Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, June 15, 1889

     7.55 P.M. It rained hard. W. sat at the open parlor window. Called out at once on seeing me, "Come right in!—here we

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are!"
Said it had been "a dull day" and that the weather had prevented his going out. "And not a letter—at least no letter that is a letter: the autograph solicitors are always around."

     He spoke of Hunt's photograph of the bust. "I am more and more confirmed in my dislike of it. That it is better than Frank's I should be willing to allow. The only way to do with such things is, to make a picture, to make a picture, to make a picture, to make a picture—then to make a picture again! Finally, the fact we are after will be developed; and only so: for it is a complicated problem, this, to get into a picture just what should be there. And I know the failure here is not because of any failure in the bust. I place an extraordinary value on the bust—if it can be done, want it done. For one thing, Hunt has failed to seize the amplitude of the bust: I don't know but that is the richest quality that inheres to it—its amplitude—its ample expression of poise, equanimity, power." Rather than use this as it was he would propose "the laughing philosopher"—and "by the way," had I written to Carey for permission to use the negative of that? I had not—had after all thought it best for W. to write himself. "I shall write a postal tomorrow." Suggested that I go myself to Hunt tomorrow and see to another trial of the bust. "If possible we ought to use it—and these men, these photographers, are generally willing to do and do and do and do again till they do!"

     Said he intended "making every effort" to get up to Harned's tomorrow to dinner. Poem has not yet appeared in the World. W. equable. "Let it come or not!" Reference again to Bonsall's touch at Tennyson. W. declared: "I should advise its excision—advise that Harry cut it out entirely—not the name only, but the whole reference." And when he learned that Harry had invited our criticism he said: "That more than ever persuades me that I would have it altogether dropped. Tennyson is old, sensitive, my friend,—many reasons why this should not appear in such connection. Besides,

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the story is wholly unconfirmed—altogether lacks the ring of authenticity. I should not say that Harry was the man—but some man has gone there, sustained a personal failure, and then revenged himself. Probably the same ubiquitous American who knocked at Carlyle's door, which was opened by Carlyle himself—asked, 'Is Mr. Carlyle at home?' And was exclaimed at, 'No sir! Mr. Carlyle is not at home!'—and had the door slammed in his face!"
W. raised his voice into a shrill—then laughed: "It is very good: I cannot forget how O'Connor enjoyed telling it!"

     Herbert having brought him the Tribune at last, W. today read it. "It was certainly a very good report—and the significant thing about it was its tone—an entire surprise, knowing its connection. It flies in the face of the Tribune's record—on the whole past." Thence somehow a reference to Greeley, of whom W. talked freely: "I knew him very well—oh yes! He was often in Washington—came to see me: would talk freely—try to debate, raise questions, involve me. Many's the chat we've had—many's—many's! Greenley was a contribution—a curious, idiocratic fellow—a considerable contribution, but he was not a great man—not nearly possessing greatness, as I believe. At that time—the early years of the war and before,—he was the great panjandrum of his craft. By no means a prepossessing man in body. Do you know Uncle Danny, the ferry man—who stops on the street here and talks to me? Well, Greeley was like him"—here W. pressed his stomach with his fingers— "no belly—in Herbert's more vulgar but expressive phrase, no guts. At his best, not unlike Rudolphus Bingham." Here W. spoke somewhat of Bingham. "He always appeared to me a man bent with the hunger to do good—a man not intellectual but struggling. And I have had Bingham talk to me—oh yes! talk when I would have given a dollar in cash to get away!" Back then to H. G. again: "Greeley was pale—had no color in his eye, no color in his cheek, no color in his hair. Greeley's great consuming trait—seizing and subordinating

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all other traits—was his smartness—his ability to occupy the smart side of things, every time. It is the New England gift—almost all of them have it—it distinguished all of them—distinguishes—almost Emerson: from a severe analysis, even Emerson, but Emerson was free from it, I guess—I insist that he was. But in Greeley, the quality had possession to the full. And Greeley was bright—and a Jesuit, too—though not a Jesuit in any worst sense—any worst sense of the use of that term."

     Speaking of a letter that took nine days to reach him from New York— "Yes—and it is not by any means the only case, either. Some fellow—I think in the New York office, too—seems to possess a persistent ignorance about me—sends my letters right and left, till finally they come here, not direct, but drifting." Spoke of the manly port of Julian Hawthorne: "I never saw the father, but have understood there was almost a grandeur in his build and mien."

     Referred to Stepniak's "Underground Russia," which he had returned to me. "It is not the literary quality of the book which strikes me, but its inevitability—necessariness. And all these things come to wide-open ears. When we remember that till twenty or so years ago Russia was an unknown country—to us, mere blackness and mystery—such books have a great value. And for the light they throw on this Nihilistic movement more than anything else," he averred. "As to the 'form' of the book, as Gilder would speak of it—that does not occupy me." Did I suppose Stepniak had written it originally in English? "If so, I should say that would be another reason for giving it an extraordinary place—for it is certainly deftly handled. I found a letter from Stepniak in the Transcript—remember at the time intending to lay it aside for you. Generally I send the Transcript or the Critic or some paper or other to Mrs. O'Connor—send a paper daily, almost, and perhaps this has gone. The article was anent the Russian business." In order finally to settle about Bonsall's speech, W. thought my idea "good" that he should

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hear the speech first. Suddenly he said: "Don't you see it is clearing off? It is going to be a beautiful night! that is all gold there in the West!"


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