Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, December 26, 1888.

     8 P. M. W. lying on the bed but did not stay there long after my coming. Greatly interested in the weather. Had been talking to Harry Fritzinger. Fire burning sharply—room intensely hot. I spoke of the heat to W. who admitted: "It is fearful hot: I have just been having Harry attend to it—open the door." Ed off having a music lesson. I asked W.: "How are you?" "There is no change—or

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little: I am altogether what I was."
But was tired: needed a little more rest: would not however stay on the bed. "I only put myself here for a little furlough: then I have some letters I must show you." So went laboriously over to the chair: greatly easier than some days last week. I said: "After all, your legs have not completely given out." "No—but nearly: they are not much good: I go stumbling about badly on them." Called my attention to Lippincott's. "I want you to take it along. There is a piece in it on Poe: Stoddard wrote it: I read every word." Was it worth while? "It is very cross, fault-finding, vitrolic, crabbed—characteristic of Stoddard: Stoddard is old, gray, disappointed—milk turned sour: thinks the world generally a fraud, a delusion." I interjected: "And thinks pretty sharply of you, too." "I should say so: he thinks I am a fraud—a fraud from top to toe."

     Stoddard's general work was discussed. W. said to me as he had before that "The Woman on the Town was without a doubt the best thing" S. ever wrote. "Sotddard has always stuck up for Taylor: Taylor is the only one of them all that he has stuck up for: but even that was a wonder to me." Brought him the Christmas issue of Publishers' Weekly. Got it from McKay. Contains a W. portrait. "It looks very well: I don't know but I like it better than our own prints." We are to send this to Bucke. McKay gave me along with it two big pages of matter from W.'s Hicks, copied by Elizabeth Porter Gould as an addition to her W. W. book McKay now has under way. Was it not too big a slice? That was Dave's question. I submitted it to W. McKay had a copy of the second edition of Leaves. Picked it up in N.Y. for three dollars and a half. For his own use—not got speculatively. W. asked: "Was it the book with the steel portrait—thick—green cover?" Then: "I did not know there was a demand for them—any demand that would run up the price." Where did he imagine all the old books went? They rarely turned up in the stores. "I don't know: they slip away: they are rarely found—

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they have no speculative value: I have a copy of this edition, but probably not more than one."

     I was speaking of Emerson and W. as the giants of our time in America—the only giants. "I assume that you stand incomparably higher than do all others." I said: "I think less of Bryant probably than you do." "I have an idea you do: I think a great deal of him: regard him highly: but I clearly perceive that you are essentially right—that taken all in all Emerson is a way, far, above all others: not one to share his glory."

     He had slips printed: To the year 1889. Curtz is to set and print Bucke's letter regarding the big book: proof there to-night. Spoke of sending a copy of the complete book to Morse. "Must do so within a few days." No acknowledgement of the Boston package "except from Baxter." Spoke kindly of Baxter—of his endorsement of L. of G. Checks not yet made out. Still promises. W. said something about "the best fellows—like Whittier, for instance." I sent Bucke to-day's Record containing Bacon's report of his visit yesterday. "A queer bungle," W. said: he "caring nothing for it." Asked about Tolstoy's My Religion and My Confession: did not know but he "might read them"—at any rate would "try": "If they are what they may be I shall go definitely through with them." Was I going "up to Harned's?" "Will you not give your sister—Mrs. Harned—my love—my greetings of the season—enough for her, for the baby—then for all the rest?" W. thought "the just word" for Tolstoy "vraisemblance." T. "not surpassed in that Sebastopol book by any of the giants in the history of literature." W.'s appearance not quite so encouraging as for the previous three days.

     W. said: "I have laid out several letters here for you—several of them: one from Rennell Rod: I thought it would interest you: others: several from the Doctor: Rodd is from abroad." Collecting them together—passing them over to me. "I look over matters about here—try to put a little order in the great confusion. Work a little each

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day."
We went over the letters. W. got me reading again—reading aloud. Bucke says in one of his letters that he is reading Parkman and thinks a lot of him. W. nods: "He ought to if he thinks a lot of anybody: Parkman deserves it." In his letter of the 15th Bucke says "If the thing was possible I should go to Camden and stay with you—but it is not possible, so there 's no use thinking of it. Perhaps I could do no good if I was there: certainly you have a better doctor by far than I am—I mean Osler. But it seems to me they do not take the interest they ought." W. exclaimed: "O Doctor: Doctor—yes they do: all of them: I don't want a medicine man camped on the premises— could n't stand it: not even Bucke: I could stand Bucke here as a man but as an attending physician—God save me!—I love him—but God save me! Horace, think of having a doctor settled down on my doorstep! As for Osler: he is a great man—one of the rare men: I should be much surprised if he did n't soar way way up—get very famous at his trade—some day: he has the air of the thing about him—of achievement."

     Bucke wrote on the 20th, satisfied with the aspect of things in Camden. "I think you are well off as to doctors and nurses now—Osler, Walsh and Wilkins—it is a strong team and we ought to see some result of their care of you." W. reached over quietly and took my hand: "Not to speak of you, Horace, who are worth all the doctors and nurses in the world." Then he added: " We 've converted the vehement Doctor: that 's a great victory." I read W. Bucke's letter of the 24th. When I was through he said: "I wish that damned meter was buried hopeless fathoms deep in the seas they propose to measure with it!" I also read B.'s brief Christmas letter, about which W. made no remark, but the letter of the 23d contained one sentence which W. said was "daring if not impertinent": "I am thoroughly satisfied with the big book and more and more as I look it over: I think it will stand in future ages as the chief glory of the nineteeth century." W. added: "Maurice must have felt

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mighty sure of himself to go on so in the face of providence. With all the world against him, too! Maurice, you are like one of those knights of the middle ages who went out alone challenging everybody to everything and attempting to do the impossible."
There was still another envelope. Rennell Rodd's. It contained a manuscript poem but no letter. W. would have me read the poem. I demurred a bit—said I could n't read verse: but he insisted and I did so. He said: " It 's scholarly and all that: sort of schoolish: but nevertheless you 'll like it: it drives right to the point: besides, it seems intended seriously—as a real handshake, and I am inclined to take it as such cordially without critical qualifications." I read.


To Walt Whitman.
An English answer to certain strictures of Mr. Swin-burne's in a recent number of The Fortnightly Review.


Laugh loud from the merry old throat, rough Walt in
         thy haven of rest,

For the curse of the prophet of Putney proscribes thee the
         isles of the blest!


He has passed from the van to the rearguard forsaking the
         Ayes for the Noes,

Renouncing the passionate lyric to preach in extravagant
         prose:


Oh where are the frenzy and fervor, the sonnets that "sting
         like a whip,"

Protests anapæstic indignant that flashed from the radical
         lip?


He has turned on you too, Camerado, has passed from the
         few to the throng,

Content you and smile and remember he called to you once
         for a song!


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But we who rejoiced to have found you, accepting the whole
         for the part,

The virtues implying the failings keep warm your old place
         in the heart:


We will say you were rugged uncouth and untamed as the
         land of your birth,

But large with heart of its greatness to compass the
         glory of earth.


We will love you and praise and remember when lilacs are
         blooming once more,

And thrill at the camp and the drumtap, and weep with
         your bird on the shore.


There is music in murmur of forest and rhythm in slapping
         of waves,

And of such were the music and rhythm old Walt of thy
         mutinous staves.


For the trick of the rhyme and the tinkle are easy enough
         to acquire,

But the insight and reading of nature were thine and the
         throb and the fire.


There is more of the roar of the ocean with thee, of the scent
         of the pines,

Than in all his recoiling and foaming up and down anapæs-
         tical lines.


So laugh and content you, old Walt, while the fever remains
         let him rave!

Let him be, he has doomed you with Byron, who hardly will
         turn in his grave!


And oh, bard of the pinewood of Putney, return to your
         kisses and doves,

The allurements of alliteration, romaunts of your trouba-
         dour loves!


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Disbelieve since you must in the ardor of old you were first
         to extol,

Disbelieve in the present the future, and if need be look after
         your soul!


But forbear to believe that your footsteps are stainless
         wherever you trod,

Because you made music of lewdness to rhyme with the
         mother of God!


There is more pain on earth when a poet renounces the star
         of his youth,

Than for all the blind groping of dunces who never set eyes
         upon truth.



     The poem was signed "Rennell Rodd," and as from the British Embassy, Berlin, Sept. 8, 1887. W. laughed when I was through. " That 's mighty good,—eh? mutinous staves! That 's what they are: damned mutinous. Who is Rodd? He is a clerk, a secretary, an attaché, of some sort—not the chief, not the big bug: but he means us well, does us well, whoever he is. It 's funny to me how you fellows all get so hot over Swinburne's recantation: all but John: John was hot over the original position of Swinburne—said he could n't understand it: wondered if I had been misbehaving, and so forth, and so forth. When Swinburne took it all back John said: 'Now things look about right again: now I see that the trouble was not with you but with him.' It 's not necessary to believe Swinburne's original notion was dishonest, nor that the new view is: they stand for two Swinburnes: you can take your choice: one is as honest as the other: which do you choose? Maurice said: Swinburne's gone crazy! But Swinburne's friends originally though he had gone crazy for exactly the opposite reason. Tom said yesterday: Swinburne looks to me a bit like a liar: but oh Tom, ain't that going it a trifle strong? Don't you think there 's a decenter explanation than that?

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Emerson said to me: 'Beware of the praisers, Mr Whitman.' I said: 'You don't need to: the praisers beware of you.'
He laughed—put his hand on my arm: 'You've got it just right: they beware of us.'"


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