Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, January 13, 1890

     5.30 P.M. Stopped in at W.'s on my way home—stayed till six: twilight: he sitting by the fire, the door of the stove open an inch or two, letting out a flaring, flickering light, darting up into his face, from which he fended himself from time to time by intercepting his hand. "It is not colder? There seems

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to be a high wind blowing?"
I talked of the great sunset, and he was all ears: "I think I see—yes, I do see it—the river there—the boats—the open-way to all that is pictorially grand." He had not been out today: the moist cloudiness had persisted.

     I referred to the curious Bible metaphor "as the waters cover the sea" and W. said of it, as if it had been a subject of his thought: "Yes—it is used several times—I think in both the Old and New Testaments: it can be said for the translation, that it is perhaps the best they can do: though I feel persuaded that the original explicates itself—that there all would be found rightly adjusted—the word right-valued—in its place. I can remember a figure O'Connor liked to use—I think it must have been Elizabethan: 'it fits like a cup'—'it fits your head like a cup'—very suggestive—powerful—Baconian." And then, in discussing O'Connor's gift of speech: "It was a rare bestowal—those of us who knew him well, knew how rare. He was in the highest sense what is called a born orator. I never heard him in a public meeting, but have had vivid accounts from those who did; and it appears he was in that situation just what he was in any other—grand, high, impassioned. Impassioned, truly: a sort of Greek passion—the driver of a dozen steeds, all mad for freedom, but all easily reined by his circumspection, judgment, certainty. That would typify him. Did you ever read William's piece on John Burroughs' book, printed at that day, in the New York Times? It was thoroughly strong—characteristic. No, I do not think O'Connor ever did much such work. Raymond was exceedingly warm towards him—invited him to come over—to take a position as editor on the Times staff. But O'Connor was doubtful about it, afraid, feared he could not get along, and so decided against—and wisely, for he could not have got along—would have fallen out at short order. He was the last man in the world to submit to emendation—would not hear to the displacement of a comma."


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     Brinton speaks tomorrow evening on Bruno at the Contemporary Club. W. "taken," as he said, with the prospect, though he could not hear the address himself. "Someone has sent me a piece on Bruno which may turn out to have some pertinency. I will look it up tomorrow. Bruno was the salt of the earth. All the men who are worth tying to—whose good judgment we respect—place Bruno high—with the highest. To me that is very significant—though in the way of details I really know very little about Bruno." He thought "Symonds probably the best man in all Europe to report on Bruno"—and it was for [from?] such judgments he "imbibed the highest respect" and for Bruno "they are many."

     We discussed a question—involving religious orthodoxy—how far orthodoxy limited great men. W.: "I suppose there is a way in which that can be, should be, said"—that greatest men necessarily fail the orthodox standards, or exceed them, rather— "but then again we may point out, there is another orthodoxy—an orthodoxy deeper, more generous than the current orthodoxy—a sort of Hegelian orthodoxy—in which true big men put their hooks—to which they tie: the orthodoxy of Jesus, the orthodoxy of Mohammed, of Confucius, of Socrates—Socrates probably the greatest of them all—Socrates made much of it. Of course, the orthodoxy we see about us—the ministers, professors, churches, class-leaders, all that—and the creeds—of course they are all gammon—all—must disappear. I am not sure after all but the most needed man is Ingersoll—that Ingersoll is in advance of us all." He doubted "if a first-rate man—a real first-rater"—ever accepted "the limited in preference to the broader readings of faith."

     Gave me Bucke's letter of the 10th, in which much account was made of the prevalence of La Grippe at London. W. spoke of the disorder—inquiringly—and noted that he seemed not to have been in the least touched by it.


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