Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, September 26, 1889

     8 P.M. W. upstairs in his bedroom, gas on, and Gilchrist there talking with him. Although his color was high enough, he did not look well, and he evidently spoke with much effort. Yet he grew interested and was free enough in gesture and phrase. Gilchrist left some 5 or 10 minutes before I did. A bundle of Harper's Weeklies on chair. His exposition poem appeared this week. Gilchrist was examining a copy of my entrance. W. asked me: "Well, Horace—what's the news?" And when I answered, "Oh! I came here to learn the news! Walt has more time for reading than the rest of us!"—he said quickly— "I have! I have! More time than I want! I envy the man out-of-doors—the boatman in the river, the carter with his team, the farmer at his plough—the active, unliterary employments!—their freedom—the elasticity they develop!" Then added for himself— "I am most interested in the French

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elections"
—G. saying—yes—he regretted the fall of Boulanger—we all liked a sensation etc. W. said: "I regret just the opposite—that he wasn't buried deeper—not that I think he as a person amounts to anything, but that what he represents, stands for, is of all things the most abhorrent, repulsive, hateful to me. My sympathies are all against him." G. explained that he knew W. was essentially right—W. proceeding— "President Carnot and his group, ministers, occupy a position in quantity—though in no other respect—analogous to our Abraham Lincoln's. The time is on, to be conservative, hold your horses, not let yourself be run away with."

     Reference to Brinton's pamphlet. W. said: "I read it—read it all—and read it with great interest. Brinton refrains from stating himself positively, I notice—writes somewhat in the Captain Cuttle vein—of Captain Cuttle, who said"—here W. assumed a voice and position of vehemence— "if the ship comes safely into harbor, very well then, she is safe in harbor; if the ship goes down, very well then, too—she goes down!—it is in that spirit." Yet there was "more than that to be said," of course. "A universal language—a world language I very much doubt: the Central African will never develope into it." This replying to my question if such a language would not be developed. "But its genesis—its origin—its conception—is essentially noble—in line with all the modern tendencies that I value and cherish. Solidarity, unifying—unification! This is in fact my argument for free trade—not that it will produce so much and so much in dollars—though that too is to be said, and I feel that free trade could be justified even on that ground—but that it will break down partitions, dividing lines—lines of demarkation—bring the race together—interests not worldly alone, but on the human side—the high deep embracing spiritualities." But Gilchrist spoke of the great lesson his American experience had taught him—that we went on differentiating, in spite of talk of union with English life, etc. W. allowed it: "That is true, much else is true—then comes in another department—then enter other considerations—

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after differentiation, then unity, too."
He dwelt upon commercial necessities. "Probably for these purposes, a system of signs—new codes—will be—will have to be—established." Talked thus vigorously for some time. Gilchrist by and by withdrew.

     W. then spoke of the weather—how it interfered with his freedom of movement—kept him in-doors. I found out from the picture-mounter today that our pictures would not be done till next week. On the table a handsome blue book which I picked up. "Have you ever seen it?" W. inquired. Adding after I had remarked that it was Swinburne's Essay on Blake— "Have you any curiosity at all to read it? If you have enough to persuade you, take it along—look it through—I don't know but it would interest you. I came upon it today in looking for something else." Swinburne himself had written on the title page simply

To
Walt Whitman
from
A. C. Swinburne


     and W. had added along the outer edge

"Walt Whitman
sent me by A C S to Washington D C. in 1870"


     no more punctuation on either side than I have indicated. Beyond writing on the title page under Blake's name

"born 20th Nov: 1757
died Aug: 1827 not quite 70"


     W., so far as my cursory glance showed me, has not marked the book at all. A book that touches him is always marked if it is his property. He spoke of this as "much less full, elaborate—than Mrs. Gilchrist's book on Blake," but offered no further criticism.

     Ed has not yet told him of his intention to go to Canada in October. I conferred with Harned this evening about a new

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man and about the fund matter generally. W. showed a peculiar interest in Gilchrist's explanation of his impression of American life—its significance—as he always does in intelligent views that are alien—that give us to see ourselves as others see us.


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