Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, February 1, 1890

     7.50 P.M. W. reading the Century—and after cordially extending his own and grasping my hand—spoke freely of the magazine. "It is in some ways an interesting number. There's

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a fine picture of Forrest—one of the best I know—I suppose it would be called a success. On the other hand the Emerson picture—much spoken of—is a failure—at least, that would be my opinion. It is full figure—and the figure not bad—the body. I saw him many, many times, at all stages of life from very young years—when he was not famous at all—really only debuting—and I judge the body, as we have it here, not unfortunate. But the face—oh! the face is badly amiss. I don't know but it has that same quality we would not admit of in the London News picture of me—a sort of foxiness—sourness—sick-at-the stomachness—at no time belonging to Emerson. But the article, giving the boy's recollections (Woodbury's) of Emerson, has a quality which will attract you, as it attracts me. What is there about Emerson which we would not read?"

     I had not yet seen the Century. Had his poem appeared? "Yes—it has its place. And I don't know but I have a slip here to give you"—hunting in a package held between two pieces of pasteboard—handing me the slip finally. "I think that is the last." And further: "You must take it anyhow, even though it appears the last. There are so many of these 'last copies' of this thing or that turning up here every day that I often wish they really had been the last."

     Asked me after news: "We have no news here—we are retired from all that."—And again— "What about the city—Philadelphia: is it busy, varied, gay, businessy? Warren was over today, and came back describing the streets—everybody in a hurry—the cars—noises—cries—children." Again, of domestic matters: "Harry Fritzinger opened his grocery store today—or perhaps you knew of it?" And W. laughing with great heartiness: "It seems the great demand today was for clothes-line—numbers of people coming in and asking for clothes-line! What a mystery the human mind has come to be—the critter—or always was!" How about the Times interview?

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"It was a surprising patchwork—Jim Scovel's without a doubt: it sounds like Jim—it don't sound in the least like me." Scovel has admitted its authorship and spuriousness to Harned—said even that there was much more that the Times people had cut out.

     W. questioned: "Who will be the laureate after Tennyson is gone? Has William Morris the right quality?"—but there was Morris' radicalism— "I suppose that is enough bar: he could hardly be stomached." He regretted Tennyson's absence from Browning's funeral. "He should have been there—should have gone—if he had to be carried: I do not like his absence."

     The debate in Congress (House of R.) over Reed's ruling to count all members present towards a quorum, even if they did not vote—had arrested W.'s attention. "My first impression was that the Republican position was right—but since I have seen various signs of arbitrariness which I do not like—which raised doubts. All these fellows are petty—are today's men—work for as in today. I remember Gurowski, how, in giving us points on Russian affairs, would indicate certain special men and say—these men are working not only for today but with reference to the next thousand years. The wise Count—after he was done his swearing! But our fellows never show so big an eye—they see only today—sometimes only the small part of today—as these fellows now. I used to think Colfax was a great 'muff'—until one day in Washington a little affair came along which set him up in our estimation. The question was over some member clapped in jail for contempt of Congress. Colfax had letters belonging to this man in his possession—and a member of the Committee in charge asked him a question: would you not deliver up—open—these letters? And he negatived the question. What! not even at command? And at this the old man fired up—I never knew how—never supposed there burned that much in him—fired up and exclaimed—though not quite so profanely— 'No—

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no—I'd see us all in hell first!'
To some of us—O'Connor—me—Colfax was that night famous. It gave me much hope of a latent substance even in the old cods from whom so little usually is to be expected. But all in all Colfax was a little man—was ascendent by something else than native power."

     I did not tell W. I had heard from Bucke, but asked him if he had—and this led him to speak of Bucke's hospital proposition. "He made a good deal of that some months ago, then dropped it. Now the fault seems to be mine—to have come from some little reference in a letter I recently wrote him and of which Doctor makes the most. I am not inclined to change from my old position. Doctor makes too much of one side of the prospect—there are a hundred other influences of which he can know nothing at all—perhaps no one can know but me. It is the attitude of the neck-tie man, to whom all civilization, prosperity, advance, what-not, hangs upon the ups and downs of the neck-tie trade—high power or low—big orders or little. And yet the world includes just about a million other worlds about as big as his own." I urged: "But he sees certain material benefits in such a change for you and thinks they would compensate, and more, for all you lose." But W. shook his head: "The hospital move does not impress me—I see things Doctor cannot see. I do not tumble to the idea at all!" And again— "Don't worry that I will go off without letting you know!"

     One of his expressions: "We all make our plans for living out-of-doors—but never live there (I am as bad as the rest!)" Spoke of days in Washington "when some of the fellows would come down from New York, Boston—Otis was one of them—and bring copies of the big dailies—one for me—one for O'Connor—perhaps for others. They were great treats!"

     The fact that I heard Brinton lecture on the peoples of Africa Friday caused W. to urge me to ask B., to what extent if any, the Moors were related to the negro. "I have always had

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a suspicion they were not related, but my suspicion never rose to a certainty."

     When I started up, W. asked: "Where are you going when you leave here?" And learning to Harned's, he pulled open the table drawer and gave me his whiskey-bottle to get filled. "Harned has the best viand under the sun," he said. Then he made up a couple of doughnuts into a package, "one for Mrs. Harned—one for Tom"—which he insisted I should take, as I did.


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