Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, July 29, 1888.

     W. spent a pretty good day reading proof and writing letters, the almost inevitable note to Bucke among them. Appetite not bad. Still weak. He stepped into the hallway yesterday and threw some soiled clothes down stairs. Mrs. Davis cried: "You must be feeling stronger!" but he demurred: "I'm not, Mary: I feel as weak as a cat." Said he had "a few vague suspicions of returning strength but very few." Gave me a Bucke

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letter mostly talking about W.'s health. He had read the Press article about himself today. It contained a good picture of the house and lots of cheap talk about W. and his habits since the attack in June. W. asked: "Could we call that flat? it certainly is stale and unprofitable: but we should not complain—it could so easily have been worse: we may congratulate ourselves upon being let off with such slight damage." Then he laughed and added: "We could do better than that ourselves." Told me he had been reading Moore, Scott and Burns today. "I go to them again and again in certain humors: they are very consoling." Added a paragraph to the prefatory Note going with the Hicks. Changes not many—several of them, however, characteristic: for instance, where he had "father and mother" he made it now "dear, dear father and mother." Read eight galleys of the Hicks and four of the Last of the War Cases. Nothing left to go into type except the Hicks notes and the Fox paper.

     W. asked me whether I had seen The American this week? "Here it is—and it contains a paper by Miss Repplier. It is curious and unfortunate that this should be the best of the lot so far." He read a tariff interview had by some reporter with Ingersoll. "I like Ingersoll, sure enough, but his logic in this matter is queer, to say the least. What will America do? Is she for the great mass of men?—the race, the whole globe? No man is a democrat, a true democrat, who forgets that he is interested in the welfare of the race. Who asks only, what is best for America? instead of, what is best for man—the whole of man? Is a man a citizen of Camden only? No—no indeed. And if not of Camden, not of New Jersey, nor even of America. No—no—no—no: a man is no democrat if he takes the narrow in preference to the broad view. He may talk of democracy, of the people, but it's all a lie—all false—nothing but nuts crackling under a pot. I am not interested in what Carnegie is doing to establish libraries abroad but in what he is doing to keep peace with and render justice to his men here. My item in Specimen Days asking what the working man gets out of the tariff

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still holds good. I haven't grown conservative on that question with age."

     W. answering my inquiry said: "No, I didn't go down stairs today. To-morrow I'm going to make a motion for doing so though I don't know as the motion will be carried: I must go, if only for a few minutes. I want to prove to you fellows—to myself—that I've not entirely gone up the spout." I protested some. He laughed. "Oh! it won't hurt me: my caution, you remember, is six and over! I shall go only when the spirit moves me: if it don't move then not at all. I find the best way to spend my days—at least did long ago—is the free way: not to make plans, but to go this path or that as the mood dictates." Gave me the Hicks picture—the Inman—with many admonitions to me to see that the engraver took good care of it. On a November Boughs proof page given me for size W. wrote: "Size of page Nov: Boughs to picture is illustrate." That's the way his phrases mix up occasionally, especially in writing. When he speaks a confused sentence he corrects it at once. I suggested that he should preserve the manuscript of November Boughs. He acquiesced. "The first manuscript copy of the Leaves—1855—the first edition—is gone—irretrievably lost—went to the ragman: the copy for the Osgood edition I think is still about somewhere. But I make nothing of that—of the money value of the manuscripts—attach no importance to curios. The collectors are inflamed with the curio desire but to me the appetite is unwholesome—at least never excited even my momentary interest. And yet," he reflected, "for Eddy's sake it might be wise for me to husband such stuff—though I don't know: even that seems to me rather wide of the mark. I have for years done so many things with reference to Eddy—have stinted, spared, saved, put by, cherished, watched—so that I might not slip cable some day with him unprovided for. Eddy is helpless: has been at Moorestown—is shortly to go elsewhere: was a poor, stunted boy almost from the first. He had the convulsions—it was all up with him—the infernal, damnable, fits, that left him not half himself from that time on

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forever."
I said to W.: "There is a line in Faces that always makes me think of Eddy." He replied: "There should be several. Eddy had much to do with the inspiration of that poem." I quoted this: "I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother." "Yes," said W. "that's one line—you might take the whole verse." I reminded W. of one of my sisters similarly afflicted. "Yes, I remember: Tillie: poor dear little Tillie! but she never was so far gone as Eddy, who practically has never had any mental life at all: who has lived in darkness, eclipsed almost from the start." Paused. "And so I turn every thing I can into provisioning for him. The little property—Lord knows it's little enough: all, all, for Eddy—for such boon as it may bring to him after I am gone." I found on the floor a slip containing a prose paragraph which may be taken as the origin of the first stanza of By Blue Ontario's Shore. I made this guess to W. He said: "Let me see it." Took it—looked it over—handed it back. "No doubt you are right: I remember. Get the book—let's hear how the poem reads." A copy of the book was on the table in front of him. I read to him. He concluded: "You guessed right first time. That's more than I could have done." This is the way the slip read:

      "A song America demands that breathes her native air—an utterance to invigorate Democracy. Democracy, the destined conqueror—(yet treacherous lip-smiles everywhere, and death and infidelity at every step.) Of such a song let me, (for I have had that dream,) initiate here the NOVICE'S ATTEMPT,—and bravos to the bards, who coming after me, do better far."

     The last phrase had originally read: "to those who, coming after me, do better." As I was leaving W. remarked: "I was destroying some papers today but I saved a few for you." I kicked at once. "I knew you would growl—but no matter—you growl but you do not bite. I am, in fact, Horace, saving you all the essential things—the things that make history: what

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I chuck away or burn up is not worth while keeping either for your purposes or mine. Here—take this bunch with my blessing and be happy. He was ahungry and I gave him meat: I feed you with the food you love!"
He seemed to enjoy himself a big lot while he was saying this. Then he passed a little package over to me. "You can carry this stuff along with you in your side pocket. If they arouse any questions you can put your questions to me to-morrow." The packet tied with a string contained several Redpath letters and single letters from Rolleston, O'Connor, G. C. Macaulay, W. W., and a receipt to Allen Thorndike Rice from W. W. I looked them over a bit before going home and said to W.: "Yes, this is a full meal." He chuckled gleefully. "I am glad to satisfy you now and then. One of my main concerns in life nowadays is to keep you in good humor."


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