Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, February 22, 1889

     5.45 P.M. Dusk. W. sat by the middle window. No light. Looking out at the darkening northern sky. Hair rather confused. Hands clasped across his belly. Big, ample, impressive. Tired in aspect.

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Clouded and chilly all day. He had felt it. I remember my call this day a year ago. He gave me a copy of Passage to India. A year hence! Will he still be here? I hardly look for it. And yet—. W. greeted me in his usual way. "Ah! Horace!" His meal still on the table, half eaten. But he said he was through. "I started late." Bad day. "No relief from the deadening routine." Was "not conscious of any deterioration." W. never hides anything from himself. Neither does he worry over any anticipated evils. W. said: "I guess he has nothing more to say by letter—is saving the news up—will tell us when he comes." But he went on: "I had a postal from O'Connor—Nellie O'Connor: William is still in a very sad state: but she gives no details—writes only a few lines, unsatisfactorily, tantalizingly." But he thought that Bucke would get to Washington next week. "That consoles me." He pointed to the table: "I had a letter from John—John Burroughs—too." I asked: "Was it in answer to mine?" "I don't know"—but after a moment, reflecting: "I don't know but it was, too: he remembered you in it: he said I should tell you the essays he is now preparing for a volume are old ones, collected from the magazines, periodicals, papers." How was his letter? cheerful? "I don't think you would call his letter bright: it is not chipper: John is not chipper, optimistic: he seems to be laboring under some depression, moral as well as physiological." I asked: "Do you feel so sure about that streak in him?" W. answered: "Well—it is there: John seems unaccountably in the clouds—in the blackness: he is serene but serious—shadowy: there seems to be very little of the dawn left in his composition." Did he say where we were to send the book? "Yes, to West Park: he is going back to his farm." W. says his friends just now, like himself, "seem to be passing through a period of crisis: the news all around is bad, saddening—we might almost say disheartening," though "disheartenment in any usual understanding of that term is foreign to my inclinations." He says he "braces up against the O'Connor fatality." If he experiences any despair it is not so much logical as atmospheric. He says he has sense enough to expect "the worst, as the world calls it": that which, in William's case, as we know it, "will be the best."

     I told W. I was going to Germantown this evening and wished three Sarrazin sheets to take with me. He wheeled about his chair, took up several out of the pile on the table (it was too dark for him

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to count) and passed them on to me. "How many are there? Take your three." There were four. "Well, take four: I think Bucke's abstract would be a better one to circulate, to pass around, but that is not ready yet: I am going on with it leisurely: it is still in the printer's hands." But after appearing to think it over he said: "Perhaps it should not be said that Bucke's is better: rather, not better but complemental. Give your people these: then we will send the other—let it follow, when the printing is done." Wished to know about Mrs. Coates. Had I seen her lately? She had been ill: was not physically strong. W. said: "I thought just the opposite of her: she was so cheerful." I said: "Bonsall said the other day that except for the fact that you said and he knew you were sick he wouldn't have known it from your face or your talk." "Yes, it often goes that way: the growlers are not the worst off by any means."

     I asked W. what he thought of Harrison's prospective cabinet—particularly of Blaine as Secretary of State. W. said: "Yes: I see it means him: that is a demonstration: it demonstrates the policy: I expected it"—stopped for a moment: "And I say, damn it, too!" Here he turned to the window, looked out again, locked his hands in the old way: "But the most welcome news to me, the most satisfying news altogether, coming the last three or four days, is the story of the admission of the new States—four of them: that is a glorious evolution: I appreciate it: no one realizes the fullness of its meaning better than I do." I said: "The Press glories in their admission because they will be Republican States." W. first laughed—then became quite grave: "Yes: I suppose that is their reason: but I have other reasons: I approve fully, wholly, entirely: more than approving—glory in it, in fact it even falls short of what I should have preferred to have done: while we were about it I should have said, include New Mexico—oh! New Mexico is a great territory!—even Utah!" "But," I said, "they could not stomach the Mormonism." W.: "I suppose not: though what that has to do with admitting Utah I can't see." "You evidently have no objection to Mormonism yourself, Walt." "I haven't—not a bit: I don't make it my business: I said Utah, too: I meant it: with or without Mormonism. I meant it." I said: "The West seems to be the Great West to you, Walt." He exclaimed: "Great indeed! no one can tell how great, either, till he has been there, breathed in—known its vast, I might almost say limitless,

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expanses—the prairies, the infinite spaces."
He was immensely stirred: "It is the great, great, great stretches in the West, there beyond the Mississippi, which are so awe-inspiring: take the stretch say from Kansas, one of the Eastern cities, even Kansas City, on the edge of the Missouri: start off on the ride to Denver, a matter of seven or eight hundred miles: everywhere you are pervaded with the sense of the interminability of things: scarcely a dot, a sign, of life, the whole long way: the land on every side virginal, untouched." He added: "And yet all this was appointed." "The West is filling in: think of the twenty of thirty years to come! what will they not disclose?" He said: "It is such thoughts as these which drive in upon me the importance, significance, of the admission of the new States."

     I met Florence Burleigh's brother. He is just back from Alaska. He brought some wonderful photographs along. W. had me tell all I could about them. "I can see them: their dramatic power: their charm: trees, mountains, the rolling sea, the clouds overhead, long lays of land, the faraway shore, the workmen moving round." He said: "The mere thought of it as you talked fascinated me: I think of myself: my prison life here: then of the wonders of the north: all that." He said some critic had said of his own work that it evinced "a painful fidelity to life." Was it true? "I ask myself that question: perhaps it is true: absolute realism: and yet how can we desert life? I don't say the case is one-sided: it must be considered both ways." I received this note today:


66 Broadway, New York,
Feb. 21, 1889.

My dear Traubel.

Thanks for your note. I enclose ten dollars—i.e., two dollars and a half to the first of June, which is about all I can spare, I am sorry to say. How much of a regular (pledged) fund—monthly—have you got established? Give my love to W.W. There is a nice article on him in the London Hobby Horse, the art journal.

Sincerely yours,

E. C. Stedman.


     I read the Hobby Horse sentence to W. He said in his queer way: "Oh! thanks—thanks!—and then as to the article: "I do have a faint echo of suspicion of a remembrance of it—but one that's too dim

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to make anything of it: I think it was the January issue: it was specifically on November Boughs: very fair, considering: but what can I say beyond that? Have I spoken to you of it before? I shouldn't like to have to swear to anything pro or con concerning it. Sometimes I get the impulse to run away—to get beyond all the seeing and hearing of criticism: to just write, to perhaps publish, but to refuse to have anything further to do with what happens or does not happen."
He admonished me: "When you write to Stedman say the right things to him for me: tell him about, describe to him, the hell of a hole I'm in at last: say there's very little if any hope of a deliverance: make it clear to him that we're not despondent but facing the facts frankly, calmly: then give him my love."

     An after-reference to Mary Costelloe. He asked me: "Have you read much of Montaigne?" Had he? "I don't say I have: I suppose I have not: but I've read him some: he is precious stuff." He paused: "Off towards the end of the book there is a woman—oh! what is her name?"—but he couldn't get it: "Well, it is a woman, just of Mary's type: you will see it some day: I want you to look it up. Read Montaigne for his own sake: after a while you'll come to that place: study it well: then you'll be introduced to Mary—then you'll know her: though you have never met her you'll know what she is like. Asked me for Stedman's address. "Is it still East Fourteenth Street? I want to write him: I have things I want to say to him: he deserves more than the passing compliment from me: I don't always pay these courtesy and these love debts, in words, especially these recent turbulent days, but I want to do so—I feel guilty when months slip past after months and I have been obliged to forego my duty." I said: "You used to discredit duty, Walt: you substituted 'living impulse' for it: don't forget that." He answered: "Call it 'living impulse' then if you prefer: 'living impulse' is better, to be sure."

     W. has not yet decided the scale for the picture. He is "hopelessly dilatory," as he himself says, in such things. Now he says: "Let it go till Monday—yes—even to Tuesday, when the Doctor comes." Not reading a great deal these days. But he has "dipped into" the Johnson. "I see it as an author's copy: Clifford and Johnson appear to have been friends." Review in an old copy of Christian Union of a volume of poems by a Canadian, Cameron, who quotes W's "Who touches this touches a man." W. said: Leave it with me: I should

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like much to read it all."
W. had "turned up" another Carpenter letter. Would I read it? Certainly.


Brighton, Sept. 17, 1877.

Dear Walt,

I am sending you a P.O. order for ten pounds. Some of my friends want your books and are forwarding the money through me. I also want one or two copies to give away.

You had better, I think, send the books direct to the following: Both vols (Leaves of Grass and Two Rivulets) to E. Seymer Thompson, Christ's Church, Cambridge: ditto to Clement Templeton, Abernathy House, Mount Vernon, Hampstead, London: one vol (Two Rivulets) to J. J. Harris, Teall, University Extension lecturer, Nottingham.

The rest you had better send to me. But do not send them immediately. I will write again when I know my address at Sheffield (where I am going shortly) and when I know which volumes are wanted.

I have not seen (or heard) anything of Buchanan since I have been in England: but I shall bear in mind your message if ever I come across him. I looked at Augusta Webster's poems the other day at the library: but they seemed to me commonplace—rather inclining to be intellectual—and I don't think you would care about them. They were not miscellaneous poems but one vol: a drama and the other a Chinese story. I have made inquiries but I cannot hear of any other vol. If however by any chance you want to have one of these vols write and tell me and I will send it.

I had a letter from Arunachalaen—my Bengalese friend—whose photo you have, not long ago. Speaking about you he says: "I have for some time been seriously thinking of writing to him to express my love and reverence." He also says: "Do send me a photograph of him. I know of no means of getting it. I want if possible also a big one that I could frame and hang up." I have sent him one of the small photographs that I have.

By the bye, I wish very much that you would not have that photograph on the fly leaf of Two Rivulets. I do not like it at all. I don't think it is like you. Could you not put there, instead, the head of 1871, or that of 1872 (which I admire much?) I have been showing

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the photographs you gave me to my sister Dora—whose likeness you have. She is very much impressed with particularly the last mentioned, and wants to make a painting after it in oils. She is getting on finely, I think, and if I can get it I shall send you a photograph of one of her last—a couple of dogs, a pug and a King Charles.


I am finishing up my preparations for my winter course of lectures. I have got a whole lot of apparatus down here to illustrate "sound"—organ pipes and tuning forks, and speaking tubes, and piano wires stretched on sound boards, &c—and am practising experiments on them much to the delight of a small helper who understands everything at once in the most alarming way.

Remember me to Harry. I would like to know what he is doing.

Yours

Edward Carpenter.


      "That was a practical letter," said W.: "it was a hand offering even more than it was a money offering: '76 and '77 were memorable years to me, especially when regarded from the point of view of the English help-fund." There was a postcard pinned to the letter. This card Carpenter wrote three days after the letter had left. The card read: "Please also send two vols (Leaves and Two Rivulets) to Revd H. R. Haweis, 16 Welbeek Street, Cavendish Square, London, W. He orders them through me. The remaining three vols keep till I write again." Also a portrait of Dora Carpenter. W. said: "These edges, bits, margins, cuttings, what not, all serve to fill in the gaps in the story: I don't know what use you can ever make of them: perhaps no use: but you will be equipped—you will have the data if for any reason it is called for or is in order." W. said: "I can't see much of Ed in Dora—of Dora in Ed—but they are brother and sister: take them for that: I was glad to have the picture: the little counterfeit faces are faulty, yet precious: they are friends in need—especially to a fellow housed up as I am, isolated, sidetracked, waiting God knows for what."


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