Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 020] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, July 20, 1888.

     Bad day again: "A great languidness, feebleness, weariness besetting me at the start and lasting all day." He also said: "It has been almost two months since I tangled myself into this snarl and I am still without the first show of substantial strength—though it is true the acute phases of my trouble are passed. I am still in the battle, though—not conquered but badly banged." Yet he advised me to write to Burroughs and say: "Tell him I send my love—tell him I suspect that I am slowly on the mend." W. remarked: "Mrs. Stafford was in today—paid me a long visit, which did me good. Mrs. Stafford is not literary—I account that one of her merits." But did she know the W. W. of Leaves of Grass? "Yes, indeed, essentially knows it well: I think she takes it in—reads nearly all my books. I always say that it is significant when a woman accepts me." Recurring to Burroughs' letter of the other day: "It's the least vital of all the notes I ever got from John. He wanted to write—felt it to be a duty to write—but having nothing to say, this was the result. Sometimes it's better sense for a fellow to simply yell hello and then stop. I am often in the hello mood myself."

     Horace Howard Furness over yesterday but did not see W. No callers today except Mrs. Stafford. Reporters drop in occasionally. Tom Harned of course. Speaking of Harlan W. said: "That act sunk him a thousand fathoms deep and he never came up. The literary fellers in Washington (there were many of them there—there are many of them there still)—hundreds of scribblers of one sort or another who today are not even a memory—writers for papers, hacks, penny-a-liners: they were all generous, frank, quick to resent a wrong: they almost instantly came to my aid, with very few exceptions indeed."

     As to criticisms of his style: "I care little for a man's means so the end comes around in its time. You might tell your friend

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 021] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Morris, the point is, not to prove your possession of a style, but to move the people along the line of their nobler impulses. The style will readily enough accommodate itself. Napoleon didn't study rules first: he first of all studied his task. And there was Lincoln, too: see how he went his own lonely road, disregarding all the usual ways—refusing the guides, accepting no warnings: just keeping his appointment with himself every time. I can hear the advisers saying scornful things to him. They offered him ready-made methods. But Lincoln would only retort: 'I want that battle fought—I want that battle won: I don't care how or when: but fought and won!'"

     No work on the Hicks today but had got ready a little manuscript not originally intended to go into the book—notes made in Washington in August and September, 1865, and a brief statement on the Harlan case not before printed: the first headed: Small Memoranda: Thousands Lost—Here One or Two Preserved: the second called A Glint Inside of Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet Before—One Item of Many. Had read some page proofs. No letters. "I tried to write Burroughs but could not nerve myself to it." Spoke of swimming: "I was never what you could call a skillful swimmer but was quite good. I always hugely enjoyed swimming. My forte was—if I can say it that way—in floating. I possessed an almost unlimited capacity for floating on my back—for however long: could almost take a nap meanwhile"—laughed: "That is to say I was very much at home in the water. I never could do any of the surprising stunts of the other boys when I was young but I was a first-rate aquatic loafer."

     Proud Music of the Storm appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, February, 1868. W. gave me some little correspondence attaching to it. It seems that he asked Emerson to intercede for him and that Emerson took the poem to Fields. W. said of the affair: "It went through without a flurry. After I had written my letter to Emerson I wondered if I had not overdone my call. But Emerson proceeded without delay: he evidently had no qualms: then Fields took the matter up offhand, writing me at once, as you

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 022] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
see. The whole business was done in about a week."
"How did you happen to appeal to Emerson as a mediator?" He laughed. "For several reasons, I may say. But the best reason I had was in his own suggestion that I should permit him to do such things for me when the moment seemed ripe for it." W. first writes Emerson. Fields then writes W. W. then writes Fields.


Washington, Nov. 30, '68.
sent Dec. 2.

Dear Mr. Emerson:

On the eve of sending the enclosed piece abroad I have taken a notion to first offer it to the Atlantic and, if not too great a liberty, to solicit your services for that purpose. I would be obliged if you would take it in to Mr. Fields the first time you go to Boston. If available at all, I propose it for the February number of the magazine. The price is one hundred dollars; and thirty copies of the number in which it may be printed. Of course Mr. F. may read this letter.

I shall require an answer from Mr. Fields within a week from the time of the reception of the piece.

I scrupulously reserve the right to print the piece in the future in my book.



Boston, Dec. 5, 1868.

My Dear Sir:

Mr. Emerson has handed me the poem which you offer to the Atlantic Monthly; which I shall gladly publish in our February number, and enclose herewith, check for one hundred dollars, the sum named in your letter to Mr. Emerson.

With best wishes, I am

Very sincerely yours

James T. Fields.



J.T. Fields, Sent Dec. 8, '68.

Dear Sir:

Your letter has come to hand, with the check for one hundred dollars, as payment in full for the piece "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm"—leaving me, however, the right to print it in future book.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 023] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Please when ready send me proof, which I will return forthwith. [W. had added and then excised this with two penstrokes: "Please send me, by express, thirty copies of the number, when ready, to my address here. With thanks and best respects."]



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.