Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, October 13th, 1888.

     7.45 p. m. W. "in a cloud," as he said, today: at least, in forenoon and part of the afternoon: but "gathered together again" later on: "made up my mind to think no more about it." Had not been idle, either. "I signed a good many of the sheets today: will have them all finished in two or three days." Still reading Mrs. Carlyle. I took him Conway's Emerson. I wrote Stedman today. W. has at last heard from Linton. This is what Linton writes:


4 Trafalgar Square,
London W. C.
Oct. 3, 1888.

Dear friend:

Your card to New Haven followed me on here, where I have been for some months, looking after the production of a work on wood engraving.

The enclosed letter seems to have anticipated your request. My answer to it has crossed the letter enclosing yours. In reading that I wrote also home, telling them to look for and forward the block to Stedman. I presume it before now has gone to him. Will you write him for what use you yourself need of it?

I am glad to see your hand again and anyway to hear of you. I hope you keep in fair health and in as much prosperity as may be necessary for the poet.

For myself, after some five years' work on a book concerning my own especial art, I am now waiting for the return, which may give me a sufficiency, or may not. At seventy-six, or close upon it, one need not be very anxious. I keep in good health.

Give me a few words of yourself. The above address will find me for some months to come.

Always heartily yours,

W. J. Linton.



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     Linton enclosed Arthur Stedman's letter in which I was quoted as saying: "The Linton cut still belongs to Walt Whitman, who gives freest consent to its use for any of the purposes of the book." W. gave me Bucke's letter of the 11th: "Bucke is no fool, as they say: is busy—head and ears in things. See what he says there of William—towards the end." Bucke wrote: "Burroughs forwarded me O'Connor's letter to you of 5th. He is a grand fellow, that—the grandest of all your friends: a hero." I said to W.: "You endorse it of course." He answered: "He is grand, sure enough—a hero, sure enough: I am not afraid to cite William in capital letters." I also read W. Bucke's reference to the complete W. W.: "Guess it will be the sacred text by and bye. The first folio of S. is valuable but I guess after a little that autograph C. W. of W. W. will lead it in the market." W. laughed in his quiet way. "Maurice is a monster boomer: he could make you feel a lot too big about yourself if you didn't look out. Dear Maurice!" W. went back to O'Connor. "I am much concerned about him—it worries me: I don't like that eye business." Heine had had a like experience. "Yes," said W., "it's that: I fear for him—fear there is something back of it." Gave Mrs. Davis a copy of November Boughs and sent one to Clifford. "It's not for me to be anxious whether the book sells or don't sell, but whether it holds an answer within itself—whether it consists with the whole—fits with the ensemble—enters the Leaves total without a jar." I said: "I liked November Boughs better in the proofs than in the copy: I like it better now in the book then in the proofs." He looked at me earnestly: "You honestly think that?" "Yes, honestly—without qualification." He then said: "Well, it is sweet—it is helpful to my soul—to hear that from you: it is the best thing you could tell me—the dearest hint of confirmation. For my own part, I cannot explain my faith in the book: my satisfaction, if I may say so, is intuitive—not to be reasoned about yet to be insisted upon. I can never accept a book for any surface importance it may have: I trust November Boughs for its long reach. If we eat a meal, the point to be considered is not whether it is good while

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we eat it, but whether it is good an hour after, good a day after, good a month after, good a year after: yes, good for life—the whole of life. By that test all things must be tried—will float, will go under, by that test."

     Saw McKay today. Dave is still making complaints which excite W.'s resentment. McKay said W. admitted the frontispiece was badly margined. W. replied: "Dave is mistaken—I did not. When he spoke to me I may have nodded my head: when people advise me I have a way of saying 'yes, yes', as sort of signifying that I hear: that, often, is taken for assent. It is a trick I have—you know it well—of avoiding discussion when I don't want to go to the trouble of formally throwing them down." Then as if annoyed: "Well, let Dave do as he chooses: I am willing to keep every one of the books myself—keep them here." Found our title page head done at Brown's today. Brought two proofs. W. signed one for me. Looked at it again and again. "It is superbly done!" he exclaimed— "it resembles the beautiful medallions we sometimes see. Every tone comes up, yet not sharply: it is both mellow and firm (is velvet and iron)—has a quality that gives it both appeal and hauteur. Yet, just as indubitably, those Italian curls on the top of the head are not mine." "Indeed," he thought, "here is the Grosvenor gallery, Herbert Gilchrist, London parlor fellow at work." It recalled Hollyer's etching just at that one point: "It impresses me that the same hand has been at work on both. Yet the virtue of the picture—the effect of it—is so great, so unquestionably true and excellent, that this one point may be overlooked if necessary—if it cannot be remedied. In fact, Horace, when you see him Monday, say to him just as I have said to you—just these words: 'Walt Whitman never has had, has not now, Italian curls—or the semblance of 'em.' So that if there is a way by which the prominence of that aberration may be lessened advise him to have it done." He was dead in earnest about this: "Why didn't the fellow let the thing alone as we sent it? It's the old story of the artist trying to improve on nature again. The artist argues: if he hasn't Italian curls he ought to have—just as the London fellows do.

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As a portrait, on the whole, barring this nonsense, it is a magnificent copy, equal to the best things they do by that process."

     I had today paid Spear's bill for stove and charged to the fund. I said to W.: "If you find the bill, tear it up." He started to say: "I intended having you pay it," but I interrupted: "It is paid already—it is settled for you by your friends." He looked at me quizzically: "How's that? Who does it?" I explained: "The same people who put the nurse here." He was touched deeply. "And who are they?" he asked, earnestly: "tell me?" "No, I can't," I replied: "A group of us, a group of your friends, who are pledged to keep you comfortable the rest of your days." "It is so good! Boy, boy—who are they?" I got up from my seat and made a move towards the table, afraid that unless I did something physical I would give way to the feelings excited by his unusual display of emotion. "Never mind, Walt—I can't tell you any more about it: tear up the bill." And then for some minutes there was absolute quiet: he looked about the room and out of the window and towards me. He fooled some with his pen, which he took up and laid down. He played a bit with his big penknife. Finally he broke out: "God bless you all, whoever you are! God bless you all—all!" And then he stopped. No more was said on the subject. But his manner all the rest of the evening was more than ever affectionate—full of suppressed feeling. He did add later on just before I left: "Horace, you have done many things for me but this last lays over them all. God bless you!"

     I spoke of Calamus as "supreme among love-poems in the English language." He said: "There seem to be various ideas on that subject. The South has produced love poems, songs, sweet, delicate, true: Paul H. Hayne was one of its poets—Cooke (was it Pendleton?): men of that stamp. It is a fact, of course, that they were piano tunes: still, they were good in their range. But there is a more rugged—a universal—sentiment which has most largely and primarily to be recognized in the basic big chants of the affections." Alluded to Boker: "He is pretty genuine, after all: the fellows say he holds off—will have

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noting of them: but I don't know. Boker is genuine, has quality."
I spoke of Francesca da Rimini, commending it: "Yes," said W.: "it is excellent: I have seen it, enjoyed it." The Critic this week discusses Gosse's Forum paper: Has America Produced a Poet? without an allusion to W.—though naming some undoubtedly inferior celebrities. Near the close it says: "The number of those who, whether erroneously or not, are of opinion that America's greatest singer is still alive and 'in voice' is perhaps not inconsiderable." W. said: "That must be Lowell—you are right." I asked him questions which led him to add: "There are some of them—the editors, writers—whose policy it is studiously to ignore me—to settle me passively by abstaining from any mention of my name. But I look upon the discussion of such questions as mostly profitless though we all take a curious interest in them."

     Referring to something he was to send to Bucke: "I make one note serve for three or four before I am done with it: I get them to pass it along." After leaving W. I stopped awhile with Mrs. Davis in the kitchen. I was there ten or fifteen minutes. We heard a noise on the stairway—rushed into the hall—found W. at the first landing above on his way down. He had started out all alone. Hates assistance. He came along feebly, Mrs. D. on one side and I flanking him. Arrived in the kitchen W. took a chair. He was in decided good humor though looking tired. To me (I stood there hat in hand) he said: "Stay, stay, Horace—sit down." Remained about twenty minutes. Gave Mary some "sound advice" as to how to preserve pictures. Talked of the German Emperor's visit to the Pope. "Emperors, presidents, are humbugs—nothing in themselves, possibly much in what they stand for. The Emperor's wanderings may help along to keep peace in Europe. That, surely, would be worth a crown's weight any time. They should make their madness useful. The Emperor should go to Paris," he further said— "show himself there: see what would come of it: nothing but good, I'm sure. It is true I care nothing for him—have been thinking of him as a bad egg." How about the anti-German

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feeling in France? "Ah!" he said, "they would not disturb him: no man, no nation, placed on its honor, would violate the courtesy implied: the amenities due such an incident."

     Speaking of the labor disturbances in Chicago: "It seems to be a big welter—confusion: we will go from bad to worse until one day we are landed in a revolution." Suddenly he picked up his cane and made a move as if to rise from his chair. As he did so, we spoke of his coming down some day to take dinner, he smiling and saying: "That's a good idea: some day I shall adopt it." Then: "Well, I guess I'll go up to the den again: I've been here long enough—am satisfied." He walked into the hallway, saying to me as I followed: "I can get along very well but you should stay by me: Doctor is very earnest about that—'don't go up or down stairs alone' he says and says"—then went toilsomely up, I along. When at the top he said: "Well—that will do," but seemed to think further— "but as long as you are this far you may as well go farther"—and at the doorway of his room: "Come in—you are nearly there—you might fix the window for me"—showing exhaustion. Finally he got over to and sank heavily into his chair. "Harbored again, at last!" he said slowly. I closed the window. Shook hands with him again. Left him there—the light half up—he resting his head on his hands. This was his fifth trip down stairs.


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