Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 380] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Saturday, July 20, 1889

     7.55 P.M. W. sat in parlor in his shirt sleeves. Had not been out. "I've had a bad day—a devil of a bad day," he reported, "though now I am much easier and more nearly myself again." The day has been quite warm, though not excessively so. Mrs. Davis had been sitting talking with him; she now withdrew. "Ed has been to the post office—just came back," said W., asking, "Did I tell you of Burroughs' letter the other day? Ah! Yes! I have such a bad memory nowadays I put no faith in it. Did I tell you that John said anything about receiving the Unity? I sent him a copy—but now I don't remember if he said anything about receiving it: yet he should have acknowledged it." W. said further, "I do not in the least share Mrs. O'Connor's interpretation of the article—I don't think it at all justified: to me what you said is not only perfectly clear but perfectly true. Oh! the great O'Connor! How these Elizabethan fellows would have rejoiced to have had him with them! would have gathered about—listened—quickly recognized him as one of them—his great information—his grand famous speech!" This reminded me of the accompanying piece out of today's Times (Phila.) reviewing O'C.'s "Mr. Donnelly's Reviewers," which I read to W., partly at the window, then, as it grew dark, by gaslight which I secured. He exclaimed at the lines I had marked: "he was the only man who was positively known to have read Delia Bacon's book." "That's a lie, to start with—and all because the writer wanted to be sharp—epigrammatic; for the sake of the epigram he played truth false. But that is quite an ordinary trick of the author!" And after I was done: "Well—that don't amount to much, does it? It is very light! No one but William ever read

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 381] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Delia Bacon's book? How about me, then, don't I count? I read it, read it all, cover to cover—and what is more, read it with greatest interest—and knew others who read it too and thought the reading worth while!"

     I bought a copy of Bucke's Whitman today to give to Mrs. Fels. W. said, "It is a good book—it has my cordial regard right through. The book is guilty, like the dinner, of being too honeyish—is open to the same accusation—but apart from that has a distinct value. I think a good point is its sympathy. Victor Hugo or somebody else—the saying is just as good by whomever said—has said that a book ought always to be reviewed by friendly hands. Well, Doctor's book reviews me at friendly hands. But of this I should still say—be bold, be bold, be not too damned bold!—for one may err in friendliness, too. I should advise, commence to read me in November Boughs. Here I am found, not going back on the past, gently hinting all that has been claimed in Leaves of Grass—approaching the world we might say through its own media—in a Backward Glance defining myself, yet doing so, while positively, affably. As I have considered, this more and more has loomed up, asserted itself, as the wisest road. While it may strike you as peculiar, I may say it almost assumes the shape of a conviction with me." I said, "For a man who would take you up out of violent opposition, I might try to steer and advise, but I find that in a person who takes you up freely and open, his own instincts always find him right." To which: "Oh! that is a keen, profound judgment!—and it must be true—has all the ring of truth!" Asked me again of "my Jew constituency"—the young fellows, etc.—and said, "It does me proud to think they listen and share me! Who knows but after all the youth are my natural friends?"

     Letter from Gilchrist who said he would be "pleased" to consent to the use of Tennyson letter in full. He asked if there could be objection. W. inquired, "Objection where? Over the water? Oh! I guess not: I should not for a minute hesitate

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 382] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
to use it on that account."
The proof I had left him last night he had laid on parlor table for me, but as I brought him proofs of some of the letters he said, "I'll keep both till tomorrow—then send 'em up to you by Ed—say at four or a little after." He "liked" the way his speech was set up. I suggested, "I should like to state that it is printed verbatim from your own slip." He asked, "Why?" And after my reply: "Oh! that they may know about it 60 years hence." "Well—do it if you choose—or perhaps I can give you a line for it: we'll see!" He laughed— "I won't criticize things in general—I'll be like Christy's man—I won't give it—I won't give it up—I won't have anything to do with it!"

     Spoke of nationalities, lengthily. "I believe 'the poor in a loomp are bad!' just as Tennyson puts it—by poor, meaning human nature generally: and of course not [actually] all bad or mainly bad, but bad, bad! And yet in the average human nature—in the so-called ordinary man,—what decorous, gentle, affable, [kindly] manners are often seen—what persons developing!—I can see it almost day to day. And this among Americans more markedly than any others—certainly with a great and grave advance over European personalities. I suppose England contains the best specimens to be found abroad—but even England, how far short of our achievement! It is coming into the bone and marrow or the race—our race: we know it in the men North, South, East, West: any Maurice Buckeian, any Walt Whitman man, travelling America, getting en rapport with its civilization, its great average personalities, readily gives a cordial recognition to this precious quality. Herbert Gilchrist, Ernest Rhys, Edward Carpenter, are three who have actually spoken of it to me—three out of the many. And even these, seeing much though they did, fell far short of seeing what they might have seen—or, as I may better put it, what was to be seen." And this, W. was sure, would "go from more to more" till the grandeur of the nature had "testified of itself."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 383] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      "How grand and good," exclaimed W., "it is to have a philosophy that includes all!—how inspiring to look at a man like O'Connor, so vehement, yet so catholic! It is as though we had got in touch with nature's profoundest, her largest, her last lesson, what we call mystery! William was a book-man—not an inch of him clear of the charge—but a book man after the most elemental sort, knowing the abstract book, [divining] its human purpose, meaning."

     I was in to see Oldach today and he promises the morocco books without fail next week, though not specifying a day. Sam Brown too—told him portrait was O.K.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.