Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, February 23, 1889

     7.45 P.M. Ed says W. said he was "only middling" on getting up. All day long he has manifested this depression. Physical. Inclined to be cheerful otherwise. "I have been only half and half," he said: "with a leaning on the good side to less than half." This really signifies

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that he has been feeling quite bad. I know what his words mean. "Bitter cold outdoors: I know by the way the fire was burning, by the crackling of the wood, that there was a big wind blowing down the chimney: I've been sitting here thinking of the river—hoping somehow to escape the deadening four walls of this room. Read a little this evening but nothing otherwise all day. "I did not write to Doctor today—nor yesterday: but by this time he must have received what I sent the day before: that was Thursday: I sent a letter and a paper." But had he heard from Bucke? "Yes, there's a letter here somewhere"—proceeding to search the table. He finally found it. "Ah! here it is!" Then: "Bucke seems at last absolutely set upon his time: Monday: he says he will see us Tuesday: then there's a message for you in it—something about the meter." He asked: "The meter? what of the meter? Is it everything or nothing? I incline to nothing—though I don't want to be a prophet of evil, either. I seem to never be of any other mind about the meter: I only see it failing: I never see it succeeding." "Are you going to tell the Doctor that?" "Hardly: not unless he invites it: not even then, perhaps."

     W. thinks it's about time he had heard from Sarrazin. "And Griffin? I wonder what has become of him?" G. has never sent W. a single word acknowledging the Leaves of Grass that was sent to him last year. "Was it Griffin Sarrazin said was dead? Didn't Sarrazin say something in his letter about it? You read the letter, didn't you?" I did not think so. W. added: "I appear to be confused." Agnes Repplier has a piece in Unity on The Ethics of Lord Tennyson's Poetry. She quotes something from "a recent lecturer" which I called W.'s attention to: "Browning is the only English poet, living or dead, who has any message for the men of the nineteenth century." W. asked: "What does she know about all the men or all the women either?" I said: "She don't say it: she only quotes it." W. again: "Well, anyhow—what does she know?" I spoke of her as "brilliant." W. assented. "Yes, brilliant—too brilliant: she is one of the great cluster of intellectualists in which Doctor Johnson was a shining light—an illustrious luminary: the polishers of language: learned, esoteric: sparkling wits: above all, erudite—oh! too damned erudite!" I put in: "And last of all, often, lovers of truth!" W.: "That is God's truth—though I don't know that that just expresses it (the whole of it): it is an evasive though contemptible quality. We meet people—

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men, women—not intellectual, not literary, to whom we are drawn, who are drawn towards us: we do not know what draws us—could not tell why we are drawn: yet the fact is indisputable—the bond is unseverable. This quality, whatever it is, the intellectualists, as such, lack: they are as humans to be avoided. The world in our time seems full of intellectual people: full: you meet them everywhere: the professions particularly are overweighted with them: but literature suffers worst of all from their invasion: the mal-development there is the most marked—is there most repulsive, most painful."

     W. read the Christian Union piece on the Canadian poet "with great interest." "There's nothing at all in it from which I should dissent. I weighed it carefully. Shall I put it here with the budget?" He's piling things up against the Doctor's arrival. W. said: "Tom was in last night: when he left I gave him the Pall Mall Gazette criticism and the Lippincott containing the story, Bella Demona: I wish you would get both for me in a day or two. Tom quite understands that I want them back: often he don't step in for a week: I shall want them within that time." He spoke of the Gazette piece as "scholarly in the extreme." He said: "The scholar can't hide himself: he gives himself away every time." I said: "The thicker he makes his verbal veil the easier he is seen!" "Admirable! splendid!" W. exclaimed: "Say that again." Which I did. Still harping on my daughter. Spoke of the News piece again. Again said: "I am tantalized in not knowing who its author can be." Told me he "had an envelope" from Morse. It contained an address by Adler—another address by Swing: newspaper reports: but there was no letter included. I asked Morse to hunt up the News man. No word on that subject yet. W. asked: "Do you want to read the sermons?" I asked a question in return: "Have you read them?" "Hardly: sermons are hardly my specialty." But he added: "Down in another column of that copy of the News—I think on the same page—there was a dialect poem, Jim: did you read it? I marked it: it seemed to me very strong, very efficient, indeed." He spoke of this the other day. "In the Harteian manner?" I asked. W.: "Yes: no doubt with the touch of Bret Harte, but except for three or four of his best, better than anything Harte has ever written." Had I seen Bill Nye and Riley when they lectured in Philadelphia the other day? W.: "As a general thing I don't enjoy dialect literature: it's rather troublesome stuff to handle: yet Jim took a

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powerful hold on me: but though I don't care much for the dialect writers myself I acknowledge their validity, value, pertinence: that some of them are remarkably gifted: they indicate, stand for, exemplify, an important phase in our literary development."
He had "particularly in mind" one of Bret Harte's "lesser quoted" poems. "It is mighty fine. I have regarded it as his most eminently splendid bit of work: what the locomotive from the Pacific says to the locomotive from the Atlantic when they meet: have you read that? Oh! it's capital: it's a perfect creation." Had he any objections to The Outcasts of Poker Flat? "Not a single objection: I like it—more than like it: all of it." Where did he rank Bret Harte? "I hardly know what to say to that." Above Mark Twain? "The English have taken to Harte: they seem to understand him." What was his idea of Mark Twain. "I think he mainly misses fire: I think his life misses fire: he might have been something: he comes near to being something: but he never arrives." I quoted Brander Matthews. W. asked at once: "Who is he? Where is he from? I have neither met nor read him."

     When I asked W. about the portrait, he said again: "I've done nothing with it: I thought we were going to put it aside till Bucke came?" I said: "Dave sets great store by that picture: he says we mustn't let anything happen to it." W. replied: "He sets no higher value on it than we do: I believe I see in it, through it, around it, better than anyone else: I'd be more robbed than anyone else if anything happened to it." Asked me: "Have you any idea whether Oldach has got along any with that correction, annotation, volume for me? I'd like you to see if he's gone too far with it to insert half a dozen blank pages for notes front or back or both front and back: will you take care of that for me? Sometimes he's slow: if slow this time we'll be the gainers and not the losers."

     W. had laid aside for me what he called "a Rossetti document." He smiled. "It will give you some actual figures for what might otherwise be pure theory." He said I should "never forget how whole-heartedly Rossetti had always stood by his guns." He admonished me: "You will stand for me far into the future: Rossetti is one of the few: you must always keep him well up towards the head of the list." Several memorandums were pinned to the letter. W. said: "They all go with the story: they all help to unravel the mystery: for it is a mystery, eh? how things get started, stop, win, lose, in this world."

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I started reading. W. lapsed into his chair. "I'm at ease," he said: "this is nice."


London, October 4th, 1885.

Dear Whitman,

I received with great gratification your post card of 8 September acknowledging a previous missive of mine.

I now endorse a list of some further sums. These are all that have reached my hands up to date: there may possibly be something besides in the hands of the Gilchrists, but I have no particular reason for supposing so. I had been expecting for some weeks past to see a circular in print, Herbert Gilchrist having ordered one, but have not yet seen it. When it comes we may expect to come to closer quarters with your admirers and adherents, who are certainly neither scanty nor lukewarm in this country.

I shall now without delay proceed to pay the £37.12 into the Post Office, so that it shall reach you in like manner with the former sums. As soon as I have actually done this, I will send you a brief letter of advice.

Some of the names on the enclosed list are unknown to me: to others I have put a brief note of explanation. The last person on the list, R.B.C., is Earl Russell: he writes me: "I do not wish my name to be published," so I have not given details on the list itself. This youthful Earl is now twenty years of age, and is grandson of the (in England at least) celebrated Lord John Russell, who was a prime agent in passing the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832, was afterwards Premier more than once, and was created a Peer as Earl Russell. His son, Viscount Amberley, died while the father was still alive: the Viscount was a very liberal thinker on matters of religion, &c., and published one or two books. Lord R. writes to me as "a recent but more or less ardent admirer of Walt Whitman"—and he subscribes "with the warmest feelings of thanks and reverence for the Good Grey Poet." I am no devotee of titled people as such (would on the contrary abolish all titles if it lay with me to do so), but would have thought that you might like to know these few particulars about R.B.C.

Yours with affection,

William M. Rossetti.



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     W. made a pencil memo on R.'s letter: "£37.12 sent by letter from W.M.R. of Oct. 6 '85." Three lists of contributors accompanied the letter. These were the names on the lists: G.T. Glover, John Wallace, John Fraser, G.R. Rogerson, Charles Rowley, Jr., W.A. Turner, H. Boddington, C. Sheldon, E.R. Pease, Miss Hamilton, Miss Riley, Rev. Lewis Campbell, W.H. Coffin, J.A. Symonds, A. Crompton, R.B.C., Amy Levy, Oliver Elton, Shadworth Hodgson, Henry James, Charles Pratt, J.F. Molloy, J.R. Williamson, John Todhunter, Miss Gibson, L.W., G.R. Benson, R.G. Totton, T.G. Leathes, L.A.J., Miss Pease, J. Johnston, Oscar Gridley, T.H.C., G.H.M., M.E. Dakyns, G.C. Macaulay, Ernest Myers, R. Louis Stevenson, Rob. Hannah, A. Sidgwick, R.E. Powell, Helen Zimmern, Leonard M. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Darwin, Miss Gerstenberg. One of the sheets is mutilated, cutting off three or four of the names. I said to W.: "I call that a roll of honor." W. said: "I am precluded from repeating your phrase but I may well call it a roll of love."


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