Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, June 24, 1889

     7.49 P.M. A chill evening. W. sat at the open parlor window. I went down with Harned, who did not, however, stay through the whole of our conversation. W. wore his bright blue gown, and said: "I have just been out to my favorite companion—the river! But it is coolish this evening—one hugs a little closer to himself than usual!" I received a letter from Ingersoll today. After hearing it read, W. said: "That is just like the Colonel—always considerate of us! And that accuses me—will make me hurry along. For a great while I've been intending to send him a copy of the big book: now it must go, and at once!"

     My mail today had also brought me letters from Rhys, Rolleston, Rossetti and William Morris. I sat near W. and read these aloud. He was greatly interested. At Rolleston's he exclaimed— "Oh the good warm fellow! Full of Irish—the true Irish—heartiness and bonhomie." To Rossetti's he commented "It is very noble—noble indeed!" Rhys sent me the poem celebrating W. of which Edward Carpenter had written. I shall use this in the book. His note read thus:

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From Ernest Rhys
c/o Walter Scott:
To Horace L. Traubel
Camden,
8th June '89

Dear Traubel,

In answer to your friendly announcement of the Birthday testimonial to Walt Whitman, perhaps the enclosed lines, inadequate & incomplete as they are, will form a better greeting than any I can frame afresh under pressure of the moment. The poet himself already possesses a copy, I believe, and will no doubt pardon one's still being something of a heretic in the matter of rhyme.

Believe me,

Very cordially yours

Ernest Rhys


But W. said— "I saw nothing of any poem: if he sent one, it surely went astray." And after I was all done my reading he remarked: "It is the wonderful genuineness of all that which touches me—and it is a wonderful genuineness—something entirely unprecedented. And I may add even to that and say, it is the wonderful genuineness of all that was drawn out that day—the whole prevailing tone of speech,—which took hold of me—assured me!" "I was not sure about the dinner, but I hoped all would be well—and now all is well!"

     On the table I found an envelope addressed to Cox, and in it this note:
Camden New Jersey
June 23 '89

If convenient please give the bearer, for the Photo: Process Co: for me, the negative of the photo: my head (with hat) I call "the laughing philosopher"—to be carefully cared for & returned to you in a month or less.

Walt Whitman




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Nearby was a card on which he had written. [This card missing] He said: "They have been there for a couple of days. But it was my fault you did not find 'em. I failed to tell Ed why I had placed them there." I had a letter from Kerr, of Unity, saying he would publish my O'Connor article, which I had sent him, in the next issue. "That is good news," said W., "and a few papers—say even a half-dozen or a dozen—ought to be engaged: we shall want to use them."

     Clifford had counselled me to write Edward Emerson about the (to us) famous footnote. W. said thoughtfully: "I don't know—I should hardly expect any good of it—or even response. But then I am a great believer in every fellow's setting-to and doing what he feels he ought to do—following out the Quaker spirit; so if you must, you must! I can see no way to make it avail: If I wished to exaggerate, be extravagant, I should quote the scriptures, which say something about people going back to their idols. Or if I wished to be even more severe, I could refer to that other passage somewhere, in which the write speaks about the pigs returning to the mire!"


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