Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, July 4, 1889

     11.30 A.M. Called in at W.'s, was there about half an hour. Had taken MS. of book along. Used his blue pencil for numbering pages. Discussed ways and means. He looked rather

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bad. Was in bathroom on my arrival, but came shortly over into his bedroom. But had forgotten glasses and said, "I shall have to ask you to get them for me." Characteristically, however, the Ledger, which he wished to go down stairs for Mrs. Davis, he went all the way across the room to find, then back again to the stairway to send flying down: would not accept my offer to do for him. Yet seemed very weak, and was. The night had been a bad one—the noise great. "One man our neighborhood is blessed with, lives right across the street. He went to bed early last evening so he could get up at 12 or 1 o'clock and keep the rest of us awake for the rest of the night, and he succeeded. And he or his boy—there the boy sits now—have been at it ever since." Across the way the unknowing boy, comfortably settled in a rocking chair on the pavement, was incessantly pitching exploding fire-crackers right and left. W. continued to fan himself. "There is a Mrs. Button next door, a poor old woman, she has been sick for years—is nothing now but sensation—as I am apt to describe it, is like a mass of sensitive jelly; yet there are a thousand and one tortures imposed on her because she cannot get away from these demons—is too old, too sick. They call this noise 'patriotism'—a queer patriotism it is, to my mind!"

     Talking of the book, he said, "It should have an index: every good book owes its readers an index, but in this case I suppose it is impossible." Said he would let me have the MS. as I desired by 8 o'clock this evening. I must submit it to McKay tomorrow. A couple of foreign pamphlets of translations he had laid out for me to see. One, by the Italian Gamberale. [?] Prefatory not to this he said he had never read. "No one ever translated it for me—so of course I have no idea what is its purport." Should we have Lincoln Eyre render it into English? "I should like it so, if he could be led to do it freely." The other was French. Said W., "It is evidently by the young fellow to whom Sarrazin referred in one of his letters—dead now, I believe. We seem to be much whacked at

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abroad nowadays—for good or evil. Everybody is getting a word in on us, sweet or sour."
Before I left he called my attention to a long sad letter from Mrs. O'Connor, then to a letter from Bucke, but of this last he said, "It is newsless—as most of Doctor's letters have bee lately." I did not linger. He said, "I shall not look through this seriatim, but take it up as I can—as I am in the humor. It's a big bulk to read, but then, a sane wise rebel somewhere says, I don't have to—unless I choose."

     7.50 P.M. It kept on raining all day. W. in the parlor, his fan again in hand. But now, at the last moment, comes perfect cloudlessness, the new moon, northwest wind, and a greatly moderated temperature. "Much cooler—don't you think?" W. at once inquired. It cleared up too late however for him to get out. "I was hoping the rain would continue—that it would rain all night." The noise had broken out afresh with the first clear half-hour. I wrote to Mrs. O'Connor this afternoon for data as to O'C. for use in Liberty article, as advised by W. He said: "I wrote to her yesterday. You probably will hear: it was right to ask." I wrote also to Kennedy, Morse, Garland and Brinton about our affair. W. asked, "And Burroughs—have you written to him yet? And did you ask him about the morocco book? if it arrived all right?" as I had, indeed. W. then pointed to a roll on the table— "There is your manuscript—you may take it along." Addressed in blue pencil— "Horace Traubel MS."—and pasted on an ink-written slip as follows Suggestions
same sized page ab't as
"Specimen Days"
type Bourgeois leaded
run the letters, telegrams,
&c: the pages
—not block'd out
pretty thick paper




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On sketch of title page I had accidentally written "Camden's tribute" instead of "Compliment". He had made the change, and now said, "I don't like 'tribute'—I know there are people who use it, but to me it has a bastard sound—it never satisfies me." Commenting on the MS. in general— "As I promised, I did not go through the MS. seriatim—still I have gone through it. I said at the time of the dinner that I felt suffocated with sugar and honey and somehow I realize that feature ever more decidedly in reading this as it is collected together. But the matter itself, taken simply in chief, I like better and better the more I see of it—better far than in the hearing: it certainly has a good ring." As to my protests that this was a rally on friends, who did not come for analyses but for celebration, W. said— "Oh! I can realize that it was all just right just as it was—that it could not have been different. Indeed, I can say, what you already know, that it was all welcome to me—all—every word of it: and I know it came from the right spot and to the right spot. And anyhow, how O'Connor—our glorious O'Connor—would have revelled in the book you are getting out—the addresses, letters, all: but O'Connor is gone! As it is, John—Burroughs—the Doctor and Kennedy—oh! they will be all eyes and ears! I can see them—anticipate their eagerness—even John's!" He would like to write a few lines to do with anything about myself that is so strong—so vehement—as that book has grown to be." He wondered if Sherman "would give us the whole mass of proofs at once—so we could get in touch at once with the ensemble—take in the whole area!" He explained— "I have made a few verbal suggestions in running over the MS., you will see them: but have left general matters wholly alone."

     In the MS., (my portion) where I had written simply "Whitman's nurse, Edward Wilkins"—he suggested "Whitman's Canadian friend and nurse"—an admirable change, removing the servility implied by the first phrase. I had written

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of W.'s being "indebted" to the meeting "for at least a part of his present comfort"—the magnetism, etc. He considered it ought to be made much stronger (which I could not have known) so wrote instead of "comfort," "almost exhilaration"—another efficient record. In Harned's speech he proposed speaking of "army hospitals" instead of simply "hospitals," and "secession war" instead of "war," and "the person Walt Whitman" instead of "the man Walt Whitman"—certainly, this last, a radical improvement in musicalness; suggested also "His love for the aggregate race" instead of "for the whole race of man." In Gilder's speech, he changed the order of the mention of "Cooper, Emerson, Whittier and Bryant" to "Cooper, Bryant, Emerson and Whittier"—a significant re-casting. No doubt, if he had been given more time to inspect he would have made other suggestions.


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