Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, August 19, 1889

     7.45 P.M. W. in parlor at window. Had not been out, though the weather was beautiful. When I asked him how he was, he responded, "Bad—bad: I am now passing through a bad period. Digestion is poor—poor indeed—I am in a bad way: belly, bladder, catarrh—my brain, physical brain—all are in discomfortableation." I laughed at this struggling last word, and he looked at me and laughed too. Ed says he has shown great signs of weakness for days—especially this morning, on first being aroused: could hardly sit up at the first, on edge of the bed. W. said: "I have read all the sheets, now—all of 'em—and I like 'em, too—like 'em all." And to my questions as to how the book wore on him, he said assuringly— "Well, well!—I am fully satisfied with it!" He had not of course written anything for the blank page today—was too unwell. "It has now been for three or four days I have suffered this," he said "and it is not on account of the weather this time either: these last days have been as beautiful, comfortable, peaceful as could be." I ordered 70th year and profile cuts printed at Billstein's today. W. asked: "I shall not need to send any word?—to see a proof? I'll risk it, anyhow: at the worst it's not a matter of life and death." Left with him proof sheet of "Contents" and the School of History and Romance circular. As to the first— "I will tell you what I think of it, if you ask it" and to the latter— "It will be a curiosity to me, if no more." McKay comes back to town Tuesday of next week.

     I described to W. our long walk to Logan on Saturday after leaving him. He was much pleased. "Spell me that young man's name again," he said— "I have known it, but it escapes

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me again and again."
And after I had done so— "Ah! And he is reserved, isn't he? quiet? said very little while he was here." I said "Song of the Open Road"—seemed so far most to have struck L.'s fancy. W. said: "Ah! That was the one William Swinton most affected—most read. You know about William Swinton? He was John's brother—a good fellow—always had the good sense to like me!"—with a laugh. Was he as radical as John? "Oh yes! but on a higher plane: not so much interested in figures, politicalisms, what-not, but essentially radical—in his dislike for conventionalisms, laws, forms, restrictions, as radical as any of us." Went into a description of Swinton's career—his going South first. "He was a teacher. He often came over to see me when he was in New York—was always an espouser of Leaves of Grass: and his wife too: a fine, large, splendid, handsome woman—mother of children—for William when he went to New York from the South took to raising a family." "The wife was my friend—I was proud of her—and they had good babies—how I loved them! William went west—to Oakland—taught there in the college—was Professor of something or other. Afterwards, he got the conviction that our then present school books were poor fossils—that the time had come to abolish them. So he set to, on this principle: that history should not be a matter wholly of the far past but of the near past—constructed on this principle histories not giving exclusive place to Revolutionary events but recognizing the importance of our rebellion, for instance—modern incidents, proceedings, lives. These books were probably a great success. He came to New York, fell in with the big publishers, made writing school-books his vocation." Here W. turned quickly to me. "But does all this interest you at all? I was going right on to give you a history of his life—sketch—outline." And at my assent he did go on for some time. Asked me for close particulars as to the Boston trouble—then— "Aside from that, William has been very successful—struck his true vein, worked it well." Referred then to the

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Swintons, Hinton, Linton—symphonically "all radicals—all Leaves of Grass men." Warmly of Linton: "He is somewhat hypochondriac by temperament, but warm, noble—a radical of radicals, too. He has been here—I don't know but in this very house, to see me—always faithful. You know about his wife? she was the woman over there in England who writes novels, essays. I don't know if they had a divorce,—she still bears his name—but they broke up in a devil of a row. But whatever, Linton is what they call a royal good fellow—true to the bone."


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