Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, January 19, 1889.

     8 P. M. W. sitting by the light reading Symonds' Greek Literature. Ed said he had spent a very good day. W. himself repeated Ed. Talked about fifty-five minutes. Bright, deliberate, sure. Questioned me about the fire last night: it was a lumber yard along the wharves; he was very much interested in my description of it. "Ed told me you went off together to see it." Fire rather low. W. took up a prodigious log there by the stove: started to put it in: it would just about go through the doorway. "There, Mr. Log," he said: "I have been preserving you just for this moment: now show what you can do!"

     Oldach has not yet done the cover. Disappoints us. I saw McKay to-day. He had a copy of Queries (Buffalo) which had copied, without crediting, American notice, as we believe. Sent Bucke the three papers W. gave me last night. He said to-night: "Have you done it? Ah! good! and I commenced to write Doctor this evening a note I must finish and send off to-morrow." Sensitive to the weather. It has grown severe. "I thought it was pretty cold last night," he said. The weather on such days interferes with his bathing: he hates to give up his bath. No visitors to-day. Critic's review of November Boughs out at last. W. said: "Oh yes—I saw it. It is unprecedented to have the paper sent and have it arrive the same day, as it did this time. It must have had a special messenger." "As things look now there appears to be a boom for November Boughs," W. said with a laugh: "I wonder what it all means?" As to Critic notice, his question, like Dave's and mine, is, who wrote it? "Who do you think? I think it is a classical fellow—one of the college men: it is full of literary references and classical names. You don't think it was Jennie Gilder? I am sure it was not Joe, anyhow. I have guessed Howells: and by the way, I want you to keep out a sharp eye for the February Harper's: I have reasons to suppose Howells will discuss us in that number—in his department there. New

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evidences seem to indicate that Howells is moving on."
W. said: "The Critic notice seems the most extravagant of all—no other is so full, so liberal, so expansive in its plaudits. My first notion was to write to Joe Gilder and ask who it was had gone on so, at such a rate: but I concluded that would not do—it was best not." The review "was interesting for other reasons." "I have heard that some famous man said something to this effect: in writing the history of another he wrote the best history of himself: words signifying that: this Critic piece, in fact all the pieces, bear that out." Brought him a copy of The Stage. Portrait of Marie Wainwright this week. "Certainly, that is the best so far, and wonderful it is, too: I have seen Marie Wainwright—liked her very much: seen her in Boker's play—Francesca he calls it." He says "The Stage has become part of" his "regular Sunday reading."

     I received note from Burroughs to-day—West Park, 17th. W. eager to read it. Put on his glasses at once. "What does John say? Let us hear." He read it himself deliberately. "The good John!" And when I spoke of B. as "affectionate and sweet," W. repeated: "affectionate and sweet? He is indeed: highly endowed with the human emotional qualities: the sweet juices of the best apples, nuts, milk—all good things!" At the passage as to a Christmas letter I said: "I did not know you heard then: you did not say anything to me about it: I wrote Bucke just to-day we had not heard from John in a long time." But W. shook his head: "I have no memory of such a letter. But then," he said doubtingly, after a slight pause: "since that draft business I don't trust my memory any more." But, "alas and alas! no word from O'Connor! You can only tell John on that point that we hear nothing or very little: that for weeks we have not had a word: that William no doubt continues as he was—and that is bad—very bad and sad!" Could O'C. still go down to his work? W.: " That 's what I want to know: that is what I want them to tell me: but they don't say a word about it—not a word! They are

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very generous with the fellows in the departments down there: if they are sick or away, they draw their salaries all the same, once a month."
Was O'C. politically a Republican? "Mightily, yes: O'Connor was an Abolitionist." Republican and high protection? "No: I hardly think that: though I am not certain: free trader, I believe."

     I put in this question: "You have said William was an Anarchist, too: how can he be both a party Republican and an Anarchist?" W. replied: "A Republican for to-day, an Anarchist for to-morrow." He talked of O'Connor's tenure—his job: how he had been able to hold on to it. "Even under Cleveland—radical as O'Connor is: and Kimball, too, his chief, just as radical: and another—Johnson: let me see, where is he?" Closed his eyes. Then quickly: "O yes, the Light House Bureau— that 's it!" He thought "quite a liberal modicum of Republicans" were "holding over." Talked of Marvin too, but W. hears little of him nowadays. Had forgotten about his appointment under Cleveland. "And so the Bureau of Information is gone up?" He thought Marvin "poor." "I don't think he has more than his salary brings him. Did you know he was a Unitarian clergyman at one time? He got out of that, somehow, for some reason or other. Then he was on The Radical awhile with Sidney—cheek by jowl, weren't they? Then on to Washington. He got a position there with the tax revenue department: he: Eldridge also: Charles Eldridge. Part of the work was to investigate and report on banks, bankers—big concerns. They made some powerful enemies—both of them: by and by both were dismissed—put out: Marvin first, then Eldridge." He did not know for what. "I never had details," but: "I have no doubt it was for telling the truth—for being honest—for both were good clerks, wherever you might put them." I grouped W.'s Washington friends: called them "the faithful few." W. said: "Yes, indeed: and there were several more than you have ever heard of—the names forgotten now: Knox, one of them: a good, faithful fellow: and there was a musi-

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cian, too: I used to run round and hear him play: he handled the piano well, strongly—was a genuine musician."
Had Burroughs come down there designing to go into a department? "No: not at all: he came crushed, low spirited, despondent—thinking to go into the War—like a fellow jumping into the river, to sink or swim. He was quite a different man then from now—thin, emaciated, pale, feeble: he had friends there: they united to persuade him that that was not the thing for him to do: finally, he stopped right there—took a department position—so became one of us." But this was not all. "There were womn, too: the women are wonderful friends: did you ever know one good noble genuine woman will outweigh all the rest? oh! I have been fortunate in these, too: fortunate! fortunate!"

     W. had read Feb. Lippincott's which arrived to-day. Stoddard there on Hawthorne. "It is not quite as bad as the Poe article for personal venom, but it is of the Stoddard kind." He thought S. "engaged generally nowadays in poor sort of work:: but he supposed the H. piece was "characteristic." "It is not worth reading," he finally said. Then again: "Stoddard seems particularly envenomed: he does not seem hospitable, friendly, receptive: he has so many more hates than loves: Stedman said to me: ' I 'm afraid he is sour on everybody: you 're not an exception, Walt!'" W. said: "I had a visitor one day last week—a preacher fellow: he wore black clothes—clerical: was quite courteous, almost gracious. He said he came from Chicago: his name was—ah! let me see—what was his name"—he stopped: then— "O yes! Burton: he said he had read the Leaves—talked quite a bit in a ministerial way. Just before he left je said"—here W. paused and chuckled: " 'I hope it is not true, Mr. Whitman, that you are a great admirer of Bob Ingersoll!' It was lugged in in such a way I felt as if that was really the purpose of his visit—to satisfy himself on that point. I blurted out at once so he should remain in no uncertainty: ' I 'm afraid my friend that I hope it is true and always may be true!'

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You should have seem his crestfallen face, Horace. He said at once: 'I confess I am disappointed.' I only smiled. He seemed to take it so to heart. I asked him: 'I suppose your religion has a place for Ingersoll?' He answered evaisvely: 'That opens up a large field'—which meant he had his doubts. So I hurried to add: 'Well, I 'm afraid mine does, anyhow: Leaves of Grass would be a poor sort of pretender if it flourished a whip oer people.' He bowed as if to say, Have it as you will. The fellow riled me a bit, too, it was all so unnecessary. I did not wish him to go supposing my love for the Colonel was only a half-hearted sort of thing—an apology: so I said quite vehemently: 'You must make no mistake about it: I am Bob's friend: I admire him" I stand by him in his war on the Church.' He was as solemn as a judge by this time. 'And in his war against religion, Mr. Whitman—do you stand by him in that?' I answered: 'He makes no war on religion.'"
W. laughed: " It 's astonishing to me how these preacher people thin themselves down—lose thier blood: they have no more guts than a dead weazle: they nose about with thier little hells and heavens like a corner grocer with something toothsome to sell." Then he added: "Sometimes I have thought you were too violent on the preachers, Horace, but when a sample like this comes along with his numerous arogances I am up in arms again full of my old resentment." W. gave me a letter which Thomas Dixon— "the Sunderland man," as he calls him—sent over to him "many years ago." "It is one of the avowals, again—a beautiful one, too: it is from a man named Westness—W-e-s-t-n-e-s-s, as I make it out"—spelling it. I read it to him.>


333 Liverpool Road, Apr. 11, '76

Dear Dixon: I forgot to acknowledge in my last the Feb. number of Human Nature containing Barlow's article on Walt Whitman. He appears to be a superior man but no so advanced as Whitman in his mode of thought. His article is a valuable one, and his poem, alluded to in the short piece

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by an anonymous writer in the April number (who is not capable of dealing with him) is an interesting production. You will, I suppose, have seen it. It is in the Dec. number, and is entitled Another Year's Meadow-sweet. He seems to despair of immortality, and there Whitman has the advantage of him. The poem is somewhat of a hothouse production full of the oppression of Death. Unlike him Whitman approaches undaunted the veiled angel so terrible to men. He embraces her, finds her soft and yielding; he removes her veil and finds her beautiful and desirable—a delicious bride with cool and perfumed breath. Whitman's poems are everywhere the work of a man "enamored of the open air," and are like his "athletic girls," "tanned in the face by shining suns and blowing winds."


You ask me how I should like a manager's place in a large photographic establishment? I dare say I should like it very well, but where is the photographic establishment?

I read Mr. Brockie's Notes of Whitman in the S. Times and I hope it may be of service. The fact is that it is sort of sacrilege to present Whitman or his claims to almost anyone. To all but about one in ten thousand he simply appears a mass of unheard of folly. I should be glad to see his book sell, if only the most of people could make anything of it. But I never show it to anyone, as I never meet with any to whom it would be at all intelligible. The book is open and plain enough, certainly, to those who are on the same plane of thought with himself, but the majority of men want "a book to join them in their folly"—and their damned trifling conventionalities.

I have not heard anything from Mr. Rossetti. I believe Mr. Buchanan is a very good man; and he is a writer of high quality; but I hardly desire to trouble him with my acquaintance. The fact is, that, as a rule, the visits of a person moving in a different sphere generally have something of the character of intrusions. This is the reason why I have never visited Mr. Rossetti, who very cordially invited me to do so whenever I pleased. These men are too much

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surrounded and worried—and it is much better for a man to be alone than to visit where his visit is not a distinct favor, and a thing to be desired. I should visit Whitman—of all men—without hesitation, because I know that there I should meet the solid hero skin to skin—without the intervention of "lace and ruffles." Perhaps, if he were worried by too much "society" he might be almost tempted to put on his dress coat also. But there is not much fear of that. Society never yet offered incense to such a man. Those who understand him are what he desires them to be—his "lovers": and there is not much love in "literary society."


I am yours faithfully,

T. D. Westness.


     W. said: "That man going on so about the open air ought to see me now, tied down in a single room, day and night." But I asked: "You don't love the open air any less than you used to, do you? You are here because you must be, not because you choose to be." "Yes: I know: but there are times when that does not satisfy the rebellious spirit: then I want to jump out of my skin—feel as if I must yell, leap, raise hell—do anything to break down the walls of my prison and escape." W. gave me the original of the sitting picture we used in November Boughs. Also a W. W. "at home" card, Wentworth Hotel, New York, April 15th, 1887. Also a big yellow envelope on which he had written: "From Office Christian Commission 343 Pennsylvania av. Washington, D. C. Commission of Walt Whitman of Brooklyn N. Y. Jan 20 1863." He said: "The portrait is getting all crushed up here: you had better put it in a flat place: it is worth keeping—if anything is worth keeping. I often wonder if all this sort of thing is not a mistake? I am near the jumping off place: why should I care what comes? After me the deluge? What do you say to that, Horace?" I replied at once: "I don't say you should care what comes: we care: that 's why I am hungry for these papers—for saving things you want to throw away: be-

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cause we care."
W. was gentle about it. Kissed me good night. Said: " I 'm glad you care: I am: I am!"


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