Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 9, 1888.

     7.45 P. M. I found Harned with W. They are talking politics. Harned just back from Boston, where he had been most of the week. Harned said: "I consider Harrison good for eight years now." W. rejoined: "Don't be too sure about that, Tom: it is settled that Harrison is elected: it is not settled what is to come of the election." And to save further signs of dissent W. objected: "No—that is not my view: I do not think that is settled at all. Some wise man somewhere says: 'Let him not rejoice who putteth on the armor, but him who putteth it off.' Let us not be too quick to dismiss Cleveland: he will be heard from again." He said he had "been doing a lot of thinking" here "alone." "It is my opinion that there will be a reaction: we will see"—here he paused: "It will be seen before the four years are over that other things are to be said than are said now." He felt positive, finally, "that people will set to thinking: there will be no dodging it: then will come the day of reparation: the people will realize that America means free-trade and the farthest toleration: they must come to see it: understanding along with it to the full what Harrisonism means—its narrow constructions, its unworthy interpretations. This is bound to come: I rest my faith in the final good sense of the nation. America has its purpose: it must serve that purpose to the end: I look upon the future as certain: our people will in the end read all these lessons right: America will stand opposed to everything which means restriction—stand against all policies of exclusion: accept Irish, Chinese—knowing it must not question the logic of its hospitality." He said: "Our conditions, ideals, causes, all point one way: that way cannot but be the way of freedom. Let the Hannas go on now believing that there is no hell—that they are the end, that

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they are all there is: they will be rudely shaken out of their arrogance one of these days."
Harned left shortly.

     W. had not been very well to-day—though for his own part expressing no complaint. Mary spoke of his bad condition. Ed said: "He was done up by the trip to the bathroom yesterday." When Ed came he expressed surprise at W.'s condition. He had expected to find him worse. Thought Bucke had exaggerated. Now Ed says: "I see that the old man is after all in a pretty bad way." He has given W. his rubbings twice a day, much to W.'s comfort. "I have not received a single letter from anybody the whole day," W. said, "but I have written to William." He shook his head: "Poor William! poor O'Connor! he does not seem to get any better: I do not think he will: I do not hear from him." Then he inquired: "Do you think the election of Harrison is in any way likely to imperil O'Connor's position?" Then earnestly: "I hope not." Was O'Connor a Republican? "A sort of one." "What is a sort of a Republican?" W. smiled: "I admit that 's ambiguous: but I could n't name William's real politics: he 's an Anarchist some ways—has a good deal the same notion as Tucker about government." Then he enlarged upon it. "William was a strong, an ardent, anti-slavery man: he was a Republican—worked with the Fremont party: before the War he made anti-slavery speeches: passionate, powerful, they were, too, as are all things he does. William is never a half-way man: he has the temperament of a soldier. Indeed, it was this anti-slaveryism, this Republicanism, which made him complain of me that I was too indifferent to the issues of that time: and I had to confess that I did not feel as hot about it as he did."

     I said a similar complaint was also made concerning Emerson. W. said: "I do not see what reason there was for it in Emerson's case: Emerson always let it be clearly enough understood where he could be found." I said: "Emerson, like you, never would admit that the anti-slavery question was the only question." W.: "Yes, that 's

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true."
Then I asked: "Did Emerson take this view from more or less heart?" W. said: "From more, certainly." I said: "The anti-slavery men thought the labor question would be settled with the abolition of slavery, but they found"—W. finished the sentence for me— "a bigger question than that at once and ever since upon their hands." W., after a pause: "Yes—many's the thing liberty has got to do before we have achieved liberty! Some day we 'll make that word real—give it universal meanings: even ministers plenipotentiary and extraordinary will thrive under its wings." He thought of West. "The poor minister—sent home for that!" I told him I had read an editorial in Harper's Weekly taking a very generous view of the West affair. He was exceedingly pleased. " That 's the first sign of sense, of decency, in the West matter from an American newspaper." I noticed the Froude lying on the basket, open, face down. "Have you gone far with Cæsar?" He smiled oddly, as if the question seemed humorous. "Not far yet: it takes Froude a long time to get started: yet the style is fascinating: first he marshals his facts: is masterly, doing that: then the movement begins." As to Theophrastus Such: "I am not so greatly struck yet: George Eliot is not so immediately alluring as Froude: it may still come: I must wait." He asked me in the midst of our talk: "Is it raining out of doors?" When I said "no" he continued: "I seemed to hear something: it was like a distant rain: my ear, it may be, is playing me tricks." He closed his eyes: his voice was strangely exalted in tone. I said nothing. I wondered what he was thinking of.

     I went in to see McKay. Hunter had been in ahead of me. He reported W. "much worse." W. asked: I wonder how Hunter got that impression?" He also wants to know "if Dave has yet sent copies to the New York papers?" Dave had said yes. W.: "I am glad." Also was "curious" to know what cut Dave is to use in The Publisher's Weekly. I asked again as I had been asking every evening lately:

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"Is the Note ready?" He smiled gratifyingly: "Yes: at last: it is done: you can take it." But he seemed to recall something: "I have thought, this is Friday: to-morrow, Saturday, is a short day: perhaps it would be just as well for me to hold it over for you till Sunday night: I might go over it again carefully." Finally at my suggestion it was understood that I should take it with me in the morning. If Myrick could proceed with it at once, giving me a proof in the afternoon, I was to let it go through: if he could not I was to bring it back to W. to take another look at. "It is done about as well as I can do it now, I suppose: I probably will not help it any by further tinkering." The manuscript was a study: written on big sheets: patched: stricken out: interpolated: partly written in pencil, partly in ink. His first suggestion of head line had been, "Note of Introduction" for one, "Note of Conclusion" for the other. He had revised these to "Note at Beginning" and "Note at End." He writes on "Note at End": "To Printer—Set in 1 p close (like the rest) I want it to come in two pages—you might as well make up before you send me the proof—The head might be plain o s caps—(? abt pica)—" I leave that just as W. wrote it. On the reverse of "Note at Beginning" I found a rejected passage—obviously an earlier draft of the account of his "sixth recurrent attack" in "Note at End." I asked W.: "Did you throw this out because it finally seemed to you too detailed—too intimately personal? He at once replied: "Yes: my reasons against it might be stated that way." Here is the discarded bit:

"The early summer of 1888 bro't me ab't the sixth and (as it proves) the most obstinate attack of a paralysis incurred from emotional and bodily tensions during the Secession period [he first wrote "years"] of 1863-'65—and prostrating me afterward [he first made it "soon" afterward] and ever since. Yet of late (favorably, after two or three weeks at first) this current spell of '88 has left

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untouched my ["entire" first inserted here, then thrown out] mentality and mainly what other power was indispensable ["indispensably needed" at first] to formulate November Boughs and the work of getting out the present edition; and this has been my occupation and perseverance the past summer."


     We talked over details in connection with this new material. W. said finally: "I prefer to leave the minutiæ to you: you always seem to know about what I want: better one boss than two bosses in such matters: you be the one boss: give me the veto: otherwise proceed according to your own instinct." I met Wescott's foreman to-day. Told him W.'s cat story. But he said: "I meant it serioulsy: the Butlers had twelve hundred dollars' worth of cuts spoiled by dampness in their new vaults on Arch Street."

      "Before you go let me give you this," said W. He picked something up off the table reaching it out towards me. I now call the "Horace corner" the "amen corner." He gets a lot of merriment out of the phrase. I found that he had saved and was giving me an old Rossetti letter. "You have the Rhys letter: I gave it to you the other day: the one about the Walter Scott Leaves: this will show you how Rhys and I came together: Rossetti was the intercessor: this memorandum really belongs among your records: take it."


5 Endsleigh Gardens, London, N. W., 6th Oct. '85.

Dear Whitman:

As announced the other day, I have now the pleasure of enclosing Post-office orders for £37-12-0.

It escaped me to mention in my previous letter that a Mr. Ernest Rhys, not heretofore known by me (59 Cheyene Walk, Chelsea, London) called on me two or three weeks ago, wishing to obtain your address, which I gave him. He intended, as I understood, to write you with a view to entering into some terms regarding a London edition of your Poems. He seemed to me to have a genuine feeling of

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regard for yourself and your works, and he asked me to convey to you an expression of his feeling when next I should write.


Yours always,

W. M. Rossetti.


     W. said: "They speak of Napoleon's Old Guard: what shall be said of our New Guard? Could Napoleon match Dowden, Rossetti, O'Connor, Burroughs, Symonds, Rhys, Noel? And there are still others. Could Napoleon match them?"


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