Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, August 3, 1889

     7.45 P.M. Another day of confinement: rain plentiful and this evening dark clouds still floating overhead. W. in parlor. Ed out. Said he had gone over proofs today, but if I "did not need them" I had best leave them till tomorrow. "They are up stairs, on the foot of the bed—with them the bust, with what I should suggest to go along with it." I sent proof of bust to Morse today, asking if he approved. W. said: "Don't close all the pages of the book out—I have one—perhaps a couple—

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to add at the end."
But when I questioned him, what?—he replied: "I don't know myself—it is all in a nebulous condition—state: what it will be, come to, I could not say—but most likely something."

     Hereupon I read him a note received from Buxton Forman, to which he said, after listening intently and having parts read a second time—murmuring over the reference to him as a prophet— "That is very bold—he makes long strokes: but I suppose you are right—it ought to go in if it can." After a pause adding— "I want to say to you, Horace, too, how much I like Harrison Morris' rendering of Sarrazin—it seems to me good—very good; besides, it is just what I want—exactly—a close rendering—verbal. You know, I consider Sarrazin's piece our Koh-i-noor—unsurpassed—the very topmost, wonderful for its daring, its explicitness. Oh! I think there is a marvelous lightness of touch in parts of it that, in the French, must be delicious, appetizing, beyond our alien conceptions. It is Forman's excuse, too—that to fellows who have encountered so much of the 'I dare not, wait upon I would' spirit, as we have, it is refreshing to come upon such a positive declaration." He felt "more strongly than ever" that the Sarrazin should be published. "How I don't just know. Not in the Camden papers, of course, but somewhere. I have been thinking, in the House Journal—that they would give us their columns. Not that I could expect to get it all in one number, but to have it run two or three weeks. Still," he said deliberately, "we had better go slow about it—say nothing about it now—let it hang, work in us, gestate, find finally its own undeniable result. That is my habit—they call it my procrastination—it has always been my habit. And while my friends always declare that I have lost much by it—my best opportunities, even—I feel for myself that I have gained, too—that in some large sense it has been the making of me—has been me, in fact. Now, take this little book of ours, for instance—how good it was not to hurry it! If you had followed my original notion—which has not

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been my notion since—and had got it out at once, within a few days—its distinctiveness, much that does now distinguish it, and will, would have been utterly lost—utterly."

     I spoke of Clifford's minister friend True, at Farmington, who wished a copy of the big book but seemed staggered at its price. W. said he would let T. have one for 4 dollars and the expressage or postage. "That is my price to Dave, and this man shall have the like favor." Then he said, "And when you write to Clifford again tell him that when he is done with the Mazzini book, instead of sending it here to send it to Kennedy. Of course he is to take his time—to read it only as he can—I do not press him. I shall have Kennedy send it again to Dr. Bucke." I queried, "And he back to you? I hope so—for I should like to read the essay myself." To which— "Oh yes! He will send it back—that is the idea—and of course you shall have it as long as you wish. I want the book here by me—in a sense it is a household book. Of course that essay is the particular piece I am after. Mazzini's great ideal was the collective—to me that seems very significant—collective democracy, as opposed, or as complementing, our individual—or as we call it, individualistic, democracy. And there is a great deal to be said on that side, to be sure. I often question myself—being such an individualist—if I have not made too little of it—but I guess not—I guess that is all provided for—I have great faith that the tendency of things in our modern life will take good care of that. And yet it is a point to be well considered—even I grant it. Mazzini's was a great and lofty spirit, and offset in his philosophy as it were, to his friend, Carlyle, who was confirmed in other ways, as I am. I had a picture of him—have it yet, I guess. I think him one of the most significant and suggestive characters of our century. A fanatic in some respects—very religious, too—I doubt it there has been or is such another devoted man on the plan et. This particular essay, which I so much admire, has peculiar and marvelous qualities. Oh! take for instance, Macaulay: he was nothing like Macaulay.

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Macaulay was a brilliant pyrotechnical master of verbal melody, but Mazzini dealt in essences—went right to he fountainhead. And there was verbal felicity, grandeur, to. Oh! Did I never tell you of the way he opens that essay? I always thought it a splendid description—and yet it is not long—takes only about a page or less of the little Walter Scott book. He says the idea of the thing was first suggested to him in the Alps—I think it a place called Jurra, or by some such name. A storm was coming on—overhead and sailing across the sky were clouds—dark ponderous masses—everything portending a storm—the elements all of a rage—hell abroad and loose—the forerunners everywhere of one of those terrific Alpine storms, greater even than our Western storms which are so violent—of which we make so much. In the midst of all the turmoil he sees a falcon, ascending, ascending, riding on the storm—rising, rising"
—W. gesticulated and his voice was eloquent and deep— "with each increased gale seeming to go higher and higher—regarding everything with a fearless, defying eye—up and up and up—the storm meanwhile nearing and nearing—the bird never afraid, never shrinking, never losing control—up—up—up—till at last it is gone into the clouds, into the heavens, God-embraced, safe, grandly self-subserved. Then he tells of a stork there on the hills—he not afraid either—how he gathered one leg in, folded it about—how he looked up, out, calmly, not greatly curious, but taking in everything. So he goes on—taking little space to tell it, yet giving us one of the grandest of figures—the very grandest. Of course telling it a thousand times better than I can. As you see, the falcon was Byron, the stork Goethe. It was a vivid lightning-touch—the rare insight of a rare nature—a flash from a master."

     I received a letter from Mrs. Bush today which I read to W., who was pleased that the pictures had arrived safely. Also referred to a Boston Advertiser account of a visit to Emerson (see Current Literature July or August) and Emerson's

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evident mental weakness. W. said— "It sounds very like. But I don't think in those days any of Emerson's friends—Sanborn, his family, the neighbors—ever trespassed much upon him—asked him to write anything—imposed upon his reserve—the retirement of his spirit—beautiful it was, too!" And he asked by and by, as we still continued of Emerson— "How do you stand about that letter to Edward Emerson—is it yet done? Do you persist in it still?" And again— "Well, if you do, I am inclined to let it rest in your hands—if there should be any controversy, to let you manage it—as no doubt can. But there are some things in which I should post you in case you go on—several. I don't know but it would be best for me to make memoranda for you, or have you bring your pencil and take it down yourself—so as best to secure you in case you cross each other. I don't know but I'll find you right away O'Connor's letter—you knew it? He wrote a letter or letters to the Tribune—got into some controversy there with the Rev. Chadwick, of Brooklyn. O'Connor had made much of the Emerson letter and Chadwick retorted, 'Yes—but he took that back; considerations of purity, etc., etc., etc., induced its withdrawal.' Then O'Connor replied to that and Rev. Chadwick to O'Connor—there were several letters on both sides, I think, and it was quite heated." I laughed and said: "Yes, I know. I have met him—years ago, in Brooklyn—perhaps several times—and my impression of him then was what it is now—that he is one of the men who lets I dare not wait upon I would—inclined Leaves-of-Grass-ward but hesitates in his inclinations: but not alone quite distinguishingly with Unitarians in general—especially ministers—but all, really—and Liberals—who have the best inclinations but in spite of an emancipation in one sense, still have an eye on respectability, so-called." I interposed— "How O'Connor would play with Edward Emerson's 'or words to that effect' if he were here!" W. responding laughingly—

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"Yes he would: it would be a sight to dwell upon: he would play Edward sick with it. And it was a dirty paragraph, anyhow, making the best of it—unwarranted, lugged-in, untrue."


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