Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 21, 1889

     5.20 P.M. W. in bedroom. Had just finished dinner. Sat at the middle window, glasses on, a fan in his right hand, a copy of the Post (Camden) in his left. It has been a very hot day. W. did not get out at all yesterday, nor has he yet expressed any intention of going out today. As to his health, said: "I am still as I was—no improvement—no let up."

     I asked him if he had read the Sarrazin manuscript I left yesterday. "Yes—and it thoroughly satisfies me—thoroughly." Was he taking good care of it? He looked at me and nodded his head. "Yes—indeed—it is there" pointing to the table—reaching forward a little while after and taking it up. He had enclosed it in cardboard and written its substance on the outside. Opened it and asked me particularly as to Morris' named—had again got him mixed with Charles Morris. Wrote Morris' name carefully inside on a sheet of paper. Then, as he slowly tied the matter up again: "I consider this an important comment—in some respects the most important comment yet made on Leaves of Grass—comment in the high sense—not the American sense, not as critics understand

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comment here, but in the sense of the writer who, like Sarrazin, not only discusses a stated personality but makes that discussion an opportunity for the expression of his own thoughts of things—the orbs—worlds—men on the earth."
He referred to Morris' feeling that Gilder's letter was cowardly: "It does not stike me that way—I gather no such impression. Yet I can see! I can see! It may be true that my question to Gilder had something to do with it—for here, truly, at last, it is down explicityly, definitely, without a peradventure—down in a way not to be evaded. And what is most significant, it is an espousal at a point which has been the battleground for a long, long time—form, shape, method. I do not worry over such things—I always heed the Doctor's caution. I can well see how necessary it is they all should be—but I-, who know the long story of Leaves of Grass—the things said of me as a writer—said of me as a man—can best of all appreciate Gilder—his position—what his presence with us that night signified, signifies. For it was surprising—the most surprising thing of the day—that he should have come down here at all. Then there is a delicacy in his position—think of it: like Emerson, he is at the center of the Literary crowd—pushing, clamoring about him is the baffling, battling, poisonous army of writers—and he must withstand them. And of this piece itself—when they come to read it—they will be struck with horror—will cry out, 'Well—here is Gilder advocating that hell of a man—advocating Walt Whitman!—enough of Gilder!" He struck his fist down on the arm of the chair, laughed heartily after this explosion of good-natured energy—and went on: "but this conflict—this continual pushing, nagging, discussing,—is no doubt necessary—I do not worry over it. Abstain not from physical reasons alone but from other reasons—see these circumstances as inherencies, inevitabilities—not only not to be avoided but not desirable to be avoided."

     I left him a book of essays by Frenchmen on Frenchmen

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—one by Claretie on Hugo. "I have no doubt they will interest me greatly." Then he reached to the table—handed me 1st Annual report of N. Y. Institute for Artist-Artisans, inscribed autographically—"To the 'American' Poet Walt Whitman with the Compliments of Jon Ward Stimson Supt"— "Does such a thing interest you?" he asked, "take it along—put it in your pocket, if it does." We talked over matters of our work. Billstein promises us profile and 70th year portraits Friday. I showed W. a card announcement of Mrs. Baldwin's School—he calling it "a handsome piece of printing—I like to look at it." Commenting then on type development.


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