Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 8th, 1888.

     8 p. m. W. reading Boston Transcript. "A monotonous paper," he said, "but on rather a high level: monotonously good, we might say." I had with me the six hundred and more first folds of the big book. As he saw my big bundle he asked: "What have you got there—what is all that?" I replying: "Some work for you to do." "Ah! the sheets! Hurrah!"

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Then he stopped himself: "I'd better wait until I get them all signed before I yell hurrah!" Fixed the sheets carefully on the floor within reach. Contemplated them with pleasure. "This looks like getting something done: I'll be getting quite proud of myself by and bye—or of you, rather, for you are the one who is oiling the machine and keeping the fires up these days." Talcott Williams over today. Saw W.W. has been reading his collection of reviews of Bucke's Whitman. Has them in a scrap book. "I feel a trifle snappier today—as if I might even be sassy if there was any call for it." Harned came in. Gave McKay W's message today. McKay will be over in the morning. Insured our sheets for four hundred dollars. W. acquiesced in my disposition of the various business matters. He leaves all such things mostly to me. He will say: "I trust you to do that"—or: "I must leave that in your hands"—or: "If I fool with that something will go wrong"—and so on. Once he laughingly said: "Do it, do it your own way: if you don't do it right I can say damn you, and that won't hurt."

     Said of Bucke: "He is very enthusiastic over the complete book—expects great things from it: I hope he won't be disappointed: I'm not sure of all that myself." When I said: "McKay thinks November Boughs will sell," W. replied: "Let him go on believing there's no hell!" Still adhered to his faith in the cover as it is. "I, for my part, am satisfied—fully satisfied: would let it go at that. Dave got two or three people to pooh pooh the book (maybe hypnotized them into doing it) and that ended matters. While I am willing to meet Dave half way I'm not willing to take off my hat to his sneers. I'd venture to say that nine out of every ten people who happened into a book store would take a fling at anything they saw there that was novel or new. The casual observer is always a critic first—and but rarely a good one, either."

     Tom said: "There's nothing in this book, Walt, to shock people." W. replied: "Perhaps—but, Tom, that's the very point which will be criticised by my friends—that it don't shock them: contains nothing to shock them." Gilchrist's

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picture displayed on the table elicited from Harned some praise for its technical merits. W. nodded: "Yes, yes—that is mainly so, Tom. How admirable it seems in that light, at a little distance, sufficiently removed to give it atmosphere." Then he said vehemently: "But I never, never had those curls on my head—never! The head is not so bad if you can rescue it from the curls. The picture needs to be sent to a barber. I have a notion I like the photograph better than I would the original: it is a masterpiece. Herbert has drawn the body superbly: its light and shade is striking—across the clothing, the hand: all that is done with power, without fault." Said of politics: "I have the wish if not the hope of Cleveland's election. The Democrats in New York have got to fighting among themselves: it is too bad—they must unite." Harned gave W. Dudley's love. W. said: "Dudley is probably the chief tariff culture man of the country—the marked man above all the rest in a big crowd. His lucidity: his arguments, his absolute belief that they are, all in all, conclusive: his unshaken nerve, unshakable: it is all admirable—admirable to me. I don't go a cent on the views themselves—I only like to see how Dudley sticks to his guns: I'd do anything I could anytime to chuck the whole high tariff caboodle into the Atlantic." W. today received a letter from Queensland: "It is a hello from way off in a far country: it is a sweet letter to me in a sweet class: they come from time to time—many of them: a sort of profession of faith—interesting, notable. I would rather hear such news of my book than have the celebres celebrate it. Read the letter: it'll do you good. Read it to me—I want to hear it again." So I read:


Girl's Grammar School,
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.
Aug. 7, 1888.

Sir.

You have had, I do not doubt, many a letter of warm appreciation from people of eminent talent, but I am only what I think in America you call a "school marm" and of no "eminence," but I expect it's the average intellect you most want to

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touch as they form the bulk of the living beings. I have only had the pleasure so far of reading two of your books, Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days. They are both moral tonics in their joyous healthiness and seem to me just the antidote that is needed to all the morbid self-analysis and sickly sentimentality of the present age. I never read them without feeling more strongly than ever what a beautiful sane thing human life is. I wish, as I am a woman, you had told us more of your views about us. I wonder what your ideal of woman is. I should not have ventured to write to you only I see you are "alone" and that is a word which always touches me, specially now, when as an English teacher in a new land I am without one friend near me. A thousand thanks my dear Walt Whitman for all you have written. I shall always be your debtor.


Jessie Taylor.


     The Press yesterday contained some further extracts from Frederick William's diary. W. read them with great interest. "It seems sorrowful to think that he did not live to do his full work. But that was not to be—not yet: he was too good for the aristocratic crowd—too superior: was probably fifty, at least fifty, perhaps a hundred years, ahead of his time. The diary seems to me to change the face of things—of things, I, for one, have deemed settled. Some of the Germans cry 'fraud' at the diary: to me it seems thoroughly genuine: it bears the soul-marks of the Emperor. Bismarck at the start endeavored to throw discredit upon its authenticity—but he is silent now: he knows that any further opposition would be a boomerang. Bismarck is angry because it is for him a letting down. It seems that the one fact which to me always justified them—the Emperor, the old Emperor and Bismarck—the only virtue which justified, excused, explained them—is really to be credited to another." Then he did not suspect the diary? "Not at all—it is straight—it is full of light—it confirms what has always been my opinion of conditions in Germany and of Frederick."

     He here went into a monologue on German affairs— "the

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cavorting about of the young Emperor."
"There must be a strange seething mass back of court externalities: all official Germany is aroused now, expectant of great events. There is a vast area of unrest back of settled things we see: a vast, unseen, unsuspected force—a host of strong men and women, determined to see that things do not perpetually go wrong. This is the simple crowd of the people—the latent finally self-sufficient democracy from whom all rulers by force in all countries are soon to hear the inevitable outcry for justice. The patricians, the rulers, the kings, think they save the state, the nation: no, no—they are but the parasites—the people, the crowd, save all or all is lost. It was much the same way with Abe Lincoln here: a vast area, soaked with an atmosphere of vigilance, determination, to see the right thing through. I was in Washington at the time—heard all the dark threats, saw the head-shakings—heard the half-toned stories, whispers, disturbing suspicions. It all meant, if you betray us,—if you prove unfaithful—there'll be hell to pay—and in fact we had hell to pay, but that in unexpected places." "Now," he continued, swinging his arms indicatively, "over in Germany there is just such a vast mass of the populace back of all, responsible at last for all—at least, feeling itself so—and not Bismarck himself would dare defy it. I seem to catch glints there of perturbation near the throne: it is a power not all revealed, yet certainly not all hidden, which will one day break out in some opposing form constituting itself a menace to the continuance of the empire. All hail the people! all hail the day!"

     He had read Cardinal Manning's N.A. Review paper on the Ingersoll-Gladstone controversy. He said: "What most struck me in reading it was that it was one of the most curious pieces in all the annals of literature: it irresistibly recalled Abe Lincoln's exclamation when some one—some self-important official—[Harned suggested "Sumner" and W. said "Yes—that might be"] had been in and had his say and gone: 'God Almighty has been here!' Anyone who has read history knows what it is hard to think the Cardinal don't know—knows that the popes,

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take them all in all, were a pretty poor mess—hard cases, indeed—what Tennyson's Northern Farmer would call a 'bad lot.' I read this deliverance with unusual care—quite categorically in fact: it was such a remarkable case of a man turning in on himself: moral, spiritual, inversion."
"The Cardinal has no shred of a case left after he gets through with himself," I put in. "Do you say so, Horace? So do I: that was what I was trying to say all the time but I was so long getting it out you had to come to my rescue."

     I asked W.: "Were you a trifle hard on Sumner just now?" "I did not mean to be: Sumner was wide open to criticism—invited, courted, it—but after all was big, strong, faithful, true-blue." The Century this month contains Nicolay-Hay instalment of Lincoln history which goes over the controversy with McClellan. "It would take a good deal." said W., "to persuade me from my conviction—my old conviction, born at the time and never by any later developments shaken—my old conviction that McClellan straddled. I was on the spot at the time—in the midst of all the controversy, the suspicion, the tension and the patriotism: and from it all, fairly and sternly, I drew my estimate of McClellan. He thought, the time will come when these sections will be united again—(he saw it: we all saw it—knew it was sure to be)—then the lucky man, he thought—the man with most power—will be the man who dealt most gently with the malcontents." I said: "I do not think The Century piece means to imply that—they are not so severe: their intimation is that McClellan was incompetent." W. was unmoved. "I see no reason for forgetting or denying indubitable facts. Lincoln was not hasty in action—far from it: had almost infinite patience: always waited a long time (an extra long time) before proceeding to extreme measures. He was mighty when aroused. I have seen him both ways—angry as well as calm: more than once seen him when his whole being was shaken up—when his passion was at white heat. I do not believe that he would have taken the position he did towards McClellan except for some reason the logic of which could not be

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denied—some last reason of all reasons which the most conservative man would find he must obey."

     W. asked me if I had heard about Sanborn's summary dismissal from the State Board of Charities of Massachusetts? He said: "He has always been very kind to me—and his wife, too. He is in the front of educational and charitable matters the world over." Why was he removed? W. guessed: "He is too tolerant, too catholic, accepts too much. There's my friend William Swinton, John's brother: I used to be very intimate with him: he has suffered from an experience somewhat like Sanborn's. Twenty-five years ago (he had been a good deal of a traveler, wanderer—was in California at the time, I think)—twenty-five years ago William made up his mind that he was going to make some money—so set about to see what to put his hooks in. After considerable uncertainty he became a maker of school-books—books of a superior cast: they really were ahead of everything that had so far been made. Recently he made a compend known as Outlines of History. I have seen it—think I have it here: and therein, in a definition of 'indulgences,' lurks all the trouble. His definition was harmless enough: to you fellows, to me, to anyone not hopelessly bigoted, it would be axiomatic—no one would dream of questioning it—but there was fierce sectarian antagonism aroused and now it has been decided that Swinton's book must go." I expressed some curiosity over a little picture of W. that I found on the table. He was quite willing to have me take it away. "It's stiff, a little too much up and down, but a really good likeness I suppose. You can put it into your collection and mark it Exhibit number something or other: if you can't call it a picture you may call it a curio. Who took it? I don't just recall the name of the photographer. Horace, I have been photographed to confusion."


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