Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, September 11, 1889

     5.45 P.M. W. in his bed-room—had just finished his dinner. Reading Camden daily papers. The terrific storm continues. He referred to it rather seriously: "There is still no word from the shore. Oh! it is so to be hoped that there will be no more Johnstown disasters—one is enough for a century! Camden has its deficiencies, which are plain enough: but it also has its efficiencies: it seems situated beyond the perturbation of tides, storms, water-spouts." I instanced the cyclone of 2 years ago—but he shook his head: "Even than that, for after all, that was not very serious—not nearly so serious as might have been." I described the river to him, and he remarked: "I should like to see it—I must try to find a way to get down there. If I could but get a look-out point!" I spoke of the railroad

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front—he then: "I suppose that is the point from which to see it. I should soon know about it—should know at once, like an editor his manuscript—whether it would do or not!"

     I brought him envelope samples, and he was very happy in them, saying at once on handling them: "Yes, they will do—he caught my idea exactly." And when I said the maker was a German— "That accounts for it—intuitively penetrates." Adding— "I shall look at them at my leisure. And what about the cost?" At first saying— "That seems high enough" and after— "But no doubt it's the price we'd have to pay anywhere." I delivered books to McKay today. W. said: "Yes—and I received a note from Dave in which he enclosed another from someone else, asking permission to use some of my pieces in a reading-book—which I readily granted, of course." He had pasted the signature of the letter on his post-card as the address, because he could not fully make it out. Called my attention to it. Asked me: "Is Morris unusually gay and happy? He sort of struck me so—and yet one can't tell except by long contact—often not even then. He is thoroughly American—quick, pushy, wide-awake—very cheery. I like him quite a good deal."

     Pointed to Forum on table. "I have read the Gosse piece—read it all, even carefully. It seems something this way—as if he had invited you to a swell meal—you had gone—found a fine table, plenty of dishes—knives, forks, spoons, silver,—but nothing to eat, or if anything to eat, very little but tastes—'not enough to swear by.' That was a great Long Island phrase in my early days. It is dangerous for a man like Gosse, having so little butter, to attempt to spread it over much bread—it comes up very thin. I never heard that expression 'to swear by' in literature, though it may be there—but have found it among people I knew. It seems to mean nothing of itself, yet has a something—one can smell something in it—or perhaps that is a weakness of mine," with a laugh— "that smelling business. There was one of my English critics

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who dwelt upon the prominence I give to the sense of smell—gave it first place, as he said. I seem to get the sense of smell first. Have you noticed anything of that sort? I have not—am not at all conscious of it"
—and referring to W.'s "the smell of an armpit" etc.— "I don't think that could have been the objection—the point of criticism—he urges it quite seriously." W. said further of Gosse: "He is the cheapest of present essay writers over there in England. It has been a long time since I tasted such a poor mess of stuff in a magazine. It is as if the editor had written him—the tide is on now—the public is awake—here are 50 dollars for a piece on such and such a subject: and then he sat down and eked it out. It sounds very much as if it had that for an inspiration and no more."


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