Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, March 22, 1889

     10 A.M. W. writing. Looked and confessed himself well. He thought his massage and bath yesterday had much to do with his condition today. Called my attention at once to another postal from Washington. "It's very shadowy: William is not improving." He paused. "But still, Horace, I won't give up: I am loth to give up: I have great faith in the capacity of the body to recoup itself under extraordinary conditions—to tide over extreme difficulties"—and he added: "Hope springs eternal in the human breast"—smiling quietly— "we stick by Pope still." I asked: "Would it be desirable to have O'Connor continue as he is?" W. said: "We must not contemplate it that way—we must contemplate improvement." But he "presented both sides" to himself: "argued it out." "I can't be arrogant with myself—can't absolutely subdue myself: my fears will spring up—then my hopes, too,"

     Took him January and February Current Literatures. He said: "I am anticipating the great pleasure they will afford me: I sit here—hunger for pleasure: you make my job possible: I can't go to the orchard myself: you bring in the fruit." Looked at address: 30 West 23d Street. "I know it well: I am an old figure there: nearby is the Fifth Avenue Hotel: and then Pfaff's (you have heard of Pfaff's), the famous habitat of authors—good fellows of that sort." As to the magazine: "Print, contents, everything, is satisfactory: I like it all." Has a page or two to write for pocket edition. I said: "Do it tonight: you are losing precious time." He said: "I'll do my best: I am fully alive to the pressing necessity of proceeding." Had he heard from Bucke yet? "Yes," he said: "I have a letter from him: he did not go direct home after all: stopped over a day, Tuesday, in New York: went there Monday night with Gurd—then Tuesday night struck out for home. He reports everything well in London: says, by the way, he called on Johnston White in New York: says, too, that his work has greatly stacked up in his absence, but that it does not scare him." Reached to the table. "Here's the letter itself: take it along." He added: "Doctor says he and Gurd are not a bit discouraged: but I don't know"—shook his head: "in my judgment that's the end of the meter!"

      "And that reminds me," W. said, before we got on to any other

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topic: "Tom was in last night after you left: he gave me a more detailed, specific account of the meter difficulty than either the Doctor or you: and I am inclined to agree with Tom's version—view—if it may be so called: it sounds so straight-forward, all-around, true. Of course, I know very little about matters as they were: only what I heard: only what you fellows told me: you know I was never on fire over it: Doctor's millions were always no more to me than someone's dream: still, I wanted him to have his fling if there was any honest way for him to get it. Now the thing is all over I must confess the Doctor's course was a bit of a shock to me: he showed traces of something like asperity when he left. I thought when he came down here he was going to throw himself in Tom's arms: I think he should have done it: I think he should still do it." W. called this "a measure of safety." And he said: "I don't like to confess it, but I'm afraid Doctor's peculiar vehement (in some ways almost crotchety) personality was in the way in these negotiations." I said: "You know I asked you if this might not prove to be the case." He assented. "I know: I love Maurice so much: I was not willing to believe it: now it looks a little as if there was some basis for your suspicion." He felt that "Maurice showed a rather undue disposition to corral the situation here: he came for money but didn't seem to want to give anything to get it."

     I asked him to tell me what impression Harned had left with him. "As I understand it, Gurd, the Doctor, their men, were to control the larger part of the stock: they were secured: I am sorry they would not yield the rest." W. then went on at length: "There is no use hiding it from ourselves: there is a strain of slipperiness in the human critter: we all pray to be delivered from it: it is perhaps in some measure in us all. I suppose Doctor has the stigmata of the elemental man: he seemed to be asking too much—the impossible. It is to be regretted that Maurice did not embrace Harned's offers: I know Tom well: our love, our affection, belongs to him. I don't mean to say I have ever considered the matter in the shape of a question, for I haven't: I have always felt fixed in this—that Tom, basically, spinally"—here W. swirled his right hand towards the floor— "was honest—that his integrity was beyond any corrupting influence: that he would play no one false: and in a lawyer, as lawyers go, that is indispensable—the cherished necessity. I think all

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great jurists, judges, pleaders—the thoroughbreds—have had it: men like some of the great Englishmen, like our Jerry Black-oh! I knew him well!—and even Evarts: integrity: the sterling appeal to facts, the moral serviceabilities: that was their hawser—that, above all else. Tom has that eminent characteristic: he is primarily, fundamentally, not to be suspected—is hawsered tight in the equities. To me this is a conclusive reason why the incident should have been affirmatively concluded. Doctor is stubborn: was rather off his field anyhow: then, latent in him, probably, down below anything we could see, was that very human instinct to guzzle most of the pie for himself."

     Did he think Doctor doubted Tom? "I don't mean to say so: on the contrary he to the last expressed his confidence in Tom: I don't think distrust entered into it at all—distrust of Tom: it was rather the instinctive factors that entered into the case that defeated the Doctor's designs. The course he pursued is to be regretted: he has cut himself off from his one chance: he will never find the same generous passport tendered anywhere else: with Tom he was in the hands of his friends: how much of him would be left if he once adventured among the sharks of the financial world? Tom is not only straight but shrewd: he is a past master in the engineering of corporations: Doctor played his cards wrong, first to last." I said: "Besides, Walt, the meter itself is in no condition for being marketed yet, anyhow." "I understand that, but Tom says he was prepared in case his plans went through to liberally back the necessary future experiments."

     W. had signed the book for Dave. I took it with me when I left. I talked of the pocket edition. "I shall supply it copiously with portraits. It has occurred to me that after all the best scheme would be make a special effort with this edition. It will be in a sense, or wholly, personal, incidental to the moment, a commemoration of my birthday—the entrance upon my seventieth year: therefore, it should be something peculiar, with an identity: perhaps after all a five-dollar book if we get it richly bound: the purpose being to make it in all respects worth while—undoubtedly consistent with the occasion." He picked a little newspaper clipping from today's Press off the table and handed it to me. "Look at this—what do you think of this? The Colonel's in trouble again!" Laughed. Said: "I suppose the

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last damned fool will never be dead."
"They Object to Colonel Ingersoll," was the headline.

"NEW YORK, March 21,—Out of hundreds of letters received by the Confederate Soldiers' Home Committee the only ones not favorable and cordial are about half a dozen, whose writers object to aiding any enterprise assisted by Colonel R.G. Ingersoll. Most of these objectors omit to sign their names. Colonel Ingersoll lectures for the benefit of the home next Sunday."

     W. was much amused. "Robert can stand it: it'll roll off him like water off a duck: these people are like Doctor's Ottawa lady. Such incidents are always excessively funny to me: I find it hard to take them seriously: as if anybody cared in the end what the bigot fools think or don't think: they'll all disappear and Bob'll shine in ever greater glory." W. added: "Every such affair brings me back to myself—reminds me of some of the nasty corners I've had to turn: yet I take it all as being a necessary feature of the journey I have undertaken: the man who refuses to travel the beaten track must expect enemies, slander, banishment often, death often too: I was involved—there was no way out of it: not necessarily wishing to have it so, but being prepared for it when it developed. The Colonel is a breathing living challenge to some people—tantalizes, exasperates, them: he and they are temperamentally separated by a chasm as deep as the difference between heaven and hell."

     7.50 P.M. McKay told me today twenty-eight dollars was the limit price of the letter sold by Leon (N.Y.) in sheets. W. speaks of first edition of L. of G. W. writing this evening. In good shape. Would have his rubbing just before going to bed. "I wrote my usual postal to William—also a postal to the Doctor." W. said: "I am up a tree: I can't go to William: I can't shake the sorrowful thought of him out of my mind. I am just obliged to sit here with my hands folded—to eternally wait, wait." I saw Ferguson today. Made preliminary arrangements with him for the printing of the birthday book. W. said: "That sounds like business."

     This morning I gave W. an estimate showing cost of big book (cover and all) to be about one seventy-five or one eighty per copy. He seems to have mulled over this today, supposing the estimate not to include cover. He therefore said: "I am getting pretty near

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my financial edge—my limit. I think I will have the books given Dave in the sheets for three dollars and a half, letting him arrange for binding: I am making nothing at all on the book: yet as this was the round-up I had expected it would return me something: if I don't make something out of this, I never will at all: this is the last throw of the line: if nothing comes now"
—here he paused: then: "But something must come now: what fish are not hooked now never can be." I took up the sheet which lay near him and explained his error. He easily saw it—was pleased with the better face it put on things. I said: "No wonder you were alarmed." He said: "I was not alarmed, but it made me ask myself some questions." McKay sent over for three more books this afternoon. This leaves W. only one. I said to W.: "Now you must let me proceed with Oldach: must." He looked at me keenly when I repeated the "must." He said: "Well—let it go till morning." I insisted: "We must proceed somehow: we should have books ready." He was a little twitted by my stubbornness. I saw it. So I said: "You must not only permit me to have views, but sometimes in some things you must permit me to do things: I am enlisted for the war." W. said warmly, placing his hand on mine: "Yes, I know: I take it so with all that it implies."

     Harned talked with W. last night about the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He had just got the last volume of a new edition. W. sent Ed up for it this morning. "I've been absorbed in it," he said. I told him of the man who lent his dictionary to a girl who said on returning it that she liked it very much but that it changed the subject a little too often for her. W. laughed over this till he was in tears. He thought we should have the figure picture shaved down about a quarter of an inch at the top. It extends a bit beyond the page as it is. "We are going to cut our margins in this book as close as the law allows. I know this is against the modern tendency: the modern tendency is for broad displays: it has good reasons back of and through it, to be sure: I don't dispute that: reasons which we must this time for our own purposes outrage." Last evening I had a copy of Harper's Young People in my pocket. He looked it over. Asked me to leave it with him. It contained an illustrated article entitled Some High-born Young People. He said tonight of it: "The kings, lords, princes, seem eligible to collect about them all sorts of monstrosities, curios even in the human shape: it is a disease: it goes

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with their being what they are: the whole lady-gentleman-lackey-courtier-business is sickish, outrageous, disgusting: I spit it all out—the last vestige of it: counts, emperors, cardinals: they are the syphilitic rot of our civilization."


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