Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, August 24, 1889

     7.50 P.M. W. in parlor. Again had not ventured out. The sky dubious, somewhat—his condition more so. But he was cheerful. I left with him proof of his "autobiographic note," which he promised to send up to my house tomorrow by Ed. I am to be out of town till late in the night. Asked me quickly: "How about the Magazine of Art? Did you bring it along?" And when I said I had forgotten, he laughed heartily. "Well—we will try not to grieve about it." I said: "Let Ed get it of my mother when he goes up to the house"—to which— "That's so—that will do—though you must acquit me" turning around to face me— "of any worry of it!" While we sat there a ring of the bell took me to the door and I admitted a young fellow, a reporter of the Post. In the dark as he entered the parlor, W., who frankly extended his hand, asked: "Who is it?" and after he learned: "Oh! I see: sit down. And how is Harry?" The visitor said he was passing by—saw W. at the window—thought he would step in and inquire. W. let out one of his expressive "Ohs!" Then he was asked: "And how are you?"

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To this he responded: "Oh! still afloat—still on the surface." Turning the matter then by his own question: "And how is the Post?" The talk then desultory—a little about Harry Bonsall. W. remarked, as we discussed printing in general—its "mysteries" etc.: "Yes: and I think the best part of the Press is its extra sheet. Now, take this morning's paper—the extra contained some stuff that interested me more than anything in a newspaper for a long time—a series of letters from workingmen—Americans—gone abroad—gone to study industrial conditions there—the Paris Exposition—fested, royally received, investigating everywhere. There was a letter among them from Julian Hawthorne—so good, I read it carefully from end to end. They promise us more of these letters. I was so drawn to them—they seemed so significant—I took my scissors—cut them out—and shall try to keep them, if I can—if they don't get mislaid and buried, like so much of my material. Keep these, then add the others to them when they appear." The visitor asked W. what he knew about Bill Nye. W. responded: "Nothing—I have never met him. I have very little liking for deliberate wits—for men who start out, with malice prepense, to be funny—just as I should distrust deliberate pathos—the fellow who sets out to be serious, to shed tears, or make others."

     I told W. after the visitor was gone that I was going to read "A Song of the Rolling Earth" to a group tomorrow. He said: "God prosper you in all your good intents!" I asked: "Is not that good?" He then: "is it?" We talked some about the general understanding of Leaves of Grass. W. said again that he was "in the hands of the youth of America." By and by, on hurrying away, I met our reporter visitor down the street. He said to me: "The old man is not very comfortable." "No." "Why don't he get up and stir around?" I said something about his sickness. The man looked at me dubiously—quizzically: "Ain't he lazy—ain't that his principal complaint?" This fellow had worked at Harry Bonsall's elbow

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and for this! It takes a long time for frame to get rightly adjusted in the minds of some people. When I told him of W.'s paralysis, the fellow exclaimed: "Well—I had no idea—no idea at all!" And he added: "The old man is quite a famous man, ain't he? I suppose one of our best poets—Holmes, Whittier and Whitman I suppose are the best now, eh?" I laughed in a mild sort of way and shortly slid off. There was small fruit on this stem if any!


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