Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 28, 1889

     7.50 P.M. W. down stairs, in the parlor, but had not been out. Appeared well and said he felt "reasonably well," I had with me a dozen copies of his Autobiographic note. Wished to send some of them away at once. I inquired if he had yet heard from John Burroughs? "Yes—just today—and he carefully avoids saying a word—Oh! so carefully! as if by study!—saying a word about the book, whether he got it or not, and so forth. He does, however, speak of 'Mr. Donnelly's Reviewers.'" I asked, "He is not a Baconian?" "No—oh no!—but I do not think he is anti in an extreme sense—his mind is not fortressed here against assault—nor in anything that I know—he welcomes hearing. But he has his opinions, cognitions—some strongly held—as that about Carlyle, for instance, in which he is bold, tenacious. He is rather favorably impressed with this book, if anything—at least that is the idea with which his letter impressed me. I do not remember his exact words, but he says something like this—that he regrets the 'irruptive' tendencies of the book—some unfortunate temper towards the critics—." I asked if he had ever known J. B. and W. D. O'C. to have the Bacon matter out together. He shook his head— "No—I guess not." I said again, "I don't think John changed in his personal feelings towards O'C., but he certainly shrank from his emphasis." To which W., "Yes—that was plain enough—plain enough: he feared, as we have just been saying, O'Connor's 'irruptive' influence, tendency. However caused, however regretted, an painful, what-not, the John Burroughs who wrote the early books—who was convinced, who commanded—is not the John Burroughs we know now. The old John Burroughs is much thawed out—much melted. And I must confess, it is all inexplicable to me—

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even to me—that to me, who perhaps should know him and do know him better than any other—even to me, it is a mystery, inexplicable, a baffling quantity."
"John says in his letter he has left his family at Hobart—he himself is settled at West Park again." I said to W.: "O'Connor, as I saw him sick there nearly at the end of his life, was the same man in mental strength and courage as when he wrote the Good Grey Poet—but Burroughs, as he came here last fall, was by no means the Burroughs of the books—not of complaint, I know, but of plaint—and his letters to you and to me confirm this." W. fervently— "It is a striking contrast—I can see it all—all, and it is justified by what we know—these inexplicable later years." And when I added something about J. B.'s "lovable personality" W. acquiesced: "Yes—that is so, too—that will never change."

     W. spoke of Stedman as "effusive—effusive, glowing, flowing-out—as they say the Frenchmen do—though with rather doubtful truth at times, of individuals. But I have always had an affection for him. I have met his embezzling son—a handsome fellow, I believe. Arthur, the other son, whom I have met also, helps the father." Spoke of the Modjeska-Booth troupe for the Fall. W. had met Modjeska. "She is a fascinating, bright woman. I have never see her act—saw her at Gilder's, in New York—handsome, agreeable, magnetic." Alluding to his family— "We all kept slaves then on Long Island—up to the early part of this century—in it. Not I, for I only came in at the very last—saw only a few samples of it. The legislature then had passed some graduated emancipation bill—something of that sort. There was considerable feeling at the time—all were not agreed in favor of it—but my folks were emancipationists. It was to cover a term of years—finally, however, there came some decree of absolute emancipation—though I do not know that it was needed, as is apt to be the case in matters we know must take a stated course anyhow

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—tension is relaxed, the hold taken off."
Spoke of Long Island—of Bryant's home— "a beautiful place—somewhat cliffy—rather cliffy: of old it was called Mosquito Cove, but when the wealthy New Yorkers came along there with their handsome stately villas, Mosquito Cove had a plain rude sound, which they changed to Roslyn." "There's no sign of Liberty yet," W. remarked, "no copies for me—and you? not you either? What can have come of it?"


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