Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, July 23, 1889

     7.55 P.M. W. had just returned from his trip to the shore. Appeared well and talked well. But still avers that he "gains no strength." Complained of the heat of the day—at least, laughed over it—though had not thought it at all severe. At one point in our talk, when I spoke of "going up town," he said, "I wish I could say I would go with you!" I responded, "I wish you could!" He thereupon: "The worst thing with an old man when he is sick is that he sees nothing ahead—that for

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him, is nothing but reverse, down-hill. A young fellow, when he is sick—when he is poor—when he is troubled—has everything before him, but a man old, quite old, who has been badly whacked, as I have, has but to wait and expect an end!"
I put in— "But a man of 70 is sure he has had his seventy years, whereas the young man has no assurance that he will have his!" W. laughed at first—then said soberly: "I don't know—he is sure if he has had 'em—but 70 empty years, what are they?" Added, however: "Did I ever quote you my favorite couplet? I've no doubt I have."—but he had not—"It reads something like this—

'Over the past not God himself has power,
'For what has been has been, and I have had my hour!'
It has a Drydenish sound—yet is very noble and grand."

I said, "It is almost Shakespearean." He then: "It is, for loftiness—but too mellifluous for Shakespeare. It's true, it might be said, too grand for Dryden,—but then somehow these fellows can often catch up with the finest lines. But we know Shakespeare never encouraged mere beauty. I have no distinct idea at all where my couplet is from—nor of the words of the couplet itself—except that it has a grand tone."

     Gilder's proof not returned to me yet. Said W.: "But the matter is in pretty good shape as it is? How much Gilder improves on contact—don't you think? It is not always they way, sometimes our disappointment in people—in meeting them—is keen. Gilder is always very cute—sometimes a great deal too cute. But, as you say, he is the man for the place—no doubt ably managing the magazine. Gilder was Holland's assistant. I think it was through Gilder's [illegible] that the Century took its great step forward in illustrations: this is my impression, just come upon me—or returned, perhaps, as told to me long ago. Certainly the Century in this respect has achieved wonders." As to "Topics of the Times," W. remarked: "I never read them—hardly look at them." Saying

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however that "so far as I have looked into them, Curtis and Howells, in Harpers, are of another stripe."

     Alluded to a letter he had received today from Bucke. "He tells me of books he is reading—one of Renan's, for instance: let me see—oh yes!—some sort of a history of the Israelites; and then there was another—but I cannot recall it now. Bucke is a great reader—he is a good pick out of the typical English leisurely man of power. He has a good library—choked with valuable matter. I remember it well—would sometimes saunter in there myself—a big table in the middle of the room. Bucke reads both German and French—but most affects the German. Is a great Goethean, for example—reads a good deal in 'Faust'—thinks it among modern poems, the best or almost that." W.'s ways very simple—several times children passed us as we sat there, each time he would stop talking—regard us as we sat there, each time he would stop talking—regard them lovingly and ejaculate something—an "Eh" or "Oh" but one full of significant music. When Uncle Danny, the garrulous old ferryman, came up, however, W., while kind to him, said very little and succeeded in freezing him off. Says his hearing still "perseveres in its badness." When I asked him— "What shall we do with 'the laughing philosopher'?" He laughed and answered— "I have not decided—let it go a day or two yet."


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