Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, May 22, 1889

     8 P.M. Found W. sitting in the parlor with Mrs. Davis, who retired on my entrance. W. said he had not been well today. "This is one of my bad days—a cold-in-the-head day. I have not been out at all. I attribute the bad turn to the weather." His window was closed: he had his hat on. My sister Agnes had sent him down a bunch of flowers. "Good girl! good girl!" he exclaimed as he buried his nose in them, "Oh! how wonderful sweet! The grand genuine syringa—which has all the virtue that odor can give the cultivated plants, and yet has a strength—an integrity—which is often wanting in them—a briariness!" And then: "And here are roses too! Oh! it is a

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good gift!"
After awhile, a little boy entered the room. W. greeted him with a kiss, and when he essayed to go, exclaimed: "Why! I thought you and your mother had come to pay us a visit! You will go out to Mrs. Davis, anyhow—won't you?—and get me a mug for the flowers." I explained the fine floral decorations in Clifford's church Sunday—first overwhelming the pulpit in their profusion, then after the services, despoiling it for the sake of the sick who are so in bonds, kept away. W.: "That is a very fine thing to hear; so they kill two birds with one stone, do they?"

     Wondered about the book—if we were likely to hit upon copies this week. "If I could get one or two copies by Saturday night, I should count it a great triumph." I reminded him of his own frequent admonitions to me "not to be too certain of events till events are events," and he laughed heartily, saying: "I do well remember it—and yet I hope to have the book!" I spoke of the Stepniak piece, that in respect to W. "It was just enough to make you want more." And he responded: "It is—but it is possible more was said." I asked if he thought it authentic? "Yes—I have every reason to think it so, it has that sound. Besides, I have all sorts of indications pointing the way this does—intimations that the radical fellows pretty generally abroad there, applaud me—conceive that I am one of them—belong their way—as, in a sense, I have no doubt, I do. I unquestionably aim to cut the ground from under the feet of institutions, formalisms, notions, precedents—yet must cut it away by including all these!" And then: "I think I shall at once send Stepniak a copy of the pocket edition when once it is in our hands. If you wish to write to him, you might do so in care of Mrs. Costelloe, who would forward it. How do you pronounce his name?" And after my answer: "Oh! the obvious way—the way it is spelled. Well, I don't know!" I proposed writing to Kennan for Tolstoi's address and W. was agreed. Did he think a copy of L. of G. would pass through Russia without excision?—or obstacle? "I know it is questionable," he said, "I know I am on the prohibited list; but I

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should be disposed to risk it."
And then spoke of the "artificial" strain at which such principles as are in vogue in Russia entail. "In fact, till very recently, it was a method which held sway in most European countries—Germany, France, Italy; though perhaps with modification in Germany, which is very hard to talk about anyhow, as Germany was so many-headed, and one place was cloudy while the other was clear."

     Reference here to prohibition. "If drink, why not clothing, what we eat?" Then he asked, "Has not Prohibition had a black eye? or won't it have, after they vote in Pennsylvania next month?" As to drink at the dinner: "I should say they must have something: a dinner with no drink whatever seems strange to me—I have grown to imagine something—something only—necessary and significant." I had letters from Adler, Howells, Blake, Garland, today. I read W. Howells' note, which appeared to surprise him. "That certainly is very sweeping," he said, "Aldrich and Howells certainly appear to be moving on." He thought the letter "worth a great deal," and thought too— "Howells gives out signs of great growth, it has been so for some time." Frank Williams said to me yesterday that he supposed Stedman was still "disgruntled." W. asked, "How did they get to know about the affair of the interview?—the Hartmann escapade?" I told him Garland had written that he would if possible attend. W.'s whole manner changed— "Oh! I wish it might be so! It is too good to hope!"

     I met Watts, Brinton's one-time partner, today. He said Brinton would probably be home next Monday from Europe. I had not expected him till the fall. I said: "If the Doctor comes on, I want him to speak at the dinner." But Watts objected: "I don't think he will speak—but you may ask him!" When I asked for the why of it, Watts explained that Brinton had once delegated him to buy books from Whitman for him and that W. had charged him double prices, protesting, when objection was raised, that "Brinton could afford it." W. was annoyed by this story. "I do not remember anything at all

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about it—no such incident now comes back—but I have no doubt that with the facts all in, this would be found easily explainable. I don't like anybody to go from me with the sense of having been wronged—in fact, I don't believe they do—there must be some mistake in this. I have editions and editions of the books. The Centennial edition has always been five dollars a volume—even now with the few copies I have left I keep the price at five dollars. Then there is the McKay book—that is two dollars: I always charge that. Ah! I do not think it can be accused of me that I have been ungenerous with respect to my books: on the contrary I have given away freely enough."
And then: "Anyhow, I want Brinton to speak if he comes: I personally, should like him to be there." I read W. extracts from Adler's letter of regret sent to me. Much touched—his "Yes indeed!" was frequent.


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