Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, October 12th, 1888.

     7.45 p.m. Reading the Mrs. Carlyle letters. Laid the book down. Said: "The day has been a slow one: I have been sleepy, tired: have not done anything—have not (don't get mad now!) signed a single copy of the elect six hundred: I have, however, read some more in the sheets of the complete book, finding no errors, however." The Standard this week quotes W.'s anti-protection piece from Specimen Days. W. looked at me quizzically: "Henry George's paper?" I said: "Yes: and I suppose you still stand by that doctrine?" "Do I? still stand by it? I should hope so: you might just as well ask me: do you stand by yourself? My ground is a peculiar one: I know nothing on the other side of the question—the side of statistics, money, politics. I am a free trader by a sort of instinct. I do not concern myself technically about the problem. I build up my conviction mainly on the idea of solidarity, democracy—on the dream of an America standing for the whole world: an America without slaveries, without exceptions, without castes: an

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America standing for all rather than for one here and there. I doubt the justice, I always have doubted the justice, of selecting a few men from the whole mass of the people, a few favored men, and presenting them with all the benefits. Protectionists call my position millennial: you heard even Dudley up there at Tom's speak of it as quixotic. So it goes."
I received a note from Stedman this morning:


New York,
Oct. 11th, 1888.

Dear Mr. Traubel,

In our "Acknowledgement" page we give credit to the publishers now publishing and selling the books of authors—the books from which we quote extracts. To what publisher, or publishers, shall we give acknowledgement, as the present publisher or publishers of Walt's poem? Kindly answer at earliest convenience.

I am delighted to hear of Whitman's comfortable spirits, and that his strength has been equal to the completion of the task of getting the November Boughs through the press.

Who writes such stuff about him and me to the N.Y. Herald? See the N.Y. Critic of Oct. 6th among the literary and personal notes.

Sincerely yours,

Edmund C. Stedman.


      "Sure enough, such stuff!" exclaimed W.: "I wonder why Bucke so easily swallowed The Herald report: he seemed to like it. The worst of it is, it is so damned familiar I haven't even the suspicion of an idea who wrote the stuff. I suppose if I inquired of Julius Chambers or Habberton I could find out but I would not do that. One thing we do have to concede the scamp—his good nature: he writes in a friendly fashion: it's that geniality which saves the stuff from immediate death. I am always non-plussed in trying to decide what to do when the liar breaks loose. Shall I up and call him a liar? Shall I make a noise or keep quiet? I turn the thing over and over in my head each time and always end by admonishing myself: keep

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quiet—and I have kept quiet through practically my whole career—almost utter silence—and have never had occasion to regret it. I admit I am not above being annoyed—things sometimes are too infernally barefaced to be passed over without some interior resentment. After a little while I will kick the bucket: then all sorts of reports, stories, will spring up."
He hesitated a moment—then went on (I thought with an almost consecrating earnestness): "Doctor Bucke will tear his hair out—what little hair he has left—at some things said: and you'll get mad: but I'll be beyond it all—beyond it all." In conclusion he said: "You will write to Stedman?" and then upon my saying "yes": "Well—give him my love: tell him I know as little about that Herald author as he does: tell him I am thick-skinned (I think you can say, we are thick-skinned) and can stand all that is put upon us—the worst."

     I asked W. a question about the steel plate used in the first edition and since. That made him reminiscent again: he gave me an almost absurd account of the sale—or disappearance—of that edition. "I don't think one copy was sold—not a copy. It was printed in Brooklyn—I had some friends in the printing business there—the Romes—three or four young fellows, brothers. They had consented to produce the book. I set up some of it myself: some call it my hand-work: it was not strictly that—there were about one hundred pages: out of them I set up ten or so—that was all. The books were put into the stores. But nobody bought them. They had to be given away. But the ones we sent them to—a good many of them—sent them back—did not want them even on such terms." "Yet," he said, "I was popular among some of the dealers then—they liked me. Beecher wanted to buy a copy. The dealer didn't know how much it was—asked me: I said: 'Give Beecher one.'" Had Beecher ever acknowledged it? "No—but he stole most terrifically from it." Added: "I once heard Beecher under curious circumstances: from across the street while Plymouth church was undergoing repairs of some kind: he hit me so hard, fascinated me to such a degree, that I was afterwards willing to

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go far out of my way to hear him talk.
I said something about Beecher—that he stole from Leaves of Grass. Do you ever think, Horace, what infernal plagiarists the big fellows are—big lawyers, big preachers, big writers—even Shakespeare, Longfellow: how much they borrow and never pay back?" I asked again: "So you do not know what became of the first edition?" "It is a mystery: the books scattered, somehow, somewhere, God knows, to the four corners of the earth: I only know that they never have been in my possession."

     W. said to-night that he thought he had best read Conway's volumes on Emerson and Carlyle. I have them both. "I may as well push it on to a finish now that I have started the Emerson-Carlyle business. I have no doubt Conway has much to say which it is worth while to hear. He knew both men—was close to them both. Then it can be said of Conway, he has improved much in late years—his style, his authority." He gave me some points which he wished me to argue out with McKay. "I wish to do everything that is reasonable for Dave, throwing in his way what I can: I want Dave to feel I am sticking by him." "You do not entirely endorse O'Connor's feeling about McKay?" "No—I do not: and yet William is right, too. The point is that I have had no choice of publishers: the big fellows whom O'Connor wants do not want me." Bucke acknowledges his copy of N.B. "The Doctor was pleased—you will see what he says about it: he is almost too willing to accept: I like to win after a tussle—I don't like people to bow down to me without question." I quoted Bucke's kick: "I note the two corrections (p. 37—An Evening Lull) and think the poem should have been left as it was." W. said: "I see his idea but don't assent to it. I was in miserable shape the day I wrote that little thing—was in no shape at all. Bucke argues that the verse of that day with its mistakes reflecting my unsteady intelligence was more honest than the poem as today corrected in a more lucid mood. That looks like speeding a good theory to its own worst ruin." W. gave me rough drafts in his hand of short notes (all old) to Routledge, Conway

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and Dowden: "They look useless but if you find them useful they are yours."


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