Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, May 2, 1889

     11 A.M. Ed making bed—W. had started to write a letter. Invited me to sit down. But I stayed only briefly. Took him the Critic which he said he was glad to see. Asked me if it was too warm. "I just started my fire—I am always anxious to know." Did not look or feel quite so well as yesterday. I wrote to Bucke this morning on hospital matters, and explained to W. the substance of my note. The New York celebration over. W. happy that it had "well transpired" and added: "I suppose

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Harrison is at home by this time."
He said further: "I think Harrison is the smallest potato in the heap—that he will go down in history so regarded. I think him mainly a gas bag."

     Speaking of a building at the foot of Federal Street erected on pilings W. said: "New Orleans affords plenty of examples of that—plenty. I know much about it—was there—have known experts: they sink a heavy log, a number of feet wide—down in the mud—and plant the foundation on that. As long as not exposed to the air, the wood will not corrode—rot, I should say." Spoke of Hollandish ability &c. in this direction. Takes the Pearson matter in New York much to heart. Alluded to entrance of Van Cott to duties as Postmaster in New York. As to Harrison's historic position W. said: "Take due note of my prophecy: it will come true." Then interestedly: "You will go to see Brown today? I rely upon you to keep things moving. Our time is getting short."

     7.45 P.M. W. was just preparing a light when I came in. He did not hear me, and I stood off in the shadows watching till he was done. He is quite weak. After fixing windows (he always closes the blinds fast) he sat down on the chair. It was still very dark—and I could hear him breathe heavily. Then he wheeled around and lighted the gas. At once he heard me and saw me: "Ah! Horace! I am just lighting up—have been sitting here for a long time in the twilight. It has all been very fine." And he questioned me: "How is the night—cool? And the moon?" The wind northwest and the moon quite new. W.: "I supposed as much." Had he thrust his head out the window he could have seen the moon easily, for now it sat direct west. "Bryant wrote a fine verse about the waning moon. He was very good in that thing—the best, undoubtedly, of all our men—had a genuine ear which never failed him—and taste. Some would call his taste Wordsworthian, I suppose—but that is not necessary." I knew that Bucke had a high opinion of some of Arnold's early poetry, but W. himself

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said: "I know very little of Arnold's poetry, early or late. But Bryant had peculiar powers, felicities: the moon, a strip of cloud, the broad sky, a fine tree, would fascinate him—make him vocal." W. interested to know that my father had gone over to see the Vereshtchagin pictures this afternoon. "What did he report of them?" I thought adversely. W. then: "He will probably go again then. I have been anxious to meet somebody who had gone. And you—will you not go?" Said: "I have a letter from Bucke—a short letter; but it was of no significance; significant letters are rare anyhow." Wrote to Bucke and sent paper to O'Connor today. No further intelligence from Washington.

      "I see," he said again, "that the celebration is well over." "And well," I said, "all except the ball." The ball had ended in an orgy. W. smiled: "Oh! we won't mind that—that was an ebullition of human nature. And you must remember the part the reporters had in it, too: we know well enough how to take them. Events never fail by their telling them." "I have read the Critic," he remarked, handing the paper to me, "and I don't know but you may as well take it with you now." As to the reference therein, quoted the other day, "I saw it—it is all right—though I don't know if I should say it just that way." Left him with copy of the Home Journal, with a column extracted from Myers and headed "The Ecstacy of Tennyson." W. knew the print before he had seen the name of the paper. Expressed his joy to see the article. "It is one thing to lighten up the gloom here."

     W. asked for details about my visit to Shillaber with Morse. "I have always had an idea," W. said, "that Shillaber looked like our Mr. Hunter. Was it justified?" On my description W. very readily perceived the differences. At W.'s urging I detailed the house & so far as I remembered. I could recall well a reference to Emerson, in which Shillaber talked of Emerson's "idiotic smile." W. was struck with the infelicity of this. "I should accept the word, however—accept it in some

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such way as saying, 'the sun bathed the world in its idiotic light' or 'the idiotic glory of the sun.'"
Morse had spoken of Emerson's smile as among the wonders of his face. W. said: "I should call it that, too. But Emerson's smile was not common—it was rare indeed. But his usual manner carried with it something penetrating and sweet beyond mere description. There is in some men an indefinable something which flows out and over you like a flood of light—as if they possessed it illimitably—their whole being suffused with it. Being—in fact that is precisely the word. Emerson's whole attitude shed forth such an impression. I have always felt something of the same sort in our friend Hunter—his face unvarying in its brightness. Men have that—even have other atmospheres—darker. A lecturer, writer, poet, talker, anybody, carries with him his aura or not—his assurance of success—a quality most real, but wholly indefinable. Emerson was rich with it." "Carlyle possessed it, too—but in its darker aspects." W. would even "instance" newspapers. "Some of them we like to read—some we despise—all of them have their specific, overlying, all-pervading quality. Take the Phila. Press for instance—its frightful sourness—its disposition to snarl like a small dog, to make complaint, to be small whatever the occasion. It is a color, tone, odor, which hits the reader inevitably." Emerson of all men possessed this aura in its purity: "Never a face more gifted with power to express, fascinate, maintain." W. was very greatly drawn towards the description of Shillaber. I went over the printer anecdote—Shillaber's first offer from a publisher. W. was struck. "That is not only good as an event—a fact—for its benefits to him—but good, excellent, as a story."

     W. had asked me among his first questions tonight: "What of Brown—did he get started?" But he had not, and W. was much disappointed, as I had been. I insisted upon some absolute time from Ferguson, and he then promised the sheets would be delivered by Thursday morning of next week without

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fail. W. expressed a little solicitude lest something interfere with the accomplishment of our task.


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