Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 15, 1888.

     7.45 p.m. W. reading. I had a dozen more copies N. B. Oldach had bound up sixty-five copies in the flexible covers. W. had a letter from Mary Costelloe today. "I have sent it on a long journey," he said: "first to Burroughs, by whom it is to be sent to O'Connor, who is to send it to Bucke: I am sorry I

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did not keep it—you should have had it to start with."
Kennedy sent him Christian Register again. He does not read it: "It has no blood—it's like something dead." Long Islander came today with a tariff supplement. "To what base uses we have come at last! Think of it—I started that paper!" Added: "The tariffites are commencing to raise the devil—trying to scare the crowd, which, unfortunately, will be scared." W. said: "Before you go open the bundle: I want to send copies of the book to Blake and Sidney." I proceeded at once to do so. Asked him: "And John, too—shouldn't he have one?"—he saying in reply: "Certainly, certainly—one for John, too: John should have had it long ago." He took the copies I passed over. "Should I write in these?" I nodded: "Something—yes," and he saying: "Well—here goes?" taking his pen and dipping it in the ink. In Blake's book he first wrote "fiend" for "friend": laughed over it: "That strikes a tragic note!" He waited for himself some time before he decided just what he wished in Burroughs' book. I asked: "How about Stedman, Walt: don't forget Stedman?" He answered at once: "Sure enough, sure enough: one for Stedman, too." He graded the inscriptions. To Blake he was "his friend the author." To Morse he was the same friend "with affectionate memories." To Burroughs it was "with love and memories." To Stedman it was "from his friend the author" again. "With Morse's and Burroughs' gone, Walt, the inner circle are all supplied." He was leaning forward, putting the last book open down on the floor, as I said this: stopped right where he was, looked up at me thoughtfully, said: "Yes, I think so—are now supplied"—then lifted his head. Said again: "I might have said more to Stedman: I always feel very loving towards him: but I don't like to pile it on to a man who may not like it. Stedman seems to be warming towards me year by year."

     Brown wants to make another trial for the title plate. Acknowledges the justice of W.'s objections. W. says: "Well let 'em try again: if it comes up better we'll be in big luck—if it don't then I'll be mad at myself. But here—see here—look at

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this: can you beat this?"
Held out towards me a large photographed head of Bucke. "Ain't it the best thing that could be?—Bucke in and out, up and down: and this is taken by some little man with no reputation at all. It seems to me these little fellows beat our city men: some of the strokes of these out-of-the-way fellows are masterly: look at this—and there was Clifford's picture the other day. The city photographers like things toned down, polished, in the mode." Harned asked: "Is Burroughs quite friendly to Bucke?" W. replied: "He ought to be—I'm quite sure he wants to be. John gets a little cynical as he grows older: he seems to incline a little bit more towards conventional things, conventional people—likes the radical fellows rather less: this seems to me like giving up valuable prestige. John gets to New York—gets nowhere else: goes down to the city—sees the men there—the literary class: hears only one thing. A man who tries New York on has got to be careful: he may very easily find himself in a false suit of clothes." Then of Bucke: "Bucke's great point—greatest point of all—is his wonderful frankness, candor, openness. Gilder always strikes me as a man of the same sort: not so virile as Doctor, but frank, open—a man to be everyway counted upon. Gilder seems to be coming on: is a bigger man than he was—by far bigger than when I first knew him. He likes fine things a little too well—that's where he misses the mark: is a little too much concerned about lightness (deftness) of touch, delicatesse. Yet he is an ideal editor—he knows how to put two and two together any time without a mistake. I do not mean by that that The Century is my ideal of a magazine: it is ideal of a kind: that's what I mean: granting its purpose it's perfectly done, almost."

     Brown himself today referred to the "Romeo curls" as "an unwarranted liberty." W. said: "I didn't use those words—yet I don't know but they're justified." Received Liberty today. Read the Appleton-Tucker-Morse correspondence. "I sent the paper off to Charles Eldridge—you know him?—off in New Mexico: he is always interested. I see that Sidney—I did not know it before—that Morse is pretty well committed to

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Anarchy—that he is in fact possessed by it, fully endorsing it. I knew his inclinations that way but I thought he had only been touched by it incidentally—that it was not a chief thing with him. Yet I might have known better—might have seen the truth. Morse is such a mild mannered revolutionist you never quite realize that he is also very forceful—that he can when necessary strike a blow that hurts. When Morse was here last year, at the time of the Anarchist trials, he was at white-heat—I could see it: full of suppressed feeling. As the day for execution approached it was easy to be seen that he was deeply troubled. I think he was even angry with me because I did not take more interest—show more concern. I had my own way of looking upon the transactions of that exciting period: I did not want to see them executed—I wanted to see them reprieved."
"Why?" "Well—much for reasons I would have urged for Jefferson Davis and those associated with him: for our own sakes, all our sakes—America's, humanity's. But the men were hung. It passed away: it was a tempest, a storm, furious, making waste—and afterwards a clear day. I never wished the severe penalty enforced: to me, too, it was grievous." I asked what had been his emotional experience at the time of the execution of John Brown. "About the same as this—much the same: a little stronger, it may be, but the same: not enough to take away my appetite—to spoil my supper." "Did your friends understand this at the time?" "Some of them—yes: some of them thought I was hard-hearted. My brother George was much more excited at that time than I was: George, now up there at Burlington: he thought it a martyrdom." "So did you—didn't you?" "Yes—but not the only one: I am never convinced by the formal martyrdoms alone: I see martyrdoms wherever I go: it is an average factor in life: why should I go off emotionally half-cocked only about the ostentatious cases?"

     I read him a letter I had received from Morse today. This passage occurred, descriptive of a modeling talk in Chicago: "I modelled Cleveland, and in response to a question as to how he would look after the election, I said, 'Thus—perhaps,' and

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changed him into Harrison in the space of about three minutes, strange to say, getting H. better than C. Then I fixed H. into John Brown, and Brown into Mephisto. Blake and Dr. Thomas thought it 'masterly' but 'twas a simple twist of the wrist."
W. did not wish to leave this till he "had it down fine:" laughed most unreservedly—described it as "witty—genuinely witty." Morse has an idea that he could make a good Whitman from a gray stone common out there. Urges: "Raise a hundred and fifty dollars and let me go on with it: then put it in Philadelphia somewhere." W. asked: "Where? Where would they have me? They have no room for me." Yet he wished to "chew upon Morse's suggestion"—to see: "if I have anything at all, and what, to suggest." Then he asked if Morse knew what had become of the Concord bust? This led to some talk of the Concord School. W. described a drive past one day: "Sanborn came out to the carriage—urged me in—to see—yes, go on the platform, if I elected: to talk, too, I suppose: but I would not have it—not hear of it: it was a thing everyway impossible. The Concord School was always a sort of ghostland to me." McKay thinks he will sell a thousand copies of the book, "at least." W. says: "Let him try it on—let 'em all try it on: let 'em believe there's no bad place!" W. handed me an old Swinton letter. "Read that—it refers to some old-time people: Greeley, Ripley."


New York, Oct. 19, 1870.

Dear Walt—

I delivered the book to Mr. Reid for the Tribune—and had some considerable talk with him about a review article. I was afraid of Ripley but Reid confirmed my impression that Greeley is or has been favorable, and he agreed to speak to Greeley, and see what could be done in the premises. The conversation was exhaustive—that is to say, I exhausted the powers I for the time being possessed—and the upshot was the rather limited result above mentioned. In any event, if the matter goes to Ripley it will have gone to him by a friendly line.


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I read the Vistas—not in the morning but at night. There are very good and striking ideas, with plenty of opportunity for difference of opinion and criticism.

Yours,

J. Swinton.



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