Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 251] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Saturday, June 1, 1889

     7.45 P.M. W., as frequently happens, sitting at his doorstep. I approached with Ed and he was very hearty in welcoming me. Said he was in very good condition. "I have just been out—been up around the City Hall. It was a good trip." Quick allusion to the banquet. "Everything seemed to pass off wonderfully well—everything; they tell me even the dinner—the eating—itself, which I didn't share in, was extra good. I was satisfied with it all—with all the speeches—it seemed to me everything was well timed." He had come directly home. "And I slept well—not a bit disturbed by the excitement." In fact: "When I got into the hall—up the fine broad stairway—had my seat there at the table—a good bottle of champagne, a glass of cold water, and lots of roses—then I knew I was safe—all right. And then, the spirit of cordiality that streamed through the room—flooded it—that was enough to satisfy even a fellow less contented than I am by nature. There was no difficulty in getting there. When I got into the hallway, the big policemen there asked if I was going up; I said, yes, I had come to go up, but thought, if I got up at all, it must be bodily, by their aid. So they set to and transported me without the least effort on my part—chair and all. And so down again. But you were there and saw that. I thought there was one other who had hold of the chair in going: who was it?" Really no others but Tom and I. I remarked: "Clifford's speech was the gem of the evening." And W. looked at me earnestly: "I think so myself: it must have been." But he also said: "Tom

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 252] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
did handsomely: Hamlin Garland was over today—he was enthusiastic over Tom's way and what he said."
But W. insisted: "There seemed an almost surplus warmth—but that probably belonged to the hour, the fellows, the good eat and drink. We seem to invite good, positive, apt things, at dinner." He had sent some papers away. "I have chosen the Press report as the best among those I saw—but Bonsall's was very good—very full: and he had the letters, which is an advantage. I sent Doctor a paper—sent him also one of the dinner cards. I wished more of these, but only got two—one of which I still have." W. asked me if I had had enough slips for the "boys." "I had 25 printed—looked for one today to send to Doctor, but could not find a copy. It is the usual fate of my things upstairs." He had heard all very well: "They gave me a good position—all the speakers were near and audible. I heard Clifford's whack at Edward Emerson," and while it was not for him to prompt such a statement there, "I thoroughly entered into and justified it! This speech of Clifford's surely would make noble literature."

     While we sat there talking, Gilchrist came up with Tom, and stayed some fifteen minutes. They had come for a copy of the Post, which they could not secure at the stores. W. had a number and supplied Gilchrist with one. Gilchrist is to write his English letter tomorrow—is getting his material together. He spoke to W. of "Ingersoll's unfortunate phrase— 'granitic pudding-heads of the world.'" It was a bad figure: pudding was soft, &c. But W. laughed and explained that the expression was "all right" "a current saying"—adding: "I have heard William O'Connor use it—and with tremendous vehemence and enjoyment." Gilchrist had seen a column report of the dinner in the New York Tribune, and W. was eager to have the paper shown to him. "Let me have it, if only for a day, or half-a-day. I'll return it to you if you want." He thought, as we thought, that the reporters this time had done unusually well. Was greatly amused with some little things I had to tell

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 253] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
him of the group that clustered about me. These "boys"—as he calls them—always appeal to him. All the Philadelphia papers were liberally supplied with reports of the banquet.

     Spoke of O'Connor's pamphlet on Donnelly, and offered it to Tom to read. If Tom came down tomorrow he could "take it along"—and as Tom was already up the street, he sung out: "It is a lawyer's book, Tom—you will want to see it!" We then discussed the matter somewhat. "The whole controversy," he said, "is, as I often put it, like the conflict of theologians over the question whether the sacramental bread and wine were the actual body of Christ or not: a question that little by little has lost pertinency and importance. I used to argue so with William—oh! many's the strong sweet talks we've had over it!—of what value it is to us, here in this year 1888 or 1889, in the United States, ourselves afflicted with grave questions—of what use for us to argue and fight this battle. But William would not have it so—it was to him a living, breathing question—and indeed, looking at it in his way, with his nature, it could have assumed no other shape." He had not seen the glorious tribute in one place to Emerson. "I have but glanced at the book: yet I must go through with it systematically."

     Spoke of the ill-carriage of the mails now and then. "I am convinced the trouble is not here—that the trouble is in Philadelphia—the worst city in some respects—big city—on the continent." A Jerseyman, buried in some obscure corner of the state, wrote to McKay for a full account of the dinner. W. said: "Send him the Post—I can spare him a copy: or the Press, maybe?—which?"

     I took him copies of N. Y. Home Journal—one with minor references to him, another with a three-column piece by James Huneker. "I know Huneker—oh! yes!—and the wife, too—they lived years ago in Philadelphia—West Philadelphia. Huneker was a musician—a good writer, too—wrote well: it seems to me they went over to New York afterwards—probably

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 254] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
live there now."
"There is something almost startling—or mysterious—that now, here, almost at my last day, there come all sorts of tributes from all sorts of men, all converging to the one point of applause. What does it mean!—What?" He was "almost afraid of it"—it assumed "such an unusual force."

     Shortly I helped him indoors. "I shall go for a few minutes into the parlor, then up to my den." And as Ed led him slowly forward: "I am putting a great dependence on Ed's circumspection: he attends me closely—knows just how to handle—to secure me. I always assume that nothing can happen to him." I joked with W. about the black coat he wore last night—the unusual color it gave him. "But I thought the blue gown hid all that?" I asked: "Didn't you have Gilder help you off with that?" "Sure enough—now I remember: it got so warm I was forced to throw it off." And then he told a story laughingly: "Well—it was allowable, wasn't it? It gave 'em something to talk about. I remember dimly a story of Alcibiades. It appears he had a wonderful dog—with hair, fur, that was exquisite beyond words—and that one day he outraged the whole community by cutting off its tail—its beautiful tail. When remonstrated with—Why did you do this? What possessed you to commit such a folly?—he laughed at them and said, 'Well it is just this: the public is bound to talk about Alcibiades—whatever he does or don't do, is bound to gossip about him—therefore, I thought I would give them something to talk about which, not bad in itself, saves them from touching matters that might do them or me harm!' It was in such a way he retorted: and I adopt the story, as fitting my coat!"

     He remarked: "Bonsall printed the letters so well—the reports in the papers were generally so good, I am tempted to ask, what is the use of a pamphlet? But I suppose there is a use." And of Burroughs' letter he said— "It was noble—the noblest word ever written by John: the very throb of his heart." Gilder had spoken to Harned of Bucke as a "crank."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 255] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
W. said to me— "That is very weak of Dick to say: 'crank' is no word—it means nothing—has no value. Doctor has nothing in his make-up to validate such a statement, anyhow: he is himself—has his individuality—a marked one—but who would object to that?" He thought, too, "Herbert did very well, didn't he? I was myself satisfied enough." Gilchrist had spoken to W. of Gilder's change and growing warmth—that Gilder had at one time "considerable gall"—which now had worked itself off, &c.; but W. had not the disposition to repeat the criticism. Gilder's high estimate of Cleveland was much to W.'s liking, while his rather disparaging picture of Rice W. did not endorse. Read W. Morse's letter, which he thought "very fine—very like Sidney."

     No more letters. "Chambers—Julius—has not sent me his letter yet; yet if he said he would send it, it will doubtless come." "You boys have had your way now—and I must say you did it gloriously: not a block in the way: everything smooth for me at last—and the long years behind!" Mrs. Davis sat in the parlor part of the time with us.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.