Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, January 17, 1890

     7.15 P.M. Found W. reading "The Deerslayer"—in which he admitted he "found" his "old interest." Thought Cooper one of our "native fine souls—flavored of the soil." I had the Magazine of Art containing Swinburne's new poem—"Loch Torridon." W. asked, "What is that?" in his boy-curiosity—and when I told him and proposed to leave it— "I am not a Swinburne devotee—yet I read him—he has his points." And as to the appearance of the poem— "This print strikes me with envy—I never see anything so good but I am persuaded out of my skin."

     Asked me about my father's portrait, whose now complete state I described to him. "I liked it greatly as it was: now—if he has succeeded in taking from it the suggestion of dark eyes, I don't know but it may be considered, as far as art will permit, perfect—yes, perfect. Have you seen it? And you are satisfied with it? That goes a long way towards satisfying me: for you ought to know—and I know you never go off into useless enthusiasms." Given the opinion I avowed, with what he knew of it— "it ought to be one of the very best pictures extant. There is a damnable tendency in artists to over-refine—as a rule a copy is worse than an original, a second copy than a copy and so on: you can stake yourself for this. But in the case of your father, this picture, then, comes as an exception."

     Said he had written to Kennedy. "Only a postal. It came into my mind I had not written to him for a fortnight, so today I sent off a short message, but a very important thing I forgot entirely—the only thing in fact that really needed being said.

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I mean about the book, the pay—the gift-book, New Year's. Do you expect to write within a few days? If you do, tell him for me what we have been talking about—tell him on no account to send the money."
Said Gilchrist had come over last evening. "I was about to go to bed—he was here a short time. As luck will have it, or circumstance, he always comes about that time—late—too late. I suppose he works up to the last glints of light—then is not satisfied till he has gone out—breathed the fresh air—stretched body, soul—all!"

     Sometimes in jest we use Symonds' expression— "Whitman's Bible." I said this evening I had an impulse to write to Symonds myself—I did not know to what effect, but something—W. advising me: "Yes, do so: every such impulse is to be obeyed: I should like you to write and I have no doubt he would like to hear from you—that you could tell him things no one else could—things he would like to hear."

     W. had read Brinton's lecture. "It is very fine: I have not for a long time read anything that so possessed me. I sat down last night after you had gone and read it through—every word of it—which, for me, in these days, is remarkable—is a tribute (rather, a respect) in itself. I wish you would thank Brinton for me—tell him he could not have had a more rapt auditor and that I weighed every word—with this advantage: that I was here, read it at my leisure, could pause, go back, reread, chew on it—weigh passages which an actual listener had to pass at an equal pace: and some of the extracts from Bruno demand such attention. I hope Brinton will have it published—I should like at least one copy of it—one for Symonds—and perhaps others. It has a splendid, simple, high, force—momentum. Brinton evidently starts out to be judicial—is—his whole paper is Greek—poised. There is one thing about it I particularly delighted in—a theory of which Taine makes the most of any man I know. The part enacted by environment, surroundings, circumstances,—the man's age, land—all that went before, generations—is today. I know this

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is not new—only, I do not know of its having been elsewhere put into such a prominent place. It was so with Hegel's principles—they had been hinted of, spoken of, by others—but nobody had so brought them to the fore—insisted they belonged there."


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