Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, July 22, 1889

     7.50 P.M. W. out on my arrival—had gone to the river between 6 and 7. Soon, however, he came up in his chair and hurried Ed up to the post office with several papers (no letters). Remained outside in his chair. W. talked full half an hour. Said he felt "more comfortable but not stronger," but

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he certainly looked well (for him). "I sent a paper to John Burroughs today," W. remarked, "it was the Transcript—Boston Transcript—contained a notice of his last book." I alluded to Clifford's question whether (as found in proof of my article) two t's were necessary in "basketted." W. said: "I should not wonder but that the question was valid—but if it were my case I should not crack my skull to fix it—indeed, I doubt if it could be said that the t was wrong—only that it was unnecessary." Adding, "But it is very likely that an etiquettical litterateur—a pedagogue—would make a fight on the question." This raised another subject, connected. Burroughs, in the banquet letter, speaking of the American character, said: "We lack mass, inertia, and therefore, power." Contrasting with this W.'s possession of those qualities. W. said: "I am inclined to question that use of the word—and yet, provided a result is had, provided we can clearly take hold of a writer's intention, I rarely quarrel with peculiar manipulation of the language. I have always associated inertia with what is dull, sluggish, I may say dead: whether John discusses me with it don't worry me at all—it is not that—the question whether the quality would be considered a virtue or not don't enter." It seemed to me the word was wisely used, and I told W. my idea of it: but he still persisted: "It is a word that has been used to express a lack of verve—a lack of fire: it does not fully or even friendily recommend itself to me." I judged from his tone, etc., that he would have desired J. B. to use a word of more definite purpose. But I did not agree.

     I gave him a proof of the first page of letters again—and this, a couple of hours later in the evening, he returned (marked) to me, by Ed. He said as we sat together: "I particularly wished another proof to see how 'Paris' was worked in there at Sarrazin's name: it seems to me it ought to be generally known that he hails from Paris. Indeed, it is one of the great features of the book—you have said this yourself in your

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introduction—that all countries contribute, and this ought to be clearly signified. Besides, I—I, as a non-personal person—as Walt Whitman—I am immensely pleased with Sarrazin's adhesion—with his whole attitude—his enthusiasm: for he is a Frenchman of Frenchmen—a typical Frenchman—not the Frenchman we are told so much about—the Frenchman of etiquetteries, veneer, polish—but a Parisian of the highest quality—of firm, lasting fibre—a Parisian the type in whom we will look for the best democrat, the perfect man."
A political change of postmasters in Camden. W. remarked: "I shall regret it for several reasons—the principle is bad, in the first place—then I shall lose my carrier, who is a very good fellow. But then," he continued, "letter-carriers always seem a picked class—always seen of the best sort—only the best seem to gravitate to that business." I had received a letter from the Chicago man advising me to send the book anyhow. Gave W. check (with money from the Lychenheim boys) and he promised to send the book tomorrow. W. spoke of the beauty of the evening— "its unalloyed beauty—almost phenomenal." Mrs. Davis handed him a bag of mint-candy and he once gave me a stick. "You favor it?" he asked, and then dilated like a child on his own fancy for it. Hearing that we had read like a child on his own fancy for it. Hearing that we had read Whitman some at Logan yesterday, he laughingly remarked— "You must have been prospered, having so good a cause!"


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