have me—would accept no one but me—to see him through his trouble—a whim quite frequently encountered in sick people. I attended to him—bound his wounds—did everything possible for him. He was an extreme case—an awful case—dangerous at any time as a charge. The effect upon me was slow, though one of the surgeons there finally

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 039] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
called my attention to my own peril. He said that what would have made itself manifest in most others at once took a long time to appear in me. Even now, when they give me medicine, which in other men acts in an hour or two, it sometimes takes a day or two for that medicine to take effect. I always was deliberate—except for my vigor much as you see me now. I can see why Clifford said the other day that I made him think of Socrates. I never was nervous or quick. On the other hand I had, I may say, an unusual capacity for standing still, rooted on a spot, at a rest, for a long spell, to ruminate—hours in and out sometimes. The stories of Socrates—of his courage, invincibility, nerve, inertia—are very credible: they seem quite possible: and, as you say, Horace, the non-miraculous garb in which they have come down to us does in some degree attest them."

     I heard a preacher speak of a man who was a "centerstance" rather than a "circumstance" in the universe. This struck W. as "very good" though "a bit too premeditated, deliberate." How could Clifford, being so free, talking with such freedom, stay even in a Unitarian pulpit? "It is phenomenal—it is indeed—but I do not look upon it as a condition that can last. The church is against freedom—the best church—against free interpretation—Clifford will some day rub the fur of the wrong fellow or fellows among his church-folk and then he will have to step out. It must happen sooner or later." We discussed the book. W. said: "Nobody can know our anxieties—we know: you know, I know: but, like Lincoln, while the hour is on we stick to the task resolutely and forget the hard ways by which we must effect it." Brought over today proof of pages 105, 6, 7, 8—also four galleys of the Hicks. "I see you do not mean that I shall get out of work." W. will put final touch on the Fox to-morrow. W. said, raising his right arm: "Nowhere but in this hand, wrist, arm, do I notice anything like physical vigor left: all the rest of my body has felt the irremediable nature of my recent losses. My left arm never fully recovered from the shock of 1873, though it has always been a useful remnant. My left leg was never itself again—was not restored—never reawakened."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 040] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Again expressed disappointment with the Hicks: "Let Clifford see the proofs. He may find a note or two for a text for a sermon. It is not without fear and trembling that I let it go—watch its course—send it on its voyage. What will be its effect? God knows. I have more fears than hopes. Horace, one of these days, after I am dead, when you find yourself saying things for me, say this for me—say this about Hicks: tell them how I planned for one thing and did another: repeat to them the words I have addressed to you about Hicks' democracy."


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.