Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, February 15, 1889

     7.30 P.M. W. reading. His cold not much if any better, "though not actively disagreeable." Still, talked better: always does when I bring him welcome intelligence and many things for him to look over as I did tonight.

     McKay has returned. He sold twenty-seven copies. I found Oldach still delayed because of the leather. I had to promise McKay we'd send him over the twenty-four copies we had in Camden. W. highly gratified. I said: "That gives us back over a hundred dollars on our expenses." He thought for an instant. "No—you remember I only get two seventy-six out of each copy." But I said: "I did not speak of profit but of return." He nodded: "I see: you are right. We will welcome all that comes: but my satisfaction anyhow is not is not in selling the books, though I'm glad enough to sell them: not the least of my satisfactions is in having lasted to produce the book at all. After all the doubts, anxieties, horrible badnesses of the summer—after the threat, often and often, of being completely chopped off, completely—to have got the book out definitively in this shape would be victory enough if it stood alone—great victory indeed. But it does not stand alone: I still maintain myself. I think it is still more wonderful, when I face it frankly—cooped up, imprisoned, here, for nearly nine months now, surviving, as I have, beating off the storms, assaults, hacked away at right, left, everywhere—still more wonderful that even today, disabled as you see me, hardly able to stand on my pins (not able, in fact), I still remain comparatively comfortable—have not yet given over all hope. To me that is the wonder of wonders." He could not fully account for it: there was evidently "some factor missed by us in the inventory of my resources." What was it? "I think Doctor reckons for all of it: Doctor Bucke: he knows, sees: I have no doubt he saw in the summer when affairs were darkest." Here W. turned to me inquiringly: "But what is it? How can we explain it?" I said: "You are serene: you are almost prosaically poised: then you have faith." He assented, "Yes: perhaps it's the serenity most of all." He laughed over my phrase "prosaically poised." "But there's a reason for that, he said: "I dare not be otherwise: if I let myself go I'd wear out my resources at once." Again: "I do not worry: I determine not to worry—let come what

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may come. Resignation, I may call it: peace in spite of fate."
I broke in: "Peace at any price?" Laughed. "Almost that: what the religious people call resignation: the feeling that whatever comes is just the thing that ought to come—ought to be welcomed." But this element in him "is not explained" by his "occidental origins." His vision drew him into the past. "Somewhere, back, back thousands of years ago, in my fathers, mothers, there must have been an oriental strain, element, introduced—a dreamy languor, calm, content: the germ, seed of it, somehow—of this quality which now turns up in me, to my benefit, salvation." Had this anything to do with fatalism? The Mohammedan temperament? "No: it antedates all that: we find it in Hindustan, Palestine, all over the East: rich, suffused with the glow of peace: in nations of men: before what we call civilization."

     Through all this the book had come. "And now that it is done, out," his "joy" was not in the "sale of the book" but "in the consciousness that a long-cherished thought had found successful embodiment." "I am more gratified by such things as the few words from Rolleston than by anything else that could come of the book. I spoke to you of this last night"—he meant some nights ago. "That is my sufficient reward. After having put the books together as we have done—built them, welded them, with the notes, with the final touches—nothing more reassuring could have occurred than Rolleston's simple amen." W. was very gentle about this. Rather reflected than talked it out. "That is what I wanted the book to be: to stand for in some sense, to testify to, the multifariousness of the universe—to include, combine, celebrate, all: all: not the least jot missed: not the mouthpiece of classes, select cliques, parts, details—the choiceries of literature: no: but all, all: to utter the bad as well as the good—to participate in the common, the outcast, along with the high, the elect: to see care, oversight, everywhere: the divine working through it all: never an ending of intention: the purpose vital, evident, inveterate, to the end." Had he always done that? "I often ask myself." Rolleston had been a great comfort to him. "To go as if into a great land: does not that sound significant?" Not to "celebrate parlors, proprieties, traditions, dresseries," but "nature as she is." "I don't believe we'll ever get deeper than the saying attributed to Machiavelli, the Italian fellow, to some prince or other—some one: you have seen it? Machiavelli said: 'I shall chastise you by picturing

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you'
—or something to that effect. How profound that is! I approach nature not to explain but to picture. Who can explain?"
I asked W.: "Does that come anywhere near art for art's sake?" W.: "No—not unless I misunderstand it." I quoted John Morley's challenge to the priests. "That is the same thing," W. said: "probably he got it from Machiavelli." W. thought "most people" take up the theory "hesitatingly, doubtingly." He said: "I doubt if the masses, the body, of men and women, would understand it—accept it. The literary fellows, the scholastics, the bookish goody-goodies, will not have it—declaim against it: but nevertheless it stands, will stand—I see no escape from it."

     McKay had hit upon a couple of Whitman portraits in New York—one of them the Hollyer etching—another a large card, twenty-two by sixteen—a large photo—almost full figure in négligé: new to me: fine face, beyond words. I asked McKay: "Did they charge you much for it?" He answered: "I paid two dollars for it." Showed him the Hollyer portrait first. W. looked at it curiously again. "It is not bad, taken as a whole: it's not a likeness, to be sure, but a good piece of work, judged from the artist's standpoint, the etcher's: probably fine line work." After awhile, picking it up again, he said: "The worst thing about this is, that I look so damned flamboyant—as if I was hurling bolts at somebody—full of mad oaths—saying defiantly, to hell with you!" The autograph below he looked at sharply: "I guess it's a copy from a genuine signature—done with a finer pen."

     Here I suddenly exposed the big picture—put it into his hands. He seemed literally astounded. "Hullo! Hullo! Hullo! Where did that come from—where was that unearthed from?—Me, as I live!" And he regarded it long, with intense interest. "How shaggy! looks like a returned Californian, out of the mines, or Coloradoan: perhaps with too much benignity for that—not just the expression usual with such men." And again, after a pause: "And just that benignity—it puzzles me: the whole figure very like: the clothes: how natural the clothes!—the pants, vest, coat, tie: but the benignity: how does that come?" I said: "It is there—it is you, too." But he shook his head: "No—that is a mistake: such benignity, such sweetness, such satisfiedness—it does not belong. I know it often appears—but that's the trick of the camera, the photographer." Had he any remembrance of

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the picture at all? "Not the slightest—not the suspicion of a memory. It is new to me—perfectly new—and authentic, beyond a doubt: every line signifies that." All so unstudied, I suggested. W. then: "Yes, and that's the charm of it. When it could have been taken—by whom—where—I cannot even guess." Before the War, did he suppose? "Certainly then—before the War: probably in Brooklyn." Did he remember the dress, the striped trousers, vest, heavy coat? "No more than if I had never seen them. I am sure I never saw a copy of the picture. I have often and often and often sat, and passed out, away—never been shown the results." He spoke of the apparent age of the face. "That must not deceive you—when did I not look old? At twenty-five or twenty-six they used already to remark it." Just then Ed came into the room with mail. W. asked: "What do you think of that, Ed?" So on, remarking its detail: "The realism of it is unmistakable: I accept all that beyond a doubt: but where did it come from? where? that is the mystery. There must be others in existence: where are they?" I said: "Perhaps not: at that time the same value was not put on your existence." He laughed. "That is so: I was just in my beginnings then—just coming out." "How Doctor would like to have a copy of that!"—turning it over and over. "And it has had rough usage, too, though it is not broken at any vital place." How would it do to have it photo-engraved? He caught at this idea instantly. "That's an idea—what do you think? Even this size, if may be!" I was to inquire: he was fully set upon it. Then he spoke again of its "authenticity." "Certainly I will sign it"—for McKay: then commented on the art: "even the creases of the pants are fine." "Oh! there is no doubt of it—it's your uncle, and it's Walt Whitman! but how the devil it turns up in this fashion at this late day—that beats me!"

     Dave told me today of a W. letter which sold in N.Y. for sixty dollars—a letter in which W. speaks of having set type on the first edition. First W. said he couldn't remember such a letter. Then he said: "I have the faintest, fadingest, dimmest, suspicion of such an inquiry and response: still, I can't be sure of it now: too much has come between for me to go far back into such minutiae." Spoke of "that first edition—the quarto." "They are very rare: I have only one copy—a single copy: not bound: I don't know where it is: I mean for you to have it when it reappears." I asked: "Are you dead sure

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it's here?"
W. said: "As sure as that I am. The edition was one thousand: we got several hundred of them out in paper covers: I have one of them—the one destined for you. Years ago I made every effort to get some copies—secured high and low, but with no result. I think Doctor has one—scoured one after three or four years of persistent agitation everywhere in the bookstores." Here he paused. "But I must not be positive about that: it may have been another book. Some of them turned up in London—a few: I wish I had half a dozen: where can they have gone?" Destroyed? "No: I don't explain it that way: put by in various places, no doubt: books have their own way of disappearing without being visibly despatched." I said: "According to your letter to Emerson you sold all the first edition: according to your stories to me you sold practically none of them at all." He said: "How do you make that out?" I replied: "You told Emerson that they 'readily sold.' Do you say to me now that they 'readily sold?'" "No—I do not." "Well, why did you say it then?" "At that time I thought the books were selling: a lot of them were consigned, right and left: there were no sales: they came back: then booksellers bought some that buyers would not take off their hands."

     I laughed rather heartily. W. asked me why. I said: "I was wondering whether you were not bluffing Emerson." "You mean bragging? Well—maybe there was something of that sort in it." I said: "I can't forget, either, that in that same letter you call Emerson 'master.' Now you repudiate the word. What did you mean by it then?" He answered: "They were salad days: I had many undeveloped angles at that time: I don't imagine I was guiltless: someone had to speak for me: no one would: I spoke for myself." I said: "You didn't need to play Emerson: he was on your side without it." W. said in a fiery voice: "Who the hell talked about playing anybody?" I said: "You haven't made out a very good case for 'master' and 'readily sold.' I believe what you say because you say it but it hardly sounds plausible to me." "Do you mean to say I'm a liar?" "No: I mean to say I'd like to know the real reason for 'readily sold' and 'master.'" He ended the quiz half petulantly, half jocularly: "Maybe if you look long enough in the right place you'll find what you're looking for." W. said of Sanborn: "He's in luck: he has two copies of the first edition: he has the advantage of me: they seem to bring almost any crazy price nowadays." I told him Dave

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had a copy of the second edition. W. said: "Oh! you mean the chunky fat book!"

     W. asked me: "Did I tell you I had sent a copy of the big book to Knortz?" Then: "Oh yes! to be sure: you took it to the express office yourself: he must have received it today." Had a copy yet gone to Burroughs? "No, but I mean him to have one. Do you think John is still in Poughkeepsie or has he gone home to West Park?" Should I write B.? "Yes, do so: tell him we have a copy for him which we will send the first chance that offers." W. shrugged his shoulders: "The truth is, Horace, I shy from that forty cents postage: it knocks the wind out of me." Why not express them? "That is so: we might do that: but with John I have waited for not knowing just where to address it. You write him: I'll then send it immediately." There were "several copies" to go to New York. "I think I would like to send a copy to Gilder—Watson Gilder. I don't believe Gilder goes crazy over me: I certainly know I don't go crazy over him: yet he should have a copy: he has every title to it: I honor, love him." Further: "One copy I should like to present to Julius Chambers, who has gone on the World: he has been very good to me." Had O'Connor's copy yet been sent? "No: and for the same reason as with John: the postage. I have been thinking that if Doctor took the trip to Washington he could put the book in his grip." I asked: "Couldn't you send the copies to New York the same way—by Tom? Tom seems to go over frequently." He responded: "Perhaps, but I've always had an idea Tom did not enjoy commissions of that sort—did not care to carry bundles, what not. Is it so?" I persisted: "He might like to call on those fellows." W.: "That might be: but I am still doubtful." Added: "There are still several more copies I should like to send to New York"—and after another pause: "One to Andrew Carnegie, I think." I may have looked dubious as to this. W. took it up. "He has been very kind to me—has helped me, tried to further me. I remember that once he wrote me almost a fulsome letter: full of warm words, thoughts." I must have still worn a doubtful aspect. "More than that, at the New York lecture, in 1887, he paid three hundred and fifty dollars for his seat—more than all the rest put together." I said: "But he has more money than all the rest put together, fifty or a hundred times over." "Damn your logical brain!" But he said: "It is significant that his help was unsolicited: he volunteered, nobody,

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so I understand it, said a word to him by way of appeal. There were many men present of very large incomes—of immense, princely, fortunes."
I asked W.: "Why do you specify them? what do you care about them?" "Does it sound suspicious for me to pick them out?" "Yes—a little: I'd rather you didn't." W. said sharply: "You're quite a detective." I owned up to my suspicions of Carnegie. "I don't like the kinds of quarrels he has with workingmen." "Oh! that's the idea, is it?" W. persisted for C. Asked me: "Hasn't he got partners?" "Yes." "Well—all those partners must have specified, particularized, defined duties: such that is done by one may not be known about by the others: no doubt Carnegie stands apart from, does not realize, most that goes on." And at any rate "Carnegie showed himself so warm, generous, lavish, towards me, I must recognize it, would recognize it in anyone, notwithstanding your workingmen." I said: "Walt, that sounds like treason: the knowledge of what he did for you is one thing—the consciousness of what he or his partners did with their workingmen is another thing. I don't think his generosity to you or any individual makes up for his greed as towards the people from whom he derives all his money." "There's your logical faculty buzzing again: you're unbearable when you get going on that tack." He stopped. I waited wondering if he wouldn't say more. "Though when you put it that way, Horace, I acknowledge that you shake me a little."

     Who else are to have books? "Probably Howells: no doubt James Gordon Bennett." I said: "Walt, you are one of Bennett's pensioners." He finished it: "One of his paupers? is that what you imply?" I had a letter from Bucke today fixing Monday for his start. He has his leave of absence. Read B.'s note to W. He said: "When we see Maurice face to face then we'll believe he's here."

     Discussed pocket edition. Oldach says yes—he does that and any other thing in the binding line. He asked me: "What does the old man think I am? a mere dilly-dallier?" W. laughed himself into tears when I repeated this. "He's certainly an entertaining character: I'd give a good deal if I could meet him myself." Brought W. a sample volume over. It had no tongue. W. said: "I prefer to have the tongue." He wanted a book that would "go into any reasonable pocket." Suddenly started poking about the floor with his cane.

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"What are you after?" I asked. "The Bible: my black book—the English Bible." We found it. He showed me the very narrow page margins. "The English are beyond us in that: our fellows always demand thick paper, wide margins—show. This is nice, if merely to look at: I often take it up with no other object."

     Showed him a copy of Harper's Bazaar. Among the pictures was a reproduction of Courtois' Motherhood. He took a great fancy to it. "You will leave this paper with me for a day? do: I should like to see more of that picture: absorb it." Turning a few pages further on he hit upon a picture, After the Opera, which was so unlike the other as to make him laugh. "Well: that strikes a key way down the board." But another picture, Packing Oranges at Seville, excited his approval. "That would hit Tom Eakins: Seville: Eakins' town—one of his towns—I believe." I asked: "Does Eakins wear well? Is he a good comrade?" W.: "He does: he is: he has seen a great deal; is not too ready to tell it: but is full, rich, when he is drawn upon: has a dry, quiet manner that is very impressive to me, knowing, as I do, its background." I asked: "Did you find him to lack the social gifts? he is accused of being uncouth, unchary, boorish." "Perhaps: I could hardly say: 'lacking social gifts' is vague: what are social gifts?" Then after further cogitation: "The parlor puts quite its own measure upon social gifts: I should say, Tom Eakins lacks them as, for instance, it would be said I lack them: not that they are forgotten, despised, but that they enter secondarily upon the affairs of my life. Eakins might put it this way: first there is this thing to do, then this other thing, then maybe his third thing, or this fourth: these done, got out of the way, now the social graces. You see, he does not dismiss them: he only gives them their place." He "remembered well" his first meeting with Eakins. "He came over with Talcott Williams: seemed careless, negligent, indifferent, quiet: you would not say retiring, but amounting to that." They left. Nothing was heard from them for two or three weeks. "Then Eakins turned up again—came alone: carried a black canvas under his arm: said he had understood I was willing he should paint me: he had come to start the job. I laughed: told him I was content to have him go ahead: so he set to: painted like fury. After that he came often—at intervals, for short sketches." I interrupted: "And that is the result"

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motioning downstairs. W. at once: "Yes: and that is the result." Eakins was "no usual man," but he did "not lack the graces of friendship." He had "no parlor gallantries" but "something vastly better." At first sight "he might be taken to be negative in quality, manner, intuition" but that surface impression "wears off after a few meetings."

     The old limp complete W.W. sent back by Oldach had been badly slashed at the bindery. W. had tied it up today with this curious memorandum pasted on the wrapper under the string:


Mr. Oldach, Bookbinder 1215 Filbert St.
Phila.

Please put a plain strong binding on this Vol: will cost me ab't 50 or 60 cts—want something will last hard usage, especially a good durable back—No particular fancy or beauty expected. I leave it to you what style. The label for back-lettering will be found pinn'd enclosed in front of the Vol:

W.W. 328 Mickle Street

Camden


     W. said: "Will you take care of it for me? They played the devil with it over there. I want it made so I can rough-handle it without being afraid that it'll fall apart. I want to go through it making marginal notes of an autobiographic nature for you fellows to make use of if there's occasion for it in the future." I removed the box for McKay from the room so the expressmen could get it early in the morning without disturbing W. Only twenty would go in the box. I have to carry four. As I was leaving he picked up a newspaper. "I'll read a bit till I get tired: then I'll call Ed and turn in." Referred to the mysterious W.W. picture. "I've taken it today in great gulps: I'm full of it: but I'm still wholly in the dark concerning its origin: they say it's a wise slut that knows its own father: this is a search in which I am completely baffled." W. was livelier than for some days. Animated in matter and manner. Nothing from O'Connor to either of us. W. said: "I write often—even send papers: practically every day: Washington is as silent as a grave: alas! seems to be digging a grave for our William. I wish Nellie wrote us more frequently: yet I suppose she has nothing to say: we must not tax her even with our love: she has enough to endure."


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