Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, January 27, 1889

     7.15 P.M. W. reading Bucke's W. W. Spoke more cheerfully than usual of his condition. No visitors. "I ate two good meals: breakfast, dinner, enjoyed them both: realize no bad results." I said: "Your life is all spent in that chair." He smiled. Was grave too. "Yes: that seems to be my life: from the bed to the chair: back to the bed again. I have got so I'm reasonably patient with it all: other days I

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want to go somewhere, anywhere, just to live down this routine of invalidism."
I asked him: "You say invalidism: are you ever really conscious of being an invalid?" to which he said at once: "I'm never in fact conscious of it: I've never been so bad but my sickness seemed only incidental to something else: I don't think sickness any more than I have to: you know that as well as I do." Raining. Chilly. "Tom was in for awhile: brought me the Tribune: I have read it: also the Press. Can you tell me why I ever read the Press?" Spoke of the Boulanger election in Paris today. "What will come of it?" Adding: "I suppose no one knows yet: it's too early: though perhaps they are beginning to get news to New York—are probably putting it in type this minute." W. had read the story that Ingersoll, proposed for membership in the Players' Club, was rejected. W. said: "Ingersoll is not hurt by such asinine conduct as that: he would gain nothing by joining the Club: the Club would gain everything by having him join: Bob is rather of another ilk: does not belong to the traditionists—to the academists: is to be classified altogether with the go-your-own-way kind of men. Bob would enrich any environment he fell into but I can't see what some environments can do for him: I congratulate him: he's more at home outside than inside institutions anyway: that's where we are, too: that's our common ground. I am surprised to have this occur in the Players' Club, however: I should have expected them to be more capacious."

     I took sheets for fifty copies of the complete W. W. to Oldach today. W. said his "good opinion of the cover persists": "I am fully satisfied with it: it serves the purpose: has, too, its own, my own, characteristics: enjoys a recognizable identity. The bookish people agree that the book won't do. Of course it don't do for their purposes but it'll do for ours." W. talked of the meter. "It looks to me like a mistake, not like a meter." I asked him if he ever said that to Bucke. "No: I shut up when the Doctor's here: I know his heart's in it: but it's a fool's paradise." Talked of Bucke in general. "He's not a man with a few commissions, responsibilities, but with twenty, forty. I have come to learn the Doctor's true inwardness: I was there with him—on the ground. He has an immense institution on his shoulders: he answers all its challenges: has indeed made discoveries which have been vastly important in the study of the insane. He is eternally vigilant: for instance, will get up at four or five in the morning,

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at the delivery of the meat: will go over to the commissary building—himself inspect: taste, smell, examine: himself make sure that all is au fait—that the great sides, halves, quarters, are what they should be: do it on the principle that to have a thing rightly done there is no way but to do it yourself or have it done right under your own eyes."
But Bucke is "no bigot." "He allows great latitude: he has doctors there with him: a staff, corps: four or five or more of them: doctors who are at liberty to pursue their own best judgment in the treatment of patients." He illustrated this. "For instance, Doctor opposes the use of alcohol: yet if any one of his assistants felt he should use it in some peculiar cases he would not interfere." I objected: "That was once so but in Doctor's pamphlet he tells of his change of view." W. said at once: "That is true: it was years ago when I was there: that was the method then."

     This talk led on to talk of drink in general. W. said: "I have no doubt Bucke is right in his theory against drink: it justifies itself, in fact: but in certain cases of fevers—in some critical cases—a resort to stimulants, to almost anything, is not only advisable but necessary: I have seen many, many such cases in the hospitals in Washington: my punches alone sustained many who otherwise seemed doomed: nothing else was possible: they would go a week without food, perhaps: the patient could not, would not, eat: what else could be done?" Was abstinence advisable? "Never start, I say," said W. "It's nonsense to say it's necessary: it's not vital: it's a habit: like using tobacco, which is filthy enough. I am living now without any spur in food or drink: not venturing off my very conservative plane." W. said finally: "We're a sober tribe: not one of us was ever seen drunk: that seems like a fearful reputation which we'll find it hard to live down." Laughing over his little joke. W. gave me a Burroughs letter, which he asked me to read aloud to him, and then said I might take away with me.


Sunday, Nov. 18, 1883.

Dear Walt:

Dr. Bucke says you talk of going home with him: if you do be sure you stop and see me on the way. We have a girl now and are well fixed for the winter. Why not come on and stay here till Dr. Bucke is ready to go back?


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I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and saw Arnold at Gilder's house—liked him better than I expected, looks coarse and strong and healthy, has a sort of husky voice like a sea captain, looked as if he came from a bigger stronger race than the other persons in the room, no pride, or "manners," or "culture" visible in him. I found he knew of me and was very cordial in meeting me. Liked him much better than the other Englishmen I have seen. Wish you could see him and have a good setdown talk with him. I think he is honest and sincere and not too sure about things in this country. The idea of his lecture on numbers, namely, that the majority is unsound, is to be taken with many qualifications and I wish some one would answer it in a mild friendly way. From some points of view the majority may appear in the wrong, but from other very important ones they are in the right, especially modern majorities. The mass of men are no longer capable of being gulled and duped and victimized as they were once. A shrewd common sense that extends to big things as well as to little is characteristic of the people in this age. If the masses were essentially unsound the prophet and the wise man would have only a barren soil to work on. I wish you would feel moved to write a short essay in The Critic on the subject. I enjoyed much your paper in this week's number. I think that both Arnold and Carlyle detach and see out of its due relations this idea of the unsoundness of the masses. I have written a short sketch as the result of my sea-shore sojourn for the Boston Wheelman—a new magazine of outdoor literature. I will send you the proof for suggestion and revision, especially the part that relates to you.

Eldridge writes me that O'Connor is ill and at the Sulphur Springs of Va. What do you know about him? Eldridge thinks that my publishers are dealing honestly with me. I have asked to see their accounts, and they are willing, but probably I shall not go over these. When one of my books was published they sold the first six months 733 copies. When the next book came out they sold in the same time 733 copies. Of another volume they sold 131 copies in six months: the next six months they sold 131 copies of the vol. published next. These coincidences seem almost incredible. I called their attention to them, and they reply that they are merely coincidences. Osgood would gladly undertake my books; so would Dodd, Mead & Co., of N.Y.


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Fine day here today, but have had a cold windy week. Out home in Roxbury I tramped over the mountains in blinding snow and cold. I hope you keep well. Send me the Scottish Review article if you have it and I will return it. With much love

John Burroughs.


     W. listened with great attention as I read. He was particularly interested in the passage concerning Arnold. "John will have it that I don't do Arnold justice; he thinks there's a place for Arnold—that I don't acknowledge it: that if we could in some way be brought together or if I could somehow read Arnold right, the impossible might be achieved. I'm afraid I'm hopelessly heretical: there seems to be a temperamental reason why I can't know Matthew, why he can't know me: I'm not disposed to exaggerate it: I don't force myself to or not to: it's simply there: I have to recognize it. Arnold is as inveterately one thing as I am another: we can't be remade: no doubt we both belong in the world: there's no use trying to make oil and water mix." And W. also said: "Arnold was weak on the democratic side: he had some intellectual perception of democracy but he didn't have the feel of the thing: all his antecedents, training, the schools he went to, were against it: he was first of all the superior, the leader, the teacher: he has a theory about the saving remnant: he is that salvation, that remnant. John describes Arnold in a way to make you wonder whether his life as he lived it was not inconsistent with his life as he wrote of it. The long and short of it is that Arnold happens to be one sort of a man while I am another sort of a man: that we are opposites (though John may deny it): that a reconciliation would be out of the question."

     Adler talks today on the teaching of morals to children. W. said: "It's a profound problem: teaching morals: they should be taught—yet also not taught: sometimes I say one shouldn't teach morals to anybody: when I see the harm that morals do I almost hate seeing people good: then there's another side to it: then I see how necessary it is that we should have a code, live with it, die for it."

     The floor stuff about W. was extra upset. "What have you been up to, Walt?" I asked. He said: "I've been looking for something—God knows what." I asked again: "Why do you say, God knows what? I guess you know what." He shook his head: "I mean that I was not looking for anything in particular: was looking for half a

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dozen things at once."
"Did you find what you wanted?" "No: I didn't." "But you found this, I suppose," I said, picking up a portrait of himself from the chair. "Yes: that turned up: but it can't be said to be worth while: it's empty: lacks any positive characteristics." Was I to take it? He didn't invite me to. "It has no value: I think we'd best dismiss it." But near it was a bundle of manuscript which he did give me. It contained the first notes, several drafts and Curtz proof slips of With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea. W. exclaimed: "Oh! that is a curio: take it along if you wish: I wrote it six years ago: I was up the Jersey coast, in the Ocean Grove district: John, Burroughs, was along: it was a rare event: I made the most of it every way, in body, in all the rest of me. It is something of a study: gives a little item indicating whys, wherefores, contingencies, what not: shows how hard I work, however easy the result may look. I have had people say to me: 'Walt, you write as if it was no effort whatever for you to do so.' That may be how it looks but that's not how it is."

     W. said: "I want to send a little keepsake to Adler: what shall it be?" I stood before him hat in hand. He commenced to poke about among the papers at his feet. Fished up Song of the Universal: newspaper clipping: yellow, old: 1874. "I was hoping I'd put my hand on something more significant. This—oh, this is only a small affair, I was invited by some of 'em up there to write a poem: was sick at the time—could not go: thought I would say something: now you see what the agitation came to. I sent it up: guess it amounted to nothing: guess they wondered what it was. At any rate it was read and paid for." W. addressed an envelope to Adler and enclosed the slip. "I don't want to send this: it's not what I was looking for: but it'll serve to show our feeling." Took the Curtz copy of To the Year 1889. "Take that too," he said. I asked: "The fierce poem?" he, laughing roundly: "Yes, that: the fierce poem: the haughty humble poem."

     Adler told me today that a sister of Emma Lazarus had offered to assist with the W. fund. I told W. of her offer without specifying the fund. He was touched. "Tell Adler that my love, affection, responds to his own: that I need no help, but, needing to be helped, would find it a joy to be helped by him." And again: "Tell him I meet him in the same spirit."


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