Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 1st, 1888.

     7.45 p.m. W. relieved today. Headache gone. Digestion improved. The difference was at once apparent in his talk. He cheerfully told me to bring up a chair and sit down. Then asked what I had done today. Brown asked for a darker original for reproduction. We afterwards searched for it. Was in to see McKay who had a letter from Dillingham asking for a copy of November Boughs and terms. McKay asked: "When will the book be ready?" I answered: "Next week." W. assented. Harned came in. W. said: "As I have been feeling the past week I would have sold myself and the whole edition pretty cheap. And yet—what a precious thing is a good day!—a free day!—no money can measure its value." He commended McKay for his Americanism. "Except in cases like Pepys and Shakespeare he confines himself to American books." I asked him if he had read Pepys. "Yes: Dave sent me a set: it is pretty small ware and yet curiously fascinating." The Century turned up today. "I am relieved: the piece appeared: I am glad. I felt nervous about it all along: I was in honor bound to keep back November Boughs until the magazine was out." Asked me: "Have you seen Roosevelt's paper—ranche paper? It is interesting: I like it: he gets pretty near the truth. He don't write it exactly as I would, of course: that's because he don't enter into it—puts on his glasses before he looks at it—writes it with a little the touch of a dude. Still, there is something alluring in the subject and the way it is handled: Roosevelt seems to have realized its character—its shape and size—to have honestly imbibed some of the spirit of that wild Western life."

     Said he had had visitors. I looked inquisitive. "My niece and sister were here today: nothing would do but I should let them have a copy of the book. And do you know, Horace—no one likes the frontispiece—nobody but one or two of the women. All the boys turn up their noses—smell something wrong—think it won't do." Harned put in: "I must confess myself I don't

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think it high art."
W. at once rejoined: "We don't put it there for high art. Does any one call the book itself, call me, high art? It serves our purpose—is appropriate: in keeping with what it goes along with." Said he wished one hundred copies of N.B. for his own personal use. To sell? "No—not to sell—to give: I have lots of nieces and sisters and others. Then there are friends who send me extra amounts—ten dollars instead of five, five instead of two: I like to throw a book or two in occasionally: it is right, necessary, to do so."

     He took up the bundle of Spieler portraits to look for a dark one. There were several odd portraits in the same package. Handed a Sarony picture to me. "How does that strike you? Take it along. It is one of the strongest of my good-humored pictures. Some of my pictures are strong but too severe—don't you think so? This is strong enough to be right and gentle enough to be right, too: I like to be both: I wouldn't like people to say 'he is a giant' and then forget I know how to love. It would be no consolation to me to be a giant with the love left out." Then took up another picture. "And that? That's what I call the Quaker picture: see? the sombrero—the nice adjustment of light and shade." Shoved it back into the package. "Here is the street—the 1855—figure: the one we are to use again." Then he passed one after the other of the Spieler pictures along until we had struck upon a copy that seemed sufficiently well preserved for our purpose. I had proposed that instead of using type we might have my father free-hand the necessary lettering about the portrait. W. favorably disposed. I was looking fixedly at the portrait in my hand. He noticed it. "What's the matter?" "I was thinking that if we put above this portrait 'Walt Whitman complete' they'll laugh at us." W. himself laughed: "Do you know I have felt that same thing myself?" I then said: "But you don't mind clamor: you won't care?" "Yes, I will care, too: I don't believe in lending myself to the scamps—in making their occupation easy for them." He did in fact consider the matter quite serious. Said he "would put the title by for another day to study the

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chances out."
I said: "I guess I should keep one of these pictures?" He nodded assent. "Yes, keep the one on the card" (he had mounted it yesterday): I had another in my hand. "Shall I give this to Tom?" He looked doubtful. "On the whole, I'd rather not: if I do I won't have enough for my own purpose." This was an intimation of some new publishing project. "Have you still other plans in view?" "Yes—I had been thinking of something: you know, I am always scheming, surveying—putting in my stakes for new claims: I suppose I'll go on being like that until they nail down my coffin lid."

     Speaking of McKay, W. predicted a bright future for him as a publisher. "I should not like to say he will be a millionaire, but he'll be a hundred-thousander, without a doubt." Dave had certain "canny" ways which were "bound to put him on top." McKay had given me today for Walt a set of his Emerson just out—two vols—first and second series: half calf. W. much gratified. Handled the box fondly—took books out several times while we stayed—and as I was leaving he asked me to hand them to him again. Started to read. "I shall like them—read them: they are precious to me." Spoke approvingly of good big type and open page. Then of an edition shown him once at Washington by Burroughs. "John said, 'keep them—use them: I have more books than I know what to do with.' And I did. But bye and bye I got sick—the doctor warned me: 'You'd better pack up and get out, or, it'll be a coffin.' So I put my stuff together and came to Camden. That was in the first period of my paralysis. I left my goods behind me until two or three years ago, when I came into this house. After all those years—fifteen or sixteen years—you can imagine how much reminiscence was awakened in me (some ugly, some beautiful) when I turned the mess all over again. Among the very first things to show up were these books—these Emerson books, John's. Five volumes, I think: smaller type, larger page, than in this book: you may be sure I packed them back to John at once." He desired me to tell McKay that he had

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decided to have Dave take charge of all his books. "I will give you some definite ideas to-morrow—then you can go over and fight it out with him." McKay had asked, how many copies N.B. were to be sent to papers? Garland, calling last week, had said to McKay: "Tell W., tell him I said it, that a hundred copies at least should be sent to the papers." But Walt is disposed to let D. attend to that for himself, making him the offer of one thousand copies at forty-three cents.

     Tom remarked that Senator Frye was in town, talking tariff. W. said: "They need him: I begin to tremble for them—the prospects are dimming—don't you think so, Tom? They're holding up their hands—and isn't it fear, fear, with them? The noise, fury, clatter, at the start confused, puzzled, us a little: now the air appears to be clearing." Yesterday's Press contained a paragraph on Gilchrist called out by his probable appointment to a professorship at the Academy of the Fine Arts. W. said: "That's Talcott's piece—he wrote it: Talcott Williams. I do not think Herbert came to America expecting this thing. Herbert has been over several times. He is always bright, handsome, but don't talk with me much more than at first about his purposes." McKay tells me Gutekunst has the plate for the butterfly picture and Adams the steel plate (1855). Tom had been speaking of a fifteen dollar binding put on a Byron. W. asked: "All on one book?" "Yes." "That's extravagant!" Asked what tooling was—had read of it in connection with rare bindings. Said he would bind his "complete" W. in half calf—save for cost. "It would break me up." "Dave has a way of trimming everything down—prices—costs." Here was the Emerson. "Printing, paper, both inferior to ours: yet looks well, though not rich." Tom happened to say something about his law library. W. asked: "I never saw that, did I, Tom?" He had not—it was remote in the house. Said quietly: "And never shall, I guess: never am to get out again." W. gave me another of his war-time recommends—this one from Preston King. He laughed over it. "I was pulling eminent wires those days," he said. This is King's little note:


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Washington, Feb. 13, 1863.

The Bearer Mr. Whitman of Brooklyn N.Y. is recommended to me by Hon Charles Sumner who knows him personally; he also has letters from well known Gentlemen which he has shown to me. He desires employment of a clerical character or in some way in which he can be serviceable to the Government. He has testimonials of character which he will show. I commend him to the favorable consideration of any of the heads of Departments who may want his services.

Very Respectfully

Preston King.


     The King letter was addressed to General M. C. Meigs, Quartermaster General. I said to W.: "You had to rassle for that job." "So I did—quite considerable: even Emerson intervened." "Emerson?" "Yes, even Emerson—in a letter to Seward: and come to think of it I have the letter about here somewhere today—I don't know where." "The original?" "Yes—it was never delivered: and I tell you, Horace, when it turns up, it'll be a pretty gem for your crown!" "Do you mean that it is to come to me?" "Who else could it come to? Ain't everything coming to you?" He laughed. I put in: "Everything but that big story you were going to tell me: that's not coming very fast." He was grave at once. Took my hand in his: looked me straight in the eye: "That couldn't come fast, Horace—that's too serious, yes—sacred: that must come in its own way, in its own time: but it will come." W's good night more than usually tender. He kissed me. Said again: "That must come in its own way, in its own time."

     I had a talk with Osler today—the first since his return. He said: "I can see no reason why Mr. Whitman should not live for months, even years." Yet seemed confident of mental changes as time wore on. On the other hand while there might be no reason for instant fear everything was uncertain. "Carpe diem should be his motto—make hay while the sun shines." Said he would be over to-morrow. Considered the past week's

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experience in no way alarming. Yet advised me, if W. had work that should be done,it would be well to have it done as quickly as possible.


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