Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, January 7, 1889.

     7.45 P. M. W. lying on his bed. Got up later. Said he was "very tired," but, as usual, "thanked God it was no worse." Had stayed up last night till half-past ten reading: got up this morning a little earlier than usual. Perhaps these unusual hours accounted for it. He "could not tell," however, if he "wished to." I called for Dave's book this morning but Mrs. Davis said Ed was not up. But W. said to-night: "I had intended Ed should put it on the stairway so you could get hold of it for yourself: anyhow, you can get it now." He had written this dedication on a fly-leaf: For David McKay from his friend the author Walt Whitman with best regards and luck wishes not forgetting by any means Mrs: McK and the young ones Jan: 7 1889."

     W. asked me: "Do you get Liberty? does Tucker send it to you?" Then: "Well, I laid it out for you: it came to-day: I can't say I enthuse much over it: Tucker seems to be a man with a belief: his paper is there for that belief: that 's about as far as I can see. I do not understand what they are driving at—what the anarchists want: I do not

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understand what they want: I do not understand what the Henry George men want: nor do I trouble myself about it."
"But you do trouble yourself about it," I said. "What do you mean?" "Your book is full of anarchism and Henry George." He looked at me: "You mean by implication? that I throw off sparks that way?" "Yes." "Well, I suppose I do: I am sure, taken that way, that I might be convicted of a hundred philosophies." "You say you don't know what the anarchists want, what the Henry George men want: are you sure you don't?" He replied: "if you ask me to tell you what their contention is I can't tell you." "Their contention is the same as yours. You remember what you told Pease here in this room." "Oh! he was the Socialist? that English fellow: a nice fellow, too: what did I tell Pease?" "You said you did n't so much object to Socialism as to being talked to about it." He laughed. "Did I say that? Well, why should n't I have said that: that 's what I 'm trying to say now." "But why don't you say it then? The way you talked I should judge your objection to Tucker and the other fellows to be general, wholesale." "No indeed: I would not have that implied: I honor them: I know they are probably working in their own way to produce what I working in my own way am trying to produce." I said: "You ask: what do they want? what do they want? Let me ask you: what do you want?" "Do you mean that as a question for me to answer?" "Yes: I'd like to hear you answer it." "Suppose I would rather not answer it?" "I would continue to want to hear you answer it anyhow."

     W. stopped. Closed his eyes a few winks. Then: "You mean economically speaking?" "Yes." Then he stopped again. I waited. Finally he got going with great feeling and vehemence: "I want the people: most of all the people: the crowd, the mass, the whole body of the people: men, women, and children: I want them to have what belongs to them: not a part of it, not most of it, but all of it: I want anything done that will give the people their proper

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opportunities—their full life: anything, anything: whether by one means or another, I want the people to be given their due."
I said: "That don't sound like a plea for millionaires." "I suppose not: the millionaires don't need any one to plead for them: they are in possession." I inquired: "You want the people to have it all: how are they to get all?" "Oh! there is the rub: how are they? Do you know: who knows? I wonder if anybody knows?" "Well, Tucker thinks he knows: Henry George thinks he knows: Pease thought he knew." "But do they know?" W. cried: "Every doctor knows, but do the doctors cure people?" I asked W.: "How do you know these men don't know if you don't look into what they propose?" He smiled. "Damn you! You 're like a lawyer! That was a blow between the eyes." I added: "What they want—what Tucker wants, what George wants, what Pease wants—is exactly what you want—you all want the people to own their product—to not make beautiful and useful things for their masters to enjoy. There must be a way out. Why isn't it as much your business as any other's to try to find what this way out is?" He answered at once: "I suppose you are holding me up with good reason: I have no right to discourage the boys: they are doing their work—big work it is, too, I acknowledge: they are devoted-they sacrifice themselves to it: it needs to be done: the people must resume their inheritance." "Or assume it," I said: "they have never so far had it—therefore they have not lost it." "You are cute: you see all around it—all around me, in fact: I acknowledge that I am wholly ignorant—that I might brush up a bit in this line and not be hurt by it. My general position is plain: the people: all the people: not forgetting the bad with the good: they are to-day swindled, robbed, outraged, discredited, despised: I say they must assert their priority—that they come first: not the swells, the parlors, the superiors, the elect, the polished: no, not them: the people, the fraternal eternal people: evil and righteous, no matter: the people." "Do

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you think the class that has robbed the people will hand their loot back?"
" I 'm afraid not: I 'm afraid the people will have to fight for what they get." "How will they fight?" "There are several ways: Tucker suggests one way: George suggests another way: Pease suggests Socialism." W.: "I don't dispute with them. Why should I? I want the real things to get said and done whether they please me or please anybody in particular or not: the real things: the people's things. I am always outspoken on this point. When I say I even include kings I would n't like to be understood as making a plea for kingcraft: I include Carnegie but I would not make a plea for Homestead: God forbid!—yes, I say damn Homestead! But I can't get myself into a personal boil in the matter: I want the arrogant money powers disciplined, called to time: I think I shall rejoice in anything the people do to demonstrate their contempt for the conditions under which they are despoiled." I exclaimed: "Hurrah!" Then: "All these fellows find texts in Leaves of Grass: not figures, not names, but electrifying intimations. They don't any of them claim you as a partisan: they only claim you in the general way. We say Jesus is on our side. In the same sense we say you are on our side. With the people as against the elect few: with the people: even when things go wrong, with the people."

     I was feeling gratified to hear him talk so. " You 're pretty radical after all, Walt: a good bit more radical than you probably realize yourself— you 've gone farther than you think." He assented: " It 's quite possible: the growth of a man is so subtle: he sometimes goes along in entire innocence until he is reminded of his heresy." I asked W: "Suppose the millionaires were abolished—that millionairism became impossible, would you feel unhappy over it?" "What? me? God no! Ain't that my program?" " That 's what I 'm trying to find out: I want to see if you do have a program." W. raised his arm and brought his hand down with a slap on the arm of his chair: "I say

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that if the people know any way to get rid of the millionaires, to get the old man of the sea off their backs (God knows they 've staggered on under the burden long enough!): I say that if they know any way, let 'em embrace it: now—any day: the sooner the better: to hurl the nasty mess into oblivion!"
His eyes flamed out. I exclaimed: "Why Walt, you 're a damned good revolutionist after all!" He was amused. " Did n't you always know it? What could I be if I was n't?" "I thought from what you said of Tucker and George that you were maybe a bit reactionary!" He fairly yelled at me: "To hell with your reaction! to hell with it! I may be dodging your doctrines: I 'm not dodging your purpose: I am with you all in what you aim for: solidarity, the supremacy of the people: all the people in possession of what belongs to all the people but has been stolen from them: I 'm with you in that: but I can't follow you in all the intricate involvements, theories, through which you pursue your fierce agitations."

     W. touched this subject again later on. Spoke of Johnston. "Johnston came in yesterday: and Richard Hunter: Dick Hunter: you know about Dick? They were here about fifteen minutes. They are both great talkers—vigorous: and very radical, too—radical of radical—free thinking, socialistic, even anarchistic, maybe. But, as I said before, I know so little about the aims of these reformers I ought not to say anything one way or the other"—here he paused: "Dick is a tremendous little fellow!" Then "wondered" if Johnston knew Adler. They were both "of the good sort and come-outers by nature." Letter from Morse. "I can't think what day: certainly within a week. He tells me of the death of his mother but gives no news of himself." Did I know Harry Bonsall—the son? "He is dead—died up in the asylum." Exclaimed then of Harry the father: "Poor Harry! he has a siege of it!" Then he added: "But every man has siege of it sooner or later if he will only wait!"

     I saw Dave McKay. He showed me review (brief) of N. Boughs in Springfield Republican, Christmas day—favor-

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able. I sent for two copies—one for Bucke, one for us here. Dave had already heard of The Herald notice through Boston inquiries after the big book. I spoke of this to W. Thought we might send a few copies to Dave on sale. "But it will be six dollars just the same." McKay too thinks a heavy cover advisable. He will be over to see W. to-morrow. Bill for N. B. due from McKay. W. spoke of Kennedy's letters. "I always call them scrappy: they are not foolish: they are like him—thoroughly like him: nervous, quick, discursive, always nteresting." Letter from Bucke. "He complains of the irregularity of my letters. They seem to have a strange perkish way up at the post office. Bucke says he often finds letters I date and send one day stamped Camden the next. I am always statistically careful about the dates of my letters. These letters should go off the night I send them up: I wait till night, till after nightfall, a little beyond seven then send Eddy up. I did there for a time write Doctor every day: he would receive none perhaps for two days, then the third day receive three." Appeared to be excessively exercised about a trivial matter. I told him I thought it was at seven, not eight, that the mails went out. "If that is so," he retorted, "I have been working under a wrong supposition for years and years. But we must submit: whatever they decree we must obey."

     Whittier has written a poem on Dick Spofford: W. has not seen it, but said: "Poor Dick! Good Dick! Dick was one of the dead earnest men—Italian in that—risking all for a conviction!" Met Brinton and Coates at Contemporary board meeting this afternoon: both asked after W. W. acknowledged. Bucke has received slip containing dedication. Expresses himself as satisfied. Speaking of the Philadelphia symposium on W. he said: " Did n't I think at the time that Frank Williams' paper was pretty good?" Then said: "These young men are honestly though narrowly animated." W. reads so much better now: longer spells: and writes with even greater ease than he reads. For a while right after the attack in December, "a minute

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—two minutes—finished me."
Now he can read right ahead for an hour or two. Asks me invariably about the weather, news, people. Did to-night. No longer expresses any desire to get downstairs or go out. I told him of something from Will Walsh in yesterday's Press. "I had not seen it: in fact I have n't read half of yesterday's Press yet: I hope I have not sent it away." Always interested in what Walsh does. W. gave me another one of the "avowals" as he calls them. I said: "We want to know who saw you, recognized you, stuck by you, when you needed friends." "Yes," said he: " that 's it: I feel that way myself: I have known the sweetness of being loved." Eldridge did not enclose the original of Mrs. Ritter's letter but O'Connor's copy of it.


Washington, D. C., May 2, 1876.

Dear Walt:

Enclosed I send you a copy of a letter received by William. He says he knew the writer by correspondence only, when he was on The Saturday Evening Post. Her name was then Fanny Malone Raymond, and she was said to be extremely beautiful and is probably so yet. You had better accept their invitation.

How did you like William's article? And how is your health? Write me if you can. All your friends well here as far as I know.

Faithfully yours

Charley.



Poughkeepsie, April 26, 1876.

W. D. O'Connor, Esq.

Dear Sir: The name at the end of this letter is now perhaps unfamiliar to you; the first part of it you may remember as having been that of a young lady whose girlish poetic attempts you once took the trouble of kindly and sometimes (more kindly) unkindly criticising and encouraging.


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My husband's name, may be unknown to you, unless you take an interest in music; if you do you will recognize him as having been a professor of that art at Vassar College for some years; as composer of symphonies, etc.; and as lately the author of the history of music-the first written and published in America. (Mr. Ritter is Alsatian, however.)

I do not write to-day to claim an old acquaintance of mere correspondence, but to tell you, on both our parts, how delighted we were with your manly defense of Mr. Whitman in The Tribune last week, and also to beg you to give our respects and a message to your friend.

He may, perhaps, feel interest enough in the aspirations of his young countrywomen at Vassar College to wish to see for himself what they can do at Commencement season; if so, we shall feel honored in receiving him as our guest towards the end of next June, in our quiet artist home, where he will find a fine library, plenty of music, our two selves, and a warm welcome.

We should be most happy to see you also, and should good fortune ever lead you hitherward, you will be welcomed by Professor Ritter and yours truly,

Fanny Raymond Ritter.


     W. said: "You are right to feel warm about the people who felt warm about me when for the most part most people froze me out: you are right when you say they must not be forgotten. I do not dare to say that it was important to preserve the Leaves: I can only say that if it was important then my friends must be regarded as the saviors of the book: my friends: many of them unknown but preciously beautiful and far-seeing."


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