Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, December 9, 1888.

     7.15 P. M. Day very rainy till evening, but quite warm. W. lying on his bed but not asleep. Said he was "simply resting," having been up in his chair a large part of the day. Very bright: talkative: voice vigorous: stayed on the bed during my visit. Said; "I hold my own: I am a shattered man: but I keep my head up, which is a great thing." How had things gone with him? "I have had a stream of visitors: the doctors—Osler, Walsh: Mr. Hunter was bright, cheery, as usual: talked a good deal—talked like a house afire! Then Herbert was in, and Tom: Miss Corning, too—and by the way, what a bright girl she is!" Talking of women W. said (referring to something I said about the "smart" woman): "I can easily comprehend your feeling: I don't know but I have it to the full myself: a horror, shrinking, from the repartee woman—the woman who could prefer the false to the dull. Miss Corning, I am conscious, is that, unfortunately: but she seemed to me more, too: good, if I may put it so: the father did not come in."

     Harned had brought W. The Tribune. Herbert had stayed "but briefly" "Hunter longer." In going stumbling

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down the front steps in leaving H. said to Mary: "I'll have to get rid soon either of this trouble with my legs or some of this belly." W. greatly amused: "That sounds so like the man—thoroughly hearty, jovial." As for the doctors: "They treated me well." He described himself as "relapsed to what I call my shaky half paralytic condition. Dr. Walsh has offered very kindly to come in every two days and Osler from time to time: that is enough, I should think." On the whole was weaker. Had to lie down more: pain, however, gone. Thought he had met Walsh before. "Where? I have been puzzling with myself: his face is familiar." Did not feel disposed at present to take Walsh's advice and go out. Walsh suggested a portable chair. W. gave me Bucke letters of the 6th and 7th, saying of the second: "You must see to that principally: Doctor is urgent: says the letter is for you, too."


London, Ontario, 7 Dec., 1888.

I have your letter of 5.30 p. m. Wednesday (5th) and am greatly relieved at the result of the consultation as far as I understand it at present. I had a letter also by this morning's mail from Osler, written 5th, but before the consultation. It is, however, very cheering. I want to impress it upon you, however, that you certainly should be seen (for the present) every day by some good doctor who would call in Osler from time to time as necessary. Osler agrees with me that this would be the proper thing to do. You had better take some clever young (at least not old) Camden man for the regular daily attendant.

Thank you very much for Shakespeare-Bacon's Cipher. It is too bad that it was missed out of Sands, for it is a good piece.

I am confident that your present painful symptoms can be greatly alleviated (if not removed) by careful management, but you must be seen at least once per day in order that you may be closely watched and the proper steps taken at once from day to day.


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I want you to show this letter to Traubel to save me repeating it to him.

Always affectionately

R. M. Bucke.


     I told W. I had anticipated this letter in writing B. yesterday. I informed B. that we would use Walsh when necessary: that Ed would be especially vigilant, understanding that Walsh was to be summoned night or day upon the slightest sign of a bad turn in W. I added: "You know Doctor's deprivation: he is away: is anxious, loving." W.: "Yes: I see it—see it all: he is right, we are right." Then of my explanation: "It is good—very good: when did you say you wrote it?" "Yesterday" "Ah! I am glad! that is about what I should have said myself: all are kind, attentive, as you put it: we will be on our guard—not hesitate when the time comes: I have a friend here—right near us—Dr. Benjamin (you know him?): a young man (you know Maurice wants a young man): he has offered to come in—is anxious to serve, too." I said to W.: "But these are all drug men—druggers: don't you think you could get along mostly without medicines?" He said "yes" with gusto and went on: "I do—I do: Maurice knows what I feel about that: my whole being revolts against their potions: I think the time will come when the doctor will be quite another sort of administrator doing quite other things." "You mean along mental, psychical lines?" "Yes, mostly: yes indeed: if we knew enough we would not need to resort to our poisons: we could find better ways to extricate ourselves from deviltries." He laughed "Maurice says I 'm a good deal of a fool when I say such things: maybe I am: and you, Horace—you sound like the same sort of fool yourself. Did you ever have the temerity to disclose your views to Doctor on that subject?" "Yes: and first he gave me hell—particular hell: then he wound up by agreeing with me." W. was most amused. "Exactly my experience, Horace: he said to me—Maurice

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said: Walt, ' you 're right enough—right enough—but for a thousand years hence, not for to-day!'"
I said: " To-day is not too soon for me." "Nor for me," said W., fervently: "The time to help with a good thing is when you know it 's a good thing."

     Ed says W. "is about the same yesterday": eating well, though not as much: not suffering: "very bright and cheery." W. said: "I have been reading the papers—The Press, Tribune. The Tribune has a little notice of the book—probably three or four stickfuls: rather interesting: I bundled the paper up and sent it off to Bucke." Was the notice favorable? "I don't know whether you would call it that: not unfavorable at any rate: rather mild. It is I should, I could, I must, I can, I ought, yet I will not." He delivered this with real honest laughing enjoyment. "I am convinced that long ago The Tribune folks met—resolved upon the things they would do and the things they would not do: Walt Whitman was one of the things they would not do."

     W. said: "What a heap of things Bucke must have! Here goes still another paper!" I remarked: "If he keeps my letters, they alone must fill a trunk." W. said: "No doubt he keeps 'em: you can bet on it: Doctor is very hungry for all we can send him—every scrap no matter how small and insignificant."

     Editorial in Christian Union: Eager for Excellence. Two references to W. Read them to W.—then left the paper with him. He listened intently—admitted: "they have a true ring—they seem to acknowledge us!" W. returned me copies of The Stage. "I enjoyed them very much: read them carefully today—finding a good deal more than I had expected: they are the right stripe—rather brighter, more sparkling, than anything in the same line I have seen here: more like the French sheets of the kind—not so polished, however." Moreover— "the printing itself—let alone the pictures—are satisfying to the eye."

     He asked what was the subject up at the meeting of

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Contemporary Tuesday next (H. G. participating) and when he learned—Some Tendencies of American Art—said: "What a dry subject: it must take a brakeman to tackle it!"—half in jest, I thought, half in earnest. For, as he said it, "the real underlying tendencies, virtues, of the masses the average professor never will acknowledge."

     Going the rounds is an announcement that W. W. is to contribute to Lippincott's the coming year. He laughed at the idea himself: "They got hold of that two years ago: have kept it standing." I quoted something that was said to me to-day by Brinton: "Howells is not our man, James is not our man." W. was much struck. "That is a genuine protest: I am sure it is right—not surer of anything than of that: but then I should be inclined to ask—where is our man to be found? Among all the brilliant advanced men, I see none I should pick out—not here, not in Europe: I don't know so much about the continent: at least not in England: no—I guess not one." I mentioned Tolstoy. W. "could not approve"—felt he did not "know" Tolstoy. "Tolstoy has been unfortunate in his translators: how much of his failure to impress me is owing to this I could not say: much," he was confident: "the most wretched miserable stuff has been palmed off on us as transcipts of the original. There is Dole: I know Nathan Haskell Dole: he was for a time on the Philadelphia Press: went form The Press to The Epoch—then out on his own hook. He always displayed a very kindly and courteous spirit towards me: I met him in New York—he was here several times to see me, too—affable, a gentleman, generous—sent me a couple of his books." W. had "tried to read" these books. "One of them—Anne Karenina, or some such name—I have downstairs still: wrestled with it at the time: never had such a task: I had heard somewhere—some distinguished critic had said so—that this was Tolstoy's best book—that this was most rich in the larger qualities ascribed to him: so, in spite of myself, I persisted—went through with it—feeling that along somewhere the truth would out—I

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would get my reward: but nothing eventuated: the book was big in bulk alone—it seemed to me there must have been at least three volumes in that one: all my plodding failed to relieve it of its dullness."
Was it the fault of the translation? Was that poor? "Yes—yes—it stared me in the face from every page: it sounded like a translation made by a man who started to translate the book before he had read it: take my word for it, that is true: the trouble is, the publishers are all in such a devil of a hurry to get there: no matter how, to get there: disgracefully or honorably, either: but to get there. I don't blame Dole: he 's a good fellow—can do a good job: but the book seemed to me, sounded to me, like something done with a pistol at his head." He felt that "rivalry developed poor work." He was somewhat familiar with Isabel Hapgood's tranlations. I spoke of Sebastopol—described it. "Have you got it?" he inquired. "Then bring it along: I may do better with that." He had read Turgenieff "fitfully." Knew nothing of Gogol. He said: "Even Turgenieff suffered from imbecile translations." I said: " There 's much to Tolstoy which you should hold on to—much stuff of your own sort: his view of art is about the same as your own: that is, he hates anything calling itself art unless it is of some use to the people: he is down on all art aristocracies." W. exclaimed: "Why, you say it better even than he does! The fact is, my suspicion that what you say is the case (though I have not so far seen it in Tolstoy) induces me to hold off—tells me to go slow: and it is for that reason I feel that the translations have belied Tolstoy—are not to be trusted. There 's an ascetic side to Tolstoy which I care very little for: I honor it—I know what it comes from: but I find myself getting to my end by another philosophy: in some ways Tolstoy has cut the cord which unites him with us: has gone back to medievalism—to the saturninity of the monkish rites: not a return to nature—no: a return to the sty. But Tolstoyis a world force—an immense vehement first energy driving to the fulfulment of a great purpose."


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     When I came he said: "The first thing to be done is to put up the light." On my getting ready to go out he said: "The last thing to be done is to put down the light." As I shook hands with him he said: "Good luck. You are good luck to me!"


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