Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 458] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, October 10th, 1888.

     8 p. m. W. reading a letter from Kennedy. Musgrove goes daily to post-office after tea to get what mail comes in after the last delivery. W. sat me down at once and catechised me. I picked a pamphlet off a crowded chair. It was Lathrop's Gettysburg Ode. Had W. read it? "No—only glanced through it a few pages. I guess it's not remarkable, especially in that shape, but he took it there, it was the thing for the moment—the soldiers liked it, would have it preserved: so here it is." L. had written inside the pamphlet: "To Walt Whitman, from his friend and admirer, George Parsons Lathrop, Oct. 9, 1888." I asked W.: "Do you rank him with your friends and admirers?" "He has always been cordial to me—seemed to have my personal interests at heart: beyond that I do not know. I have understood, however, that Lathrop's wife is a reader of Leaves of Grass—Rose Lathrop. I have never met her but have met and known him. Lathrop is not morbid, as Hawthorne was—is more ready to meet the world half way—dine with it—that sort of thing: is evidently a likable character. I have an idea Lathrop was at the New York reception. He was the man deputed by the St. Botolph Club years ago to arrange for my lecture in Boston—my lecture on the murder of Lincoln. I delivered that lecture first in New York—made fifty or a few more dollars from it: then repeated it in half a dozen places—twice in Philadelphia—again in New York in 1887. The St. Botolph high jinks came off in the Hawthorne Rooms—a hall a good deal like

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 459] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
our Morgan's Hall, yet handsomer—more fitted for culture, refinement, well-dressed ladies, and all that. It was crowded, crowded—people standing—as if all the town who frequented places of that kind came out. It was the best woman audience I ever addressed. These particular women were of the large sort—came because they were sympathetically, emotionally, moved to it, not because it was the thing to do. I always associate my Contemporary Club evening with that: the New Century rooms (don't you call them that?): the little raised platform—the people all about, men and women in all postures (a rim of women about the platform itself). That night brought into my head an old line—'And they gathered at the feet of Gamaliel.' I don't know where I got that from—no doubt years, years ago, at some camp meeting: 'and they gathered at the feet of Gamaliel': they came, young and old, rich and poor, men, women, children—he glad to gather them and they glad to come. There will be no more occasions like that: my time is gone—my time for gadding about on speechifying expeditions."

     W. had been reading some about Emma Lazarus today. "She must have had a great, sweet, unusual nature. I have meant to look more into her work: all I know of her has been casual—the things that come to you here and there in the magazines and newspapers. I never met her—several times came near doing so. It may be gratuitous to say so—no doubt is—but I have randomly, wholly at random, believed she did not wish to meet me—rather avoided me. It may be gratuitous to say this, but I have had reasons for feeling its truth—good reasons, though reasons rather emotional than concrete. If she did deliberately set about not to see me she was put up to it." I said: "You are not singular in the opposition you have met." "No indeed, I am not: I am but one creature in a process that involves many." Added as to Emma Lazarus: "She was as you say, quite different from the great body of professional women—from Miss Repplier, for instance, who is vitriolic—who thinks it her purpose on earth (that she was so made—God made her) to be vitriolic, say bright things, provoke a laugh."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 460] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     Asked me when the title portrait would be done. "I am aware that many do not like that picture but I consider it a hit. It is appropriate: the looking out: the face away from the book. Had it looked in how different would have been its significance—what a different tale it would tell! I am not looking for art: I am after spiritual expression. Consider it in that way: I am not literary, my books are not literature, in the professional sense: I am after nature first of all: the out look of the face in the book is no chance. I know my argument may be taken to pieces by the logicians but I know what I am about and can put it together again." I gave him Register containing Cooke's little paper—A Lover of Nature—treating of Burroughs and calling W. "that remarkable poet" and one of B.'s "spiritual forefathers." W. expressed the desire to read it. He had never seen Cooke's Emerson nor remembered Cooke's visit to Camden, a year or so ago, and staying at Harned's—meeting with W. there and in W.'s own home.

     Talked business. He approved of what I had done and proposed doing with McKay. "The publishers have us in their hands," he said, "and I trust Dave"—then after a pause: "But I don't know—I don't know. Think of it—Dave tells me he has printed twenty-two hundred copies of Leaves of Grass—new copies. What did he do it for?" No contract exists now with McKay. "He prints editions each time upon my special grant," explained W. W. said: "I shouldn't wonder but that had something to do with it: the more he prints the more valuable each grant becomes! Shrewd Dave! I feel drawn to Dave McKay because he took me up at a time when I was very poor and everybody else passed me by. Not Dave in name though in fact: Rees, Welsh and Company, to whom Dave was really right-hand man at that time. That was immediately after the Massachusetts affair: the books sold a-hellin'. Dave's early payments put me in this house: a good lump from royalties and a lift from George Childs. I do not mean that Dave was my publisher from affection: I could not have expected that anyway: he made money out of the Leaves, no doubt. But money or no money

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 461] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
no other publisher at that time would touch me. I shall never forget Dave's good will—nor his good sense, either, for it was good sense for a young business man to take up the Leaves while it was getting such a heap of gratuitous advertising. I had been living with brother George in Stevens street then: the house was to be given up: I was to be adrift. I had to look out for something: there were reasons why boarding was not to be desired: I saw this house: it seemed to answer my purpose—was within my means: so here I came, have been ever since."
"Did your books before that period net you anything in particular?" "Nothing at all—the opposite: I got them out generally at my own expense. Then publishers went back on me—and dealers, jobbers. There's one guilty man in New York—a Liberal publisher: he knows how guilty he is: and another one over there, just as bad or worse—and then Holy Dick, to crown the pirate gang. Experience has shown me how little an author has his fate in his own hands." W. had endorsed the Flower letter he gave me yesterday: "from Cyril Flower Paris, after the German siege '71." I will include this letter and his answer in today's memoranda:


Furzedown, Streatham,
Oct. 20, 1871.

My dear Mr. Whitman:

I have just returned from a long tour in Germany and France to find a pamphlet of yours awaiting me sent I hope and presume by you. I say I hope for there is no line accompanying it and yet I think it is your writing on the cover. If you have sent it then am I not forgotten.

I have often wished, I may say even longed, to have from you a few, a very few, lines to tell me of your well being, a little of your doings and of your recollection (if it is not too much to ask) of one who is always your sincere friend and lover and who travelled many a mile to see and speak with you. I even hoped against hope that you would brighten us in England this summer, but it passed and neither you nor word of you came. Many

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 462] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
and many a time and oft as steamer after steamer arrived I wondered, does he come or write? Enough.


Mark you: if to you I am indebted for the pamphlet I like it much: it strikes me as so simple, pure and powerful and reminds me as so much of your work does of all that is sweet and good and noble in the world. Somehow when I read you or think of you I feel once more the cool never to be forgotten breeze of a boundless prairie; my lungs seem to open and I respire more freely. I feel perhaps freer for the time and less material and then again I feel that I hold in my hand clasped strong and tight and for eternity the great hand of a friend—a simple good fellow, a man who loves me and who is beautiful because he loves—and with the consciousness of that I feel never alone, never sad—and much more I feel: but to what purpose do I write thus?

I will tell you a little of what I have seen but it must be very little as I only returned late last night after a long journey and find much to occupy me. Paris, the gay, the beautiful, is no longer either. It is terribly sad and horribly ugly. Great wounds as it were over the face of it—ruins at every corner—streets blackened with petroleum. Shop window after shop window in the most busy and flourishing quarters still smashed and unmended—patched up with paper. Houses torn by shells. And the people on the streets and in the boulevards no longer the Parisians of old but a sadder—may we hope a wiser—people. So many thousands are in deep mourning that this gives as it were a funeral touch to it all. Then the palace of St. Cloud is a skeleton—not a window, not a bit of roof, is left of it. The old Tuileries, too, look fearful with their picturesque walls, and in the distance the grand, almost sublime, ruins of the Hotel de Ville look reproachfully upon you. To me Paris was saddening—still more Metz and Strasbourg, which are alike what the French call abimé—literally razed even unto the ground. The soldiers, all that remain of them, look small, ill-fed, ill-clothed, and are I heard over-drilled. In Strasbourg a Prussian band plays magnificently every day at a certain hour but as yet no

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 463] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
one has been seen to stand and listen to it. Hatred is no word for the feeling between them.


The Prussian soldiers are really splendid fellows. I think you would very much like them. They are so manly and simple—perhaps too warlike, but that is of course the fault of their education, for their temperament is it seems to me very domestic and affectionate. Blind as Frenchmen always are to their own faults Parisians seem to be dimly conscious that it was Paris much more than France that forced the Emperor by its mad clamor to undertake the war which has ruined both the Emperor and the Capital.

I will write again when I hear from you. In the meantime I remain dear Mr. Whitman

Forever Affectionately

Cyril Flower.



Dear Cyril Flower:

You may think yourself neglected—perhaps forgotten—by your American Friend. Not at all the latter, believe me. Twenty times during the last year I have promised myself to write you. I am still here at Washington—everything much the same as when you made your brief visit here. I continue well and hearty, in good spirits: spend much more of my leisure in the open air than reading or studying, or in-doors at all. I am very soon going on to New York to bring out a new edition of my poems (same as the copy you have, only in one volume)—shall remain there until about 7th of April—then to return here again where my address will be— Your two letters duly reached me at the time and were very welcome. Tennyson has twice written to me—and friendly hearty letters. He invites me to visit him. I shall mail you my latest piece in a magazine to be out presently. Dear Cyril Flower I send you my love and hope you will not think hard of me for not writing before.



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.