Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, July 30, 1888.

     This has been one of W.'s worst days. "It may be the weather—it is most likely something else. I haven't cast out all of my devils yet." Brought him new proofs which he at once glanced over. Was astonished to find that the Last of the War Cases made nine pages. "I do little nowadays but sit and thank my stars that I have fallen into such good hands in the time of my need." Today for the first time since taking Baker's place Musgrove found W. willing to invite assistance. Harned and his little girl Anna came in. No letter from Bucke. Spoke of it. Bucke's letters have become a part of W.'s routine. "I sent off a package of papers to Nellie O'Connor—O'Connor's wife." Harned asked: "Is she a bright woman?" "Bright? Quite so—remarkably so—interested in the big things always—a rare beautiful woman: sweet, equable, calm." After a pause: "Did you know O'Connor is writing a long reply to Donnelly's critics in this Shakespeare business? I have no doubt it will be very bright—brighter than Donnelly himself, by far. William is thoroughly grounded in the lore of that period—no man more so: I am convinced that he understands the philosophy of that

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question much better than Donnelly himself. But while Donnelly's knowledge is not novel, he has put it better than any of his predecessors—than Delia Bacon, for instance, to cite one of them. To me Donnelly's general argument was conclusive: I was in fact ready to be convinced and he passed along and drew me after him. Mine was no sudden conversion, however—it was the outcome of years of study and thought: I drifted, drifted, always in one direction, and arrived at last."
W. very animated. Harned sat down. They went on for some time about Bacon.

     W. said of yesterday's Press piece: "The more you look at it the worse it seems." Did he expect to make any money out of November Boughs? He laughed: "If I get out of it what I put into it I will be lucky: if I got in addition a little fob of bills for my vest-pocket here I would feel like a millionaire." Harned put in: "I suppose the book will be a dollar and a half." W. shook his head. "No—that's too much: not more than a dollar and a quarter at the most—a dollar if possible." W. added, answering another question of Harned's: "I like to keep my prices down to the level of my real friends. The people with money wouldn't buy me anyhow. I must make it possible for the people without money to buy me."

     W. expressed great happiness over what he construed to be O'Connor's "improved condition." "They are a part of me—I am a part of them—William, Nellie. They received me with open arms when I was rejected—they were my dearest, dearest friends, staunchest from the start. They have had their profound sorrows—children lost, two children, one of them a girl, a fine girl who almost grew up." Spoke of the precautions necessary for him to maintain his health. "I must do nothing now to stop the book: I mustn't be the cow to upset the pail of my own milk." Asked Harned to bring him some pears. "They are divine food when the stomach is ready for prayer." Did not go down stairs today, as he threatened last night. "The fact is, I forgot all about it—the spirit did not move me." Harned remarked that the campaign was cool now but would

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be hot in the fall. W. denied it. "No—cool then, too. What is there for anybody to enthuse over? The real issues are not in politics yet. I notice the Press has its flings, slanders—prods itself into anger: but what does that amount to?" Harned withdrew with his youngster. We then had some talk over the letters he gave me yesterday. I spoke in such enthusiastic terms of the O'Connor letter that W. said: "Read it to me again—I would like to hear it read again: I have to read it myself a dozen times." He smiled quietly: "When William gets going he is more exciting than an alarm of fire. Read it." So I read.


Washington, D.C., July 20, 1882.

Dear Walt:

I just have your postal of the 19th, announcing the first edition out and gone in a day! Hooray! Come on, Vice Society!

I am rejoiced. Rees, Welsh and Co ought to have printed more, but no matter. If they manage right now, they can secure a prodigious sale. The main thing is not to be afraid, but to face persecution. The thunderstorm mounts against the wind.

Comstock is here, probably merely on Post Office business, he being a special agent. If he is moving against your book, I shall hear of it. But the Department is in his way, as he will find. He ought to be pitched out of the public service.... I just want a square chance—a clear sight—to embalm him in a letter. Properly shown up he would be bounced.

I have a bad dose in preparation for Tobey. There has been some delay, work presses me so much, together with the load of the dog-day weather, and I have been really quite ill for a week with a severe cold. I wish I could go North for a while to recover.

I got the Press you sent with the Rev. Mr. Morrow's remarks, which I had already seen in the Tribune. He is a pearl among clergymen, and I feel grateful to him. I heard a story once how the brilliant Douglas Jerrold astonished an evening party in London by a constant fire of jeu de mots for hours, which continued until every person in the room, man or woman, had been

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the subject of a jest or epigram, always splendid and nearly always tart. Finally, when the admired wit was leaving, every eye fixed upon him, every ear bent to hear whatever he might utter, Charles Knight, the historian, whose sweetness of nature made him loved by all, standing near the door, said to him with a smile, "You've said something this evening about everyone here except me, Douglas; have you nothing to say about me?" "Yes," replied Jerrold, tenderly pressing his hand as he went away, "Good Knight!" I feel like imitating this wit, and saying, not in parting but in welcome, to our new friend, "Good Morrow."


I have an immensely cordial letter from Dr. Channing, who says he is going to write to you.

Send me one of the new edition when you can.

Faithfully,

W. D. O'Connor.


      "Yes," said W., "I was selling books then: they went like hot cakes. I never sold them before, I have never sold them since. The next thing to being fashionable is to be unfashionable. Did you notice William's fling at Comstock? What a foolish question—of course you noticed it. The best or the worst of it is, it is all deserved. Of course we should always admit with regard to Comstock that he is what he is for reasons: he is quite honest in all his imbecility." W. thought the "Good Morrow" incident in the letter, "most characteristic of William—most beautiful: just like him in every way," adding: "You know William never stopped to invent, to manufacture, such things—they just came to him, were in and out in a flash." When I asked him about G. C. Macaulay W. said: "He once wrote a paper about me and published it somewhere or other—I don't this minute just recollect where. Didn't you like his letter? It was very warm—very comfortable: like a fire for your backbone when you go in out of the cold. I just nestle up to some letters as if I needed them the worst way. Then you must remember that more things are coming our way now than five

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or ten or twenty years ago."
W. likes to have me read letters to him. He settles himself comfortably in his chair or on the bed listening, sometimes interrupting with comments, though inarticulate. So he had me read Macaulay, though he was quite well aware of the contents of the letter.


Rugby, England, Jan. 9th, 1883.

Sir:

I have received the copy of the Specimen Days and Collect which you were so kind as to send me, and I hope to have the opportunity soon of saying what I think about it in some English periodical. [ "Funny," said W., breaking in, "he did write but I can't for the life of me think of the magazine he got his essay into"]. I have been deeply interested in the book, especially in so far as it supplies the "embryons" of Leaves of Grass, and I am especially gratified to receive it from yourself. My acquaintance with Leaves of Grass dates from my early university days some ten years ago, when having come across Rossetti's edition of selections I was induced soon after to get a complete edition. Since then I have never neglected them, and often enjoyed the effect of awakening others to a perception of its great force and beauty, which being accompanied by so much which (justly or unjustly) excites prejudice, are too often overlooked. As regards the new book, which I have eagerly read, some of it was familiar to me already, e.g. Democratic Vistas—but Specimen Days was entirely new and altogether delightful. I am inclined to think that it will place many readers in a better position to appreciate Leaves of Grass than heretofore.

With thanks both for this book and for former benefits received, I remain—

Yours faithfully,

G. C. Macaulay.


     After I was through reading the letter I had to get out to meet an engagement. I wanted to talk with W. some about the Rolleston and Redpath letters but put it off. Before I left he said: "You must never drop the reins—I am depending upon

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your firm hand in our affairs to bring this journey to a successful finish."
He asked me: "Do you go to New York sometimes?" and after my answer said: "You should some day drop in on the Gilders—they would be glad to see you. You mustn't suppose Watson is the only member of the household who is worth while: after you see Mrs. Watson you will find yourself acknowledging a divided allegiance. Women are often the silent partners but they are quite as essential to the business of life as the men-crowd with their incessant catawauling. Look at me—sitting here all my days now, talking, talking, like a dictionary with legs on and a mouth."


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