Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, September 28, 1889

     7.30 P.M. W. in his bed-room, light up full, talking with Harned and Hobart Clark, the Unitarian minister who

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preaches here tomorrow. W. said right quickly after we had shaken hands: "What do you think, Horace? John Burroughs was in here to see me today—came in on a flying visit—stayed awhile—was off again. He said he was going directly home again. He wanted badly to see you, but I could not tell him where you were—I thought I knew but I didn't. I hoped some way to get you word so you could come over earlier than usual. He went to town to see Herbert on the way off. Certainly he must now be gone, though it would not be impossible for him to step in here to surprise us this very hour. He came down from Ocean Grove. Oh yes! he looks well—better than I have known him to look for a long time—and he tells me he eats well at last. You know, awhile ago, perhaps several years now, John was taken with that spasm which seems at one time or another to attack every American—the avoidance of meats—subsisting on vegetable supplies—no mutton, beef, pork—though I do not wonder at the pork—and all liquors—wines, everything. And he persisted in it, too—I think for several years—2 years or so. He got it, curious to say, of a German doctor—a cute man, able, broad, I am assured. John said when he was about leaving that he felt the premonition of one of his periodical headaches. Every 4 or 5 months he gets "a spell of this kind." Then W. turned to me again specially— "I am very sorry, Horace, you and John did not meet, but you see how it was." W. having referred to Gilchrist, Tom spoke of the mother, whereupon W. said looking towards Clark: "Both of these gentlemen know her—of her. She was my friend indeed—and a woman to know, too, like Emerson, as I have so often said, to be met personally—to be taken into actual physical contact—with voice, eye, lip, all—before fully known—known for her true greatness." Theological matters coming up. W. remarked at one instant: "The idea of the ministers seems to be, that without the theory of heaven and hell—particularly of hell—society would not be safe—things would not go on—we would collapse!"

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He laughed merrily. I told him I had repeated to Brinton W.'s expression some time ago that morality as he grew older, more and more relegated itself. Brinton thought it important and interesting to know this—Goethe had made a similar confession. W. rejoined, "Yes, and not only Goethe but all the fellows that amount to anything—all. I am glad to hear Brinton's own confession. That is the creed of Leaves of Grass, the in-working, through-working principle." I remarked that Brinton is more and more taken with L. of G., and W. laughed— "Well, that is what it is for, to grow into people." To which I said, "And Brinton is a good sort of a man to have it grow into!" W. then— "Sure enough!" Laughed over Brinton's idea of the literary class, that it was a cowardly one. "Likely enough" he exclaimed mischievously— "I have heard such things said!"

     Tom read Clark the Symonds letter upon my recommendation. I asked if he had shown that to Burroughs, and he said— "No—I never thought of it." Communicated Brinton's high opinion of it—then the fact that B. would write a volume on poetic form, rhythm; W. saying thereto: "I should think that would be profoundly interesting, especially as coming from Brinton—yet I confess I have some qualms, at first blush. My wonder is, is Brinton the man to write a book on that subject? From what I have heard—what I have seen—Brinton would not detect rhythm by his own ear—gets it rather by other forces, agents. Not that I would in any way discount his book or whatever, in advance—only, that there are delicacies, intricacies, to be traced, followed, in such a study, which demand the finest ear—the best organized. And my doubt of Brinton would be, not that he could produce a valuable study, but that he would produce a study of topmost power—the best deliverance on the subject—exhaustive. I have a book here somewhere which it seems to me would be important in this connection—I have spoken of it before—C. C. Felton's lectures on Greek art, literature. Even if not

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of importance on that subject direct, of importance in itself, a book Brinton, I should think, would enjoy to read. If he has not the book, I should be glad to have him use my copy. Tell him so."
Alluded to the religious discussions of the time as "mostly thorns crackling under a pot."

     Harned picked up a pamphlet from the floor—poems—and W. laughed when questioned about it. "That's one of the thousand and more choice lists I get from the fledglings who write poetry, as they call it. But that's not the worst: as the boys have it, they get the drop on you sometimes with a whole manuscript, on which they want your opinion—'dear sir, I am a young man, need help—if you will only tell me' etc. etc.—something in that strain." Referred again to Edwin Arnold's letter as in the Times. "It's as new to me as to you—to any reader: yet it sounds something like, as if Jim came upon it fresh somewhere—certainly not here." As we hung around, he opened a little package Ed had brought in containing the picture from Mrs. O'Connor of William. "I sent it to her a while ago—now she sends it back. She had asked me about a picture of William to have engraved—she says she has this. I had a letter from her today—she is still at Nantucket. Yes, this picture is very fine—I always liked it." I said: "He was rather stouter when I saw him." W., "Can it be? In my time, usually thinner than this—this already is fat." Spoke with Clark about Eistedfodd—the pronounciation of the word. "I received a letter—a very interesting—even strong—one—about it—and a paper, too—from my friend Ernest Rhys—over there in England. By the by, I sent them off just this evening to Dr. Bucke. The Welsh people, as Rhys makes them out, are warm, flush,—not flamboyant—but flowing, radiant—in their poetic, musical, forms"—and so on.

     Handed me a pamphlet in "Riverside Literature Series" containing some Lincoln speeches and Lowell's Essay on Lincoln. "If you think this would in any way appeal to you, Horace—you can have it—take it along. They had a piece of mine

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in it, which was all blundered, bad—I tore it out, sent it back, with the message that it would not do."
He looked over the book—became a little doubtful. "I don't know—probably this is not the book: but it was just such a volume." As we were about to leave W. asked: "And how's the family, Tom? Is the baby come about all right?" And to the favorable response, "Good! Good!" Harned asked: "Are you coming up tomorrow, Walt?" "That remains to be seen." "I'll open a bottle of champagne for you." "That's good—the very best—inducement, to be sure." Tom then to Clark: "Walt won't eat anything at my house any more, but he'll crack a bottle of champagne with me any time. His doctor keeps pegging good advice into him." W. protested with a laugh— "No—it's not because of the admonitions of the Doctor—it's because the cookery is so tempting—I take more than I ought to." Harned expressed some doubt of the effect of champagne on himself, but W. insisted banteringly: "For me, champagne is the top of the list: then, Tom, it's to be remembered there are some people to whom good things—champagne for one—are particularly addressed—and I think I am one of those people. But whether I come up or not, I should be glad to have you come in here—both of you." Morris will have the translation ready early next week. W. "pleased" with the notion of "having it back again."


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