Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, September 5, 1889

     7.55 P.M. Went down to W.'s with Joe Fels. W. in parlor,—utter darkness—no light even in the hallway: Ed, however, coming along by and by and lighting the latter. W. very cordial—bade us take seats. I knew he had been out—Aggie and Mrs. Fels had met him in his chair on their way from town. W. said— "Yes—I was out—down to the river. I met the girls—Aggie—her friend. What a panorama is this night—oh! the wonder of it!" The moon splendidly shining—getting now nearly full. W. inquired: "What of the President?"—who is now in this neighborhood commemorating the founding of Log College—the first Presbyterian College in this country. "I suppose his speech was not in the afternoon papers?" Fels, happening to say he didn't think much of Harrison, W. said, "Nor do I—he is a poor affair altogether." But he inquired— "What would you call the principal points of objecting in him?" Fels thereupon explaining, among other things comparing Harrison to Hayes. Here W. demurred. "I should not agree to that—I have a larger opinion of Hayes—he is to me an indisputably better man. He took a trip over the West and South while he was President. I was West at the time—sick—in a poor way, but I remember what enjoyment I got out of his speeches. It was said by some, they were wanting in dignity—but they were not. I thought them much to the point—simple—direct—full of suggestiveness. And he was so ready, too—willing at any call to speak. These things seemed to me to indicate a significance in the man."

     I took him the steel prints, and a paper I had received from Bush containing an account of his departure from the works at Lachine Locks. W. took them with his "Thanks! Thanks!" and "I shall enjoy both, I know." I had made

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inquiries and found an envelope man, but had not gone to him yet. "You will see him tomorrow, I suppose?" queried W. Referred to dock laborer's strike in London. "I see by later tidings that the bosses are inclined to give in, and I am glad for it. It would seem to be a dispute in which nearly everybody, outside of the bosses themselves, believe the men were justified—that their demands were just. There seems to have been a great fear that somehow violence would result—but they had worked against that appeal—Burns wielding his influence. The point now is, given this point, will they insist upon more and more—make matters worse?" "The great strength of that agitation in England seems to be in the leaders—the remarkable men at the head—men of wide knowledge, solidity, keen faculties." He had heard of great acceptance of the George theory in England: "If it keeps on, this thing will get fashionable—then it's all up with it!" We talked faith—would not the world stand all? I expressed absolute belief. W. said: "That is, you mean that things are and remain all right in proceeding? The no radicalism can spoil it? I guess there is no doubt but the laws that govern the planets—the atmospheric, meteoric influences—will persist according to their own inherencies but whether some of these human things deflect, stray"—here he stopped, as if with a question. I said: "After the George theory, something else. After Emerson, who was a bear in his day, Walt Whitman, and after Walt Whitman, another." W. lighted up— "Yes—Emerson was a dragon in his day—perhaps still,—and so we will go on and on." Fels spoke of Ruskin letters he had seen while in England—denouncing railroads, etc. W, spoke energetically: "Without the railroads, where would our civilization be? Certainly we could ask, where would America be? America in fact could not be. In Ruskin's own corner-lot bit of a country, coaches might still serve, in a way, but in an America—any country continental in its territory, aspirations,—the railroad belongs—has its place. But Ruskin's appeal has its justifications, too. In a time when we are beset

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everywhere by what is called progress, the spirit of progress, civilization, radicalism, railroads, machinery, it may be well to have men like Carlyle, Ruskin, to strike the alarm—to warn us not to go too far."

     As we sat there talking, Gilchrist came in—and confused in the darkness was unable to find a seat till fumbling upon the wheeling chair. He sat down in this with some comment on its comfort—W. exclaiming— "Yes, Herbert—we're ahead of you in chairs!" H. acquiescing—and W., striking the arm of the chair he sat in and saying, "I want to send a couple of chairs like this to England when Herbert goes—send one to Tennyson and one to Wm. Rossetti." Discussing then chairs—his preference for the cane— "it has an ample, beautiful look," he said. Gilchrist dined with Talcott Williams last evening. Williams had intended coming over to see Walt—had he come? No. We talked of public men. I asked W. as to Lincoln's complexion. He said, "Not a bad one—rugged—much made up—wholly—of open-air, out-of-doors." Then of Southern men: "Cadavers—complexion of a most remarkable stripe—yet lasting and lasting into 70 years as often as other of us." Instance Alexander Stephens—called him "a mere bag of bones." "Yet he had endurance, and became an old man." Had he known Oliver P. Morton? It seemed he had. "Morton's lameness came from paralysis—he always impressed me as a man of handsome port—strong—at least, that he had been such." And we discussed Morton's extreme partisanship. W. said: "Morton was in politics the type of what we find in religion—the men who are all Presbyterian, all Methodist. But I do not know that now we need such men. We have specifically now entered into a period of peace, of quiet." Though the Lincolns were not plenty now— "we must remember there is no call for them, nor should I wish there might be. I, for one, have no wish to have new events like those old." I urged for Norton that he was to be judged with reference to the events that had made him extreme, and W. allowed, "That is so—I should not disagree there: then I

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should go on and say, how like a godsend it was that at that time such a man as Lincoln was here on the stage and availed of: a man of universal grasp—no sign of narrowness, of exclusion, anywhere exuded."
But "our era, now, since the war, tends to the development of commonplace men." I objected, in politics but not elsewhere—instancing even more important work was elsewhere being done—Henry George, etc. And he granted— "That is a happy idea—an idea to follow out: I should not be surprised to find it an answer." "But with men like Stephens and Morton in mind—and these others South—and others still to be named—it would seem as if our fellows would have to voice some of our notions of what constitutes beauty—personal beauty—health—wholesomeness—all that." Talked of Bob Lincoln—Gilchrist of his popularity in England. W. said: "I have met him a few times—was always more or less impressed. He seemed a true man after his own kind—but true rather by negative qualities than in the way of his father—yet something of his father in him, too. Did I ever tell you what my good Doctor—a very wise man there in Washington—used to tell me? That the body by 4/5 part existed by virtue of its negative qualities? It is a remarkable idea at first blush, but can be found to hold water."

     Having referred to the Strand, London—W. was curious to get at a description—in which he was gratified by Gilchrist and Fels in turn. The origin of the name discussed—then reference to Indian names—their beauty,—W. affirming— "It is all so: no one has better reason for believing it than I." We instanced near-by names—Tulpehocken, Wingohocking, others.


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