Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 277] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sunday, February 2, 1890

     9.45 A.M. W. just finishing breakfast. Looked fresh and well. I gave him his bottle of whiskey, secured from Harned last evening. It was not the bottle he had sent, but a better one, which he remarked, adding comically— "and I guess it holds just as much, too—which is important!" Asked then: "How are they all at Harned's? And the baby? Oh! the dear baby!" At this point, looking out of the window, I saw a bright, beautiful baby playing inside the window opposite—remarking it. W. thereupon: "Yes—and we are great friends, too,"—at this starting to look for something in the confusion of the table. My inquiries developed that he was looking for a cork to stop a little bottle on the table. "I was going to send you over to lift the window and give the baby a little bit of cologne, but somehow the cork is gone—utterly gone—at least for the present, and I'll have to postpone my good intentions—or their enactment!" And still he looked and looked, finally, however, giving up the search. "The scoundrelly cork is here somewhere—but not here to my asking. I think I inherit from my father a disinclination to throw anything away—I keep every odd and end that falls to me."

     The little snow that had fallen in the night was now fast melting—the day of the dreariest character. W.'s description

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 278] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
of the snow: "It don't seem to have a manly character—it seemed rather to sneak in—now to sneak out again!" I picked up from under his rocker a striking portrait of Johnston. "It came yesterday," he said, "and surprisingly good it is!" And after fruitlessly looking for something else— "There came along in the same mail, from the men up in New York who have invented the Walt Whitman cigar, a label—but it, too, is lost, just now, here in the general mess. There is a portrait—and all comes with a letter. I intended you should have it."

     He suggested to me: "Go to see the Alexander picture at the Academy—see what you can make of it—I want to hear. And tell Aggie to go, too—tell her to look at it—take what measure she can of it. The papers are making some to-do about it, but then I put no value whatever in the newspaper criticisms—the snap judgments of editors." "But," I said, "here is Harned, he has met Boyle, who says it is of high merit." At this W. added: "Well—I should not so airily reject that—that has considerable pith, coming from such a man. But anyhow, you go see it yourself—tell me what are your own feelings." And he reminded me again— "Have Aggie go—with you if she can—but go." On the score of Boyle's severe criticism of Gilchrist's Whitman, W. protested— "That is putting it extremely, I guess, but"—and he said no more—the "but" standing for a certain mild participation, as I knew, in Boyle's repulsion.

     A thought he frequently has on his lips, he repeated this morning: "The children should be taught to draw—among the first things. How were Brinton's charts Friday night? So much comes easily to a man if he has some knowledge of drawing; especially to the speaker. See what power you say Morse wields by being able to make his statements, justify himself, armed with a piece of chalk!"

     I found on the floor, under the wood-pile (which I accidentally disturbed) a broken picture (unmounted) of W. W. It was

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 279] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
cut in half—a picture rarely used—a hand supporting the head—a Bryantesque look throughout—less the vigor, more the polish, than in nature. W. said as he gave it to me: "I did intend to destroy it, but if you must you must! I put no value upon it."

     Clipping from a local paper (unidentified), dated Feb. 2, 1890 re the 60th—Annual Exhibition—Penna. Academy of the Fine Arts

WALT WHITMAN'S PORTRAIT AND THE REST
Mr.J. W. Alexander's portrait of Walt Whitman, which was fortunately painted before his recent illness, easily leads the portraiture of the Exhibition in one direction just as Miss Cecilia Baux's beautiful pastel [of Miss Burnham] does in another. Mr. Alexander has chosen to minimize the vigorous physical personality of his subject, and he has left the robust poet sitting on something very like a bicycle saddle. The head is, besides, a bit vague in the treatment of hair. But the work, as a whole, is noble, effective, and elevated. It has about it a dignity and poetic feeling to rejoice over, and gives with great fidelity a high and tender side of a great man and a noble figure in letters and life.



Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.