Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, July 21, 1888.

     Day favorable, W. at last tackling the Hicks manuscript. "I have been wondering whether I should write some prefatory note or not. I started something with that end in view, but my condition at the time was rather dubious, so that I am not sure whether it may not have to be rejected. I find that as soon as I can do any work at all I want to do too much. The Hicks needs little re-writing but many after-touches."

     Letters to W. today from Bucke, Rhys and Charlotte Fiske Bates. He said of the latter: "She is itching to write books—does write poetry some, I think. It is always a serious disease—sometimes even fatal: a few recover entirely unhurt—but very few." Growls about Bucke's handwriting. "It's all in up and down angles—sharp, like his voice: I never get used to it." I said I had no trouble with it. W. smiled and replied: "That's right—contradict me." He went on to say something about his own hand. "My writing has been clear from the start—almost from boyhood: not beautiful, but legible." He called my attention to a letter from the West and called it "empty". "People often sit down to write letters much as the professional author sits down to work: they have nothing to say but say a great deal about saying nothing." Speaking of his brain inertia he said: "It's as though you tried to make something fluid out of something all slush, squid." Handed me a book—Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances: Bohn, 1848. "You have read it? No? Well take it along—look through it. I think it is better than Percy's Reliques: richer, deeper, larger. But you should have a copy of your own."

     Talked some about the tariff. "The politicians do not deal fair with the people, though that is nothing new. They keep the question of the tariff remote, distant, like a priesthood: they

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won't let the subject reach the people in the right way. Republican newspapers are now all flings, libels, slanders, smart paragraphs, light assertions: not one of them ever stops its humbug to make a respectable statement."
Then referred to newspapers generally: "They are all getting into the hands of millionaires. God help our liberties when money has finally got our institutions in its clutch."

     A good day having come at last after much waiting he tried to improve its hours. Pushed along a bit on the Hicks. "I see the importance of going while I can. I can never know when the door will be banged shut in my face." W. gave me a Dante portrait which Symonds had once sent him. It bears this on the reverse, in S.'s own hand: "Portrait of Dante copied from a fine Lithograph (published by the Arundel Society) of a fresco Portrait Discovered in Florence 1840 or 1848 said to be painted by Giotto vide Longfellow's notes to his translation of Dante." "The face is wonderfully clean-cut," said W.: "the face of a man who was quits with the impurities of life. To get that in a face much has to be lost as well as won. Dante is unquestionably one of the first-class men, if there are classes in men: he is up on the peak—high up: emancipated, in a way, from the tendencies of the flesh. I do not make too much of that—attach any exclusive importance to it: the flesh, too, has its divine (who knows, maybe the divinest) uses: still, the Dantesque sort of man is vital, must be reckoned with, stands in this thing or that for the supreme ideals. They are not my ideals but they are ideals—very lofty ideals."


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