Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, June 27, 1889

     8 P.M. W. sat in front of the house. As he looked around, hearing my step, he exclaimed, "Oh! here is Horace coming—and with something in his hand which looks very like a bottle of ink for me!" And after we had shaken hands, he added, "So you got the ink? And it is the kind we were after?" Inspecting the label—seeing the inscription "steel pen" thereon— "That is the only thing about it which raises my suspicion" but turning the next instant to Mann's own label and adding— "But this is a guarantee!" Then he laughed. "And to show my faith in it, I will pay you for it forthwith!" doing so out of his pocket without delay.

     Mr. Button, his next-door neighbor, came up the next instant—shook hands—said he was glad W. held himself up so well. To which W. responded: "So am I! I get along so-so—very well, considering all things." Then made a sudden break from this topic: "And today I had a splendid visitor—Horace here knows him—a splendid fellow—handsome, a typical America. He is a Boston man now—connected with the Herald there—is now on the way South. A young man—or not very young, either, probably thirty-one or along there—but young in spirit; and he is all ardor—has it in his bonnet that the world needs reforming—is a theosophist, Socialist, Anarchist,—yes, even Anarchist—I believe that word could be used; but oh! very ardent about it—ardent enough to touch even me, I do believe! He has been a good deal about in the world—has been for some years located with the Boston Herald: the paper now sends him down there. I think he is married—I know he is a man, way in to his backbone. He sat here with me today—said to me, 'I am going South: what have you got to say to me about it—what word to give me?' And so I responded with an expression often on the lips of an old Long-Islander I knew— 'I should say to you, Sylvester, only this—nothing but this'"—here W. raised his forefinger

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admonishingly— "hold your horses—hold your horses!" Here W. turned his finger my way, and said waggishly— "And that's for you, too!" Adding: "Sylvester [Baxter] thoroughly lives in the conviction that the world is to be saved by reforming it—that things are all end up now—that we threaten to go to the devil, the whole pack of us, if we don't make a turn." After Button had gone W. continued with me: "Sylvester was here half an hour—perhaps three-quarters. He is very enthusiastic about the South—goes to Kentucky and Tennessee—seems imbued with a faith that the South is the greater America—will one day awake to that fact—and I don't know but he's to some extent right. I knew many fellows from that section—from East Tennessee—and it was a pretty good race. One fellow out of all—and illiterate, too—I think I loved almost more than any other person I ever met. Sylvester told me that he saw very little of Kennedy—that Kennedy worked very hard through the day, then went home—so applied himself, week and week!" "And certainly, Horace, Sylvester is our man—I am sure of it—ain't you?—he belongs to us, we to him."

     He referred to the money brought him yesterday. This item in connection therewith in the Press this morning: The committee of Camden citizens who had charge of the banquet recently tendered Walt Whitman, the poet, at Morgan's Hall, on his seventieth birthday, visited his house yesterday in a body. Geoffrey Buckwalter, the secretary of the committee, surprised the poet by handing him a bag that contained $125 in gold, the balance from the sale of the tickets after the expenses had been met. They also presented him with a nurse's chair for his use about the house.

I don't imagine W. was at all "surprised" "They came together—three of 'em—Buckwalter, Amber Armstrong, Derousse—and they left me a hundred and twenty-five dollars. This chair," tapping its arm, "was also paid for by the

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proceeds, they told me."
And he added: "What an investment it was, too!—the best made since my sickness!" Dwelt upon "the rare beauty" of the evening—pointed to the swaying trees, the (at last) clear sky.

     I wrote to Burroughs this forenoon, and to Stedman this evening. W. said: "I am glad—glad for both." And when I told him what I had said to Stedman, he exclaimed, "Oh! that is very good—I am especially satisfied to have you tell him that!" Adding: "Stedman is so genuine: and it is a peculiar fact, that Stedman, though not very far from being an old man, seems to get more ardent the older he grows. And Howells, too—why, Sylvester came right down from Howells—says he is on the right track—getting more radical, socialistic, all that"—though for the Socialism, W. did not know. But when I asked— "Don't you see why it is all the radicals like you—like Leaves of Grass? That going to most all books and literary men, they find so little life throbbing in them, whereas the life is the first and prevailing quality of L. of G.? They do not look for you to endorse their theories, but only to be alive and possess the big human spirit, which is always an ally." W. exclaimed: "Oh! that is a beautiful, pregnant thought, and that I could wish true!"

     I looked over file of World today. No poem. Said W.: "No—I did not expect it. One of the letters Ed brought me last night while you were here was from Julius, and though he sent me the money for the first piece, he never mentioned the other. So in replying, I sent a fresh copy of the little poemet. Probably the other copy fell into the hands of someone in the office who never heard of me—this I sent addressed personally to Julius—the other was sent to the World. Or perhaps the other never got there—who knows?—it may have fallen into the charge of the post-office man who took a foreign letter addressed to me at 'Campden' to Pumptown—bright man, that, wasn't he?—damned fool! It was so simple, any idiot should have been able to judge for what place it was intended

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—'Campden, New Jersey'—and seeing the foreign stamp alone should have helped it along, seeing how apt a stranger is to slip up that way. The letter is upstairs yet—I'll give it to you. It is very long and gushing—the writer or writeress—I think it is a woman—has let him or herself out pretty boldly. I've read it about half through—shall probably not get back to it again."

     Kerr objected to my use of "sun-glown" as obsolete. W. said: "Let me commend you that you stick to it: I should do so in your case." I had done so. W. said: "I have a letter from Bucke in which he says he has heard from Sarrazin—that Sarrazin has been in London, goes back to Paris, will pass the summer in the country—much the same thing Sarrazin wrote you, except that Bucke mentions the place." I went upstairs to get the Sarrazin book for Morris. W. said: "I feel as though I ought to give Morris a book anyhow—and we'll do so yet." Adding "Tell him for me, to observe this in translating—that he get every word, sign,—every significant touch,—what not—down to the last turn, the final commas, periods. The quotations he need only indicate." I spoke of intending to write to Ingersoll of which he said: "Yes, do so—and give him my love." And of writing to Edward Emerson: "I don't think you'll make much by that—probably nothing at all. Edward Emerson is a bad egg—more and more I see evidence of that—and his sister, too." I spoke of him as "more respectable than his father"—at which W. laughed: "Yes—in that kind of respectability!" Then advised me: "When you see Burroughs next—broach this subject—he is an Emerson man—he will tell you lots and lots you'll like to know. I don't know how much John knew Emerson personally if at all, but spiritually he is an Emerson man."

     Bill Duckett came up as I sat there. Had had a sister die. W. gave him 10 dollars. "I am more interested than you know, Bill," he said, "when you get settled in the city, write me how you like it, or come see me." And after Bill had gone, W.

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spoke feelingly of the sudden death of the sister and explained the condition of things.


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