Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, August 27, 1889

     4.50 P.M. W. in room—had just finished his dinner. The weather today continued delightfully cool. I asked him how he felt and he replied— "Much better"—and when I spoke of the weather as inducing it, possibly, he said— "I am more apt to say, my begetting—I rest nearly everything upon that!" But however—I feel better—which is the important point."

     I showed him title-page as at last approved. He regarded it carefully. "I like it—yes;—I liked the other, too, in fact—but I can say the same of this—and if you like this, then is the end reached. I give you the same privilege I demand for myself—the privilege of believing that in my own affairs, in yours, I, you, are the man essential to be satisfied. With me satisfied, you satisfied, the world must be satisfied." He laughed— "This might be called a gospel of conceit—but hardly!"

     Spoke of the Gutekunst photos. "Yes—the young man came over with them Saturday—Saturday morning. Then came back in the afternoon to say that Gutekunst wished them back again—hoped I had sent none away—intended copyrighting them. I returned a message by the man, but doubt if he carried it faithfully—he did not look as if he could—advised that none but the one be copyrighted—that I cared

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nothing for those other—gave them no value—but thought this one of the best I have had. Don't you think it was? I had intended sending one on to Bucke—told him I had a large picture but thought perhaps it would be dangerous to trust it to the mail—breakage was so frequent. And he has written me—it is in the letter there—"
pointing to a letter stuck in the string about a bundle on the table— "he explained that one of his men was making a sort of tour of the states—that he could stop here—could take it along home with him." W. added— "I suppose now he may come along any day—I may have to send him to Gutekunst for it. He is a man I know well—Ed knows, too—have met. Dick Flynn—ain't it a good name? Comes easy from the tongue! I like to run it over, it trips along so easily! He is a gardener up there at the Asylum—a modest, reticent sort of fellow, disinclined to self. I remember I praised him once or twice up there, and he resented it—did not like it at all—sort of drew himself up—so I did not venture often on that line. He would say, when I spoke of something he had wisely done—planting, digging, whatnot—that it was no credit to him—that he was only working, only making a living: though it was true he liked, loved, his work! We got along very well—indeed I got along well with all the fellows there—they seemed to like me— I them." I asked, "don't you think you're eligible to get along with men?" to which promptly— "Yes—I think I am— thoroughly so." Was it because of looking up to their strength, etc.? "No—that only in part—rather, my liking for the fellows who delve in the soil—work at first hand—a tendency towards things of the earth, earthy, as they say." "Oh!" he said again, "I am sure I shall enjoy Flynn's visit, if he comes—just the sight of him—the remembrance he will bring—brings—of past years!"

     Bought book from him for Mrs. Herbert Putnam, Alta, Iowa (through Mrs. Fels)—complete—which he gave me for 4 dollars, and endorsed with her name. When I asked W. for

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this endorsement, he exclaimed— "Oh! My hands are all over honey—honey"—and washed them as I waited. Then as he put the cork in and lead foil over top of bottle, he added— "How delicately they do these things, nowadays—see how it fits—and cheap, too. So well put together that even an ant could not get a slick inside—or a pismire, a fly!" Also sold her copy of Bucke's book for 1 dollar, saying of this last, however— "We must not make a practice of selling these, however: morally, we must not do it. This, of course, is not a regular sale, but Dave gives them to me very cheap only that I may make a profit out of them." "But we must not be squeamish—we more than make this up to Dave in other ways." I will express the books west.

     Returned to comment on picture: "I must send my message to Gutekunst by written note—when I thank him—then he will understand." Returned me proof of his "autobiographic note"—called my attention to a change, "Only one—perhaps one most people would consider immaterial—yet it is well to be accurate." In the paragraph "1865 to '7'"—had changed "till '74" to "till well on in '73" "which makes it about the true thing—a point well to observe where one can."

     Had written on proof and on envelope containing it and inside had carefully wrapped the quarter up in a slip containing an inscription. "I like to treat the boys well—they always do me. And then these sheets—I wish to send 'em away—some of 'em. Is the same darkey boy taking the proofs who worked for us on November Boughs?"

      "I have been thinking of Poet-Lore today—now I am sure I mailed it direct to Mrs. O'Connor last Saturday. You had better tell her that—or no doubt she has the magazine itself by this time." Returned me "French celebrities"—remarking the "great interest" of the volume— "True it is not heavy—but it attracts one—perhaps by that very fact." Looked very well—his color better than for weeks. Lying on chair

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was a package which he had endorsed as "favorite" pieces for "spouting"—as he put it—his own piece among them "A Voice Out of the Sea." He said: "I was a great spouter in my early days—even later on—had my favorite pieces—these among them. I picked them up here the other day and bundled them together. Yes, 'A Voice Out of the Sea,' my own piece was one—one of many. I always enjoyed saying it—saying it to the winds, the waters, the noisy streets—on stage-coaches. And one has love for the sound of his own voice—somehow it's always magnetic." Told him I was going out to the Old Man's Home this evening. Had he papers to send? Would make me up a bundle. I then left, to come back later on.

     7.35 P.M. W. was just being helped into the house by Ed—had been out last. When he sat down in parlor and I asked him how he enjoyed his outing, he responded warmly— "Oh—much—much!—it was the best of all—clear, invigorating—I am much helped by it!" Morris had been very grateful for W.'s remembrance of him, and W. now said: "I had no idea he would care so much—no idea he would care at all! So he was pleased—pleased? So am I, then!" Had read the following paragraph in today's Press and commented indignantly on it: Colonel Ingersoll's address at the funeral of his friend, the late Horace Seaver, on Sunday, in Boston, was eloquent and beautiful, but there was no perfume in the flowers of its rhetoric, no warmth in the rays of its brilliancy, no comfort in its awkward philosophy. It was an apotheosis of the doctrine of Doubt, an exaltation of the creed of Nothingness, containing neither sympathy nor hope, promising nothing, believing nothing, hoping for nothing to the dead or living. It was a fervid rhetorical outline of the strange, empty religion which begins with an If and ends with a But—the religion of self-boastful ignorance and indifference, which has Doubt for its spirit and intellectual husks for its sustenance.

"That is by one of the smart men—the smart man—of the editorial clique—a supercilious know-nothing who thinks he

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can best please the world by denouncing its heterodoxies—by making every man who is any way heterodox to feel the blow of his club: and indeed, society is, in a way, pleased with that. But I often question myself if we—if I myself, for one—make enough allowance for the swelling and swelling and swelling and rising tide of radicalism of our time—radicalism everywhere, overflowing churches, states, institutions everywhere. Whether after all an absolute majority of the millions of people now in this America—our America—is not radical, more or less, knowing or unknowing? That is what reconciles me—us—to such paragraphs as this in the Press."

     He had made me up the package for Mr. Montgomerie, and remarked: "It is not as careful a selection as I should have made had I been given more time, but I hope it will do. I have never seen the old man, but I wish you would tell him Walt Whitman sends his love." He spoke of the Phila. papers. "Yes—the Ledger—it is the best. In the newspaper way—the daily paper way—the Ledger is about as much as is good for a man." At one moment, speaking of the radicalism, I said, "But things are all right—I never miss that conviction at all. How could any man in fact live without it?" To which W. said quickly, "That is really so—how could he? I should think it would at least take all comfort, happiness, content, out of his living, working. I liked so much the serenity, the deepening peace, with which Marcus Antoninus—Epictetus, too—the great Epictetus!—regarded life—always insisting, 'O Nature! What is good for the is good for me, too—sound and necessary'—or to that effect—grand, wholesome, inspiring convictions!" Asked me if Morris had not a middle name—then said: "For a year or so there I addressed Bucke as 'Dr. R. M.'—but now I drop all prefixes but the 'Doctor'—which seems sufficient. I am not a believer in superfluities of speech, writing. And these letters go just as well. I suppose the fellows up there must by this time know pretty well anyhow who I am looking for when letters marked 'Walt Whitman'

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come up there—would know without looking up Doctor's name."


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