Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, November 8, 1888.

     7.45 P. M. W. reading the Bible. The daylight was near gone. He huddled up against it. Speaks of his reading

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as "altogether a matter of humor and of what book comes to hand when" he "sits down." His mind is still on the election. He asked me immediately after motioning me to a seat and laying the book down: "Is everything settled for Harrison now? Is it fixed so beyond a doubt?" After my natural and quiet "yes," he asked another question: "Do they speak of Blaine for the State Department?" To this too I answered "yes." Then he exclaimed: "Well, let them have him: he will make a good one: they are entitled to their infernal orthodoxy: Blaine always cuts a dramatic figure: he is superb in technique." He wanted to know "if anything authentic has yet come from the President bearing upon the defeat?" and added: "I hope he bears it philosophically: it is our defeat—not his more than ours." I tried to repeat to W. the substance of a Ledger editorial which attributed Cleveland's defeat to his 1887 message, calling it a "mistake," intimating that he should have refrained from issuing it for tactical reasons. W. said: " That 's a shameful thing to say: but it 's worthy of The Ledger: The Ledger's not so far gone as The Press, but it 's gone far enough." Then he dealt directly with the tariff men: "They think this is the end: let them go on believing so—that there is no hell. There are more ballots to come: elections, ballots, then ballots, elections, again and again: the real questions will recur: the living issues: this to-day is no settlement—it is only a postponement."

     This time I had the Cæsar along with me. He was visibly delighted. He handled it fondly, regarded the frontispiece portrait of C. for a long time. "This is quite different from the pictures of Cæsar I have heretofore seen." Then he looked at me graciously: "Thanks! thanks! I am glad you brought it: I am sure to enjoy it." He rarely comes to conclusions about a book before he reads it. This was a compliment to Froude. I had Fred May Holland's Reign of the Stoics with me. "Who is he?" W. asked. He remembered the book—its title—but had not, he thought,

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read it, nor had he met Holland. I said to him: "Dave declares that he 's going to sell four thousand sets of his Emerson First Series before the year is out." W. was astonished: "Four thousand? did you say four thousand? Well, that looks to my poor eyes like riches—a miracle: that should be good for Dave—good for Dave's pocket: good for America, too. Four thousand, eight thousand, Emersons, let loose, scattered broadcast, could not fail to result in immense good fruit. Emerson never fails: he can't be rejected: even when he falls of stony ground he somehow eventuates in a harvest."

     W. entered into frank talk touching his health. I had asked my usual questions. He responded: "I have felt very well to-day: have had no visitors: best of all got a splendid—oh! a splendid!—effective bath: the best, the completest, since I was thrown on my back here. I got to-day what I call my currying, too—rubbing: I have a brush for it. I at first intended to have Ed bring the big tub into the room and fill it with water so I could take my bath right here: but I got to the bathroom—Ed helped me—and so got my swab in the old way. Ed is very stalwart—handled me well—helped me with the currying." He takes to Ed. Calls him "brawny—a powerful ally." His first lament over Musgrove was the last. "I liked Baker and Musgrove, but never called on them to assist me in this way—did not feel like it, for some reasons. Rubbing is good for everybody but is especially valuable to me—stands me in place of exercise: I need something, oh! so badly—something that will stir me up like the sun and the air, of which I am now deprived: I am a prisoner here, almost denied the light of day. I remember that Dr. Drinkard in Washington said to me the last thing: 'Don't let anything occur to induce you to neglect the business of circulation: whip yourself into vigor no matter where you are or what happens.' Dr. Drinkard was one of the first doctors I had there in Washington: I had two: Drinkard was the subtlest, surest: he was a Southern man: came to

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Washington to practise: his folks were Virginians: he was abroad studying—in Paris, I think. Dr. Drinkard's family, like so many Southerners at that time, lost all their property—then made up their minds to try Washington. Doctor was a hot Rebel—hot as the devil—but was very kind to me. Did I ever tell you about the electric treatment to which they subjected me in Washington? A couple of weeks' trial showed that it was not to be effective—really did no good at all."
I interposed: "It don't seem to aid O'Connor either." W. said: " You 're right—it don't: sometimes I 'm afraid nothing is going to help William." Stopped. Seemed a bit gloomy. Then: "When I came here, to Camden, I tried the electric business over again: Philadelphia doctors tried it on me: the results have been the same—negative only. Then I took the brush, which from the first both promised and effected much. But I 've got off from what I started to say. Among the last letters I received from Drinkard there was one—I don't know but there were others—I remember one, clearly—in which there was this caution: 'Keep up the rubbing: whatever you do don't abandon that: in that mainly, chiefly, wholly, is your hope, if you have any: in not letting yourself flag away: in not letting the extreme inertias possess you.'" W. threw his hands out before him. "Words to that effect, I mean. Since last June I have been prevented from observing this admonition: this week sees me at it again. Ed will be of great assistance to me: I am coming to see that he is just the man I needed: he is my kind: he is young, strong: I felt immediate wholesome invigorating reactions under the spur of his treatment: he gives me a sort of massage—(by the way, don't you think women make the best massagers?). To-day, while I feel tired, I also feel in some remote way freshened." Burroughs had urged this thing on W. and on me when he was here. W. said: "John is a great believer in that: is a no-medicine man: I have n't the least doubt but that he speaks by the card." "Imagine poisoning a man to purify him," I interposed.

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W. laughed merrily: "True: true: tell that to the doctors you know: never stop telling it."

     W. asked: "You read William's letter—the letter I gave you to take along with you last night?" He followed my mild "yes" with a sort of joy. "Wasn't it a rouser? When William gets going there 's nothing can stop him but an earthquake or a waterspout: he is elemental: he drives everything before him." We talked some about his publishers: the Boston desertion. "Osgood was more foolish than recreant," W. said. Then Rees, Welsh & Company. Now Dave. "Rees, Welsh were never the hummers William hoped they would be—wanted them to be—tried to make them: but they sold lots of books—the public clamor aroused that strange, almost alien, temporary interest." I asked W. some question about Stoddard. W. answered: "William was always on Stoddard's heels—always suspected him: Stoddard was always so inveterately antagonistic that he invited castigation: not because he was telling the truth about me but because he was always lying about me—personally, venomously attacking my motives. I don't know that I bothered much about this, but William could not let it rest: he had it in for Dick and whenever an opening offered William would dash and hit about like a knight of the Cross." I quoted O'Connor's phrase: "Ingersoll was magnificent." W. was very responsive. "Damn if I don't think the Colonel is always magnificent!" And again: "There was always something ample, sufficient, about Bob's ways and means: he always seemed big enough to go as high and as deep and as far around as anybody. He is the same man to-day, only a little more so if anything: inevitably, tremendously, yet almost lethargically forceful, like a law of nature." I said: "The best thing about Bob is the love in his heart." W. exclaimed: "Amen! amen! that 's the best thing about any man." Then further about the letter: "They were trying times—the'82 times: back there: the Yankee went back on us: we had to come to slow Philadelphia for an asylum: and after all the slow things

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are often or mostly the surest."
Again: "I wonder if there ever lived a flaminger soul than our William—a man who was for all in all more intensely afire for justice: a man who was more willing to sacrifice his own peace, his own profit, for an idea, for some cause, for some person, he loved?"

     I had a letter from Blauvelt to-day explaining his desire for the steel portrait. He is extra-illustrating Stedman's Poets of America. There seems to be no further mystery about it. Stedman personally advised B. to apply to W. or to me or to Dave. I handed W. Blauvelt's letter to read. He said: "I thought the issue was graver than that!" Then: "After all, he is an autograph hunter of the subtler sort: at the same time that letter is all right—is a letter of a gentleman despite its collector flavor. His first letter was something of a ruse: but no matter: I have no rigid rule with respect to autographs: I give them or don't give them: each request has its own character: the everyday ordinary autograph hunter is an affront. Blauvelt of course offered to pay for all he got: so he is fair from the commercial standpoint, at least." I said: "In my letter to John yesterday I told him you had seemed to be gaining somewhat: don't you think you have?" He replied without the slightest hesitation: "Yes, I do,": his first admission of that tenor for several months. Read him some sentences from a Boston Advertiser editorial entitled A Jealous Emperor. He remarked: "I have just been reading in Frank Leslie's a good piece probably of the same purport. In this case the writer speaks of the freedom with which certain Berlin journalists—the most independent fellows there—have discussed what the Emperor thinks his family affairs." He looked for the paper, but it could not be found. "I must have put it away somewhere: I wish I had not: you should have read it." Then he added: "It was not short, not long: editorial matter, unsigned: seemed to me judicial, excellent. It is to me a healthy sign that these fellows kick up their heels at the court, conventionalities,

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etiquetteries, there in Germany: such men are needed everywhere, everywhere—especially in Germany, where offenses against the Emperor and his family are most harshly dealt with."
Now I asked W.: "Have the Notes been finished yet?" He threw himself back in his chair, his eyes wandering to the box on the floor across which the big-sheeted manuscript lay spread flatly out. "I thought so to-day," he said slowly, "but when I came to read what I had written over to-night was not satisfied with it—found some things still to be worked out and in: so I decided that I would keep it for still another day before turning it over to you." Then he said again what he has been saying ever since he started to write: "It amounts to nothing: you will realize its weakness when you get it once—go over it. But I shall persevere: you will surely have it from me to-morrow."

     W. gave me Bucke's letter of the 6th which he had laid in what he calls "the Horace corner" of the table. He said: "I want you to note especially what Doctor says about you: I say amen to it—every word: and then I would say more." I was putting the letter in my pocket. "No," said W., smiling: "read it now—read it to me: the whole letter." I did as he asked. When I came to the passage about myself he cried again: "Amen! amen! amen!" This is what it was: "Yes, I do not know what we should do without Horace. The kind of help he gives could not be bought for money and without him we should be badly stuck in many ways. I have the greatest admiration for him and the magnificent way he has behaved all through."

     I got from Wescott & Thompson to-day original and electros of titlepage cut. I asked for W.: "How should we keep these? Are there any special precautions to be observed?" The foreman laughed and said: "No: except—don't put them in a bucket of water." W. laughed over this: "That reminds me of a story: a man calls on his friend: they are together: he looks critically about the

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room: 'Why,' he says, ' there 's not room enough here to sling a cat': the other fellow says: 'But slinging cats was not in the scheme!' Your man is that visitor: putting the cuts in a bucket of water was not in the scheme. The old printers did particularly provide in some manner for storing cuts: I don't know what it was: some practice: probably our new printers provide for that in another way."
I made W. promise to mark the package so it could be easily found. He loses so many things. In assenting he laughed. "I see you get to know my tricks: well, things do get into a strange welter here."

     Discussed the question: Should we set a limit upon ourselves to free expression? W. said: "Some one has said what some people regard as a profound bit of wisdom: It is important to say nothing to arouse popular resentment. Have you ever thought of it? I have often asked myself: What does it mean? For myself I have never had any difficulty in deciding what I should say and not say. First of all comes sincerity—frankness, open-mindedness: that is the preliminary: to talk straight out. It was said of Pericles that each time before he went to speak he would pray (what was called praying then—what was it?) that he might say nothing to excite the wrath, the anger, of the people." W. shook his head. "That is a doubtful prescription: I should not like to recommend it myself. Emerson, for one, was an impeachment of that principle: Emerson, with his clear transparent soul: he hid nothing, kept nothing back, yet was not offensive: the world's antagonism softened to Emerson's sweetness." I said: " It 's far better to have a thing rightly said than softly said." W. heartily acquiesced: "Yes, always, always: some wise man has said (was it Steele?)—I have always thought it one of the best things: 'If you would do the people good you must not fear to pain them.'" "That beats the Periclean code," I interposed. W.: "Yes, it does: it 's the whole truth—justifies veracity, courage, sacrifice: it signifies the place of the surgeon: the thing needs to be done,

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the knife must be driven deep, so let it be done without a qualm."

     Had he read the November Century instalment of the Lincoln—its scoring of McClellan? "No, I have not," he answered: "I find John Hay a bit too hard on McClellan: yet I know our more and more knowledge of Lincoln seems to add more and more to the list of his noble qualities. As between Lincoln and McClellan there is an obvious distinction to be made: their natures were related as higher to lower: Lincoln had a point to make—the Union: McClellan contemplated the prospect of an early end of the War—felt that the man who dealt the softest blows all around would be the great man, the general idol, the saviour: so he kept one foot on each side, waiting for the certain sure turn of events which was to give him his immortality. But events did not turn out the way he expected—McClellan expected. In all that went along with this clash of policies Lincoln's benignity shone resplendent: the personalism of McClellan was always discouraging, perilous, injurious: Lincoln always stood aside—kept his individual motives in rein—loved, hated, for the common good. Stanton was another vehement figure there: he had a temper—was touchy, testy, yet also wonderfully patriotic, courageous, far-seeing: was the best sort of man, at bottom: had been a Democrat—saw trouble coming: was alert, simple-minded: when the shock came was reborn, kindled, into higher, highest, interpretations, resolutions: dropped his old partial self away wholly and entirely without a murmur." W. spoke of "somebody who says somewhere that the best saints are those who have been the worst sinners. I consider McClellan as in some respects a seamed man: he paltered with the army. Yet at Antietam, when pushed to it, he displayed undoubted qualities: they all said and say now, the battle was well-managed to begin with: the fault seems to have been in neglecting to follow out an opportunity: in the loaferly after-hours: in McClellan's 'no, no: the army must be rested': a man like Grant would have beaten

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his way on and on at that moment doggedly to a positive result."

     An allusion to O'Connor led W. to say: "I stand in awe before the fiery ardent temperament of the Irish people—their emotional make-up: that temperament is their glory and their danger at the same time: see by what base impositions they are seduced: they always come back whole and sound but they are seduced: things like the Burchard and the West episodes indicate what I mean." Then he said: "I think one of the churches as good as the other: that may seem extreme, but it is my impression: as good and as bad as the other: as safe and as perilous as the other: as institutions they are both menacing, to be guarded against." W. had another letter for me in the Horace corner which he did not uncover till I was about to leave. "This: take this," he said: " it 's a Rhys note: it will give you some English data on the Walter Scott books and on some of the fellows over there: besides, it shows Rhys up in beautiful, loving human ways: it 's that personal somewhat (who can tell just how it all comes about?) which most immediately appeals to me—bowls me over. In our uphill history such, if we may say it, spiritual signs serve to indicate where we are, how far we have to, what we can hope for. Rhys alludes to the Lincoln lecture as if it was some kind of a literary success: no, it was not: it was a good fellowship affair, rather: more than anything else, that: I took it as that, not as a literary victory." Rhys' letter:


59 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, 24th May, 1887.

Dear Walt Whitman:

I have this morning received your card of the 11th instant. Specimen Days in America makes its appearance in the London bookshops to-morrow, and before you get this I expect you will have a preliminary batch of six copies of the volume. I am writing to the publishers to-day to instruct them about sending the fifty more you want. The publishers seem to have made some mistake about the Preface and the printed slips. I gave

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them distinct instructions about sending them, and I must just make them pay for their mistake by sending you further copies of the book to supply to omission. I enclose two cut out leaves which they sent to me last week, with some vague idea of atonement, I suppose.


Yesterday afternoon J. Addington Symonds called here unexpectedly when I had a pile of the Specimen Days vols. on the table, and he was delighted with the appearance &c. of the book. I took him a copy on going to dine with him and Roden Noel in Eaton Square last night. I sent copies off to many other folk yesterday—Mrs. Costelloe among the rest. She wrote me a nice little note about it which arrived this morning. Gabriel Sarrazin, the young French critic, who is writing a study of L. and G., which he is tremendously taken with, shall have one to-day or to-morrow. I feel quite proud at being the agent and deputy of the book in this way. It gives me a new conception of my own importance in the world. I do hope you will like the general get-up of the book, and so on. If we have made any slips in this respect in the book we can profit by them in the Democratic Vistas volume, etc., additional papers for which I look forward to receiving.

I was glad to hear and read in the papers you sent of the brillant success of the Lincoln lecture. How I wish you could come over here and deliver it too: but I suppose that may not be. The presence of the literati in the audience was very significant. It shows a new departure, I think, on the scholastic literary side.

By this time I expect Herbert Gilchrist is with you and has given you a general account of things over here. (Give him my hearty greetings!) By him I sent a batch of birthday wishes for the 31st, which I follow now with all imaginable devout orisons. In your coming recognition here I earnestly hope you will have the great gratification of seeing a deeper and wider application of Leaves of Grass, pointing to a nearer consummation of their great idea than

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we have hitherto deemed possible! Tell Gilchrist no to forget about writing to me. And, so, with deep love, I am


Ernest Rhys.



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