Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, February 3, 1890

     7.35 P.M. W. said on my entrance: "Someone has been sending me a copy of The Scottish-American in which there is an account of the Burns celebrations. I find that the drift now is towards musical celebrations—no longer banquets, speeches, hot-Scotch. It is a sign of the times."

     W. had been frequently making lunches and sending them to the sick girl next door. As to the Philadelphia dinner: "Do what you think best. No doubt in some way—if it is quiet, unpretentious—I will connive at it some way. I accept the spirit in which such things come; could not, consistently myself, disregard them." But— "as I have said, simplicity, simplicity—informality—no brass bands!" Said he was "thoroughly sensitive, responsive, to the enjoyabilities of such a

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compliment."
Added: "You know, I love the good things—am awake to personality, contact, sympathy, emotionality, at all times, anywhere."

     I read Woodbury's Emerson sketch in the Century today, and now said to W.— "The reference made to you there was somewhat mystifying." He then: "So I thought." Woodbury reports Emerson as saying: "'Leaves of Grass,' by Walt Whitman, is a book you must certainly read. It is wonderful. I had great hopes of Whitman until he became Bohemian. He contrasts with Poe, who had an uncommon facility for rhyme"—&c. W. continued: "That sounds Edwardish, as if Edward Emerson had a hand in it. Some of the fellows had—still have—the idea of me, that I'm a big, blustering, swearing creature—going about with a red shirt on—sleeves rolled up—quid of tobacco in my cheek—saying 'lubber' and 'damn' and achieving a general toughiness. This article is collated—put together from various occasions. I can see Emerson in parts of it—but it lacks sap—is no doubt a good deal, even if unconsciously, made up. For no matter what a man hears, if it is not in him to do so, he will not report faithfully—like an artist who cannot paint out of his good intentions alone, but must have a bottom to him somewhere." As to the portrait of Emerson in the same magazine: "It finds its way into you anyhow." I told him of tbe humorous insistence of Shillaber that Emerson's was an idiotic smile. "No matter for the smile: a man is made not by his smile but by the measure of his personality."

     Said the appearance of his little piece in yesterday's Press was "the first notion" he had that "it was bought by a syndicate" "This tells us who File is." We had an intensely interesting talk over what W. himself denominated his "whether-or-no-ness"—whether he felt "self-justified" in his later work—the work of recent years. Morris came in the bank today in high pleasure over the Century poem, which he called "of the highest." W. said: "I am glad to hear that from

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Morris—from a fellow trained in the art-side of life. There are times when the verdict of a craftsman counts for something."
And then: "I set this off as a distinct thing, for instance, from Bucke's comment. I feel that Bucke is apt to take it for granted that everything is all right. There are times when we prefer the questioner. I for my part have never been deeply convicted on the point of the late poems—never absolutely certain of myself—of results. To be sure I am convinced all has forged forward from a poetic background—out of appropriate, deepest poetic seeing, emotionality—uttered in a setting of genuine sympathy: but whether here at last comes morbidity, introspection—forbidden, forbidding appearances—in that is the rub." W. said further: "I have put the bucket deep in me—brought water from the deepest deeps—questioned—and though inclined to be convicted, am not." But I argued—why necessarily weakening because changing field? Death, pain, age, are only disease when the observer makes them so. W. thereupon: "So it seems to me: and I think it is in such a conviction I shall abide. I never forget Mrs. Gilchrist's solicitude—and she was one of the cutest women ever born, and signal among my friends—; her solicitude in fear—dread—that I would go off into pensivity. She would say, What has Walt Whitman to do with sunsets: I cannot conceive of him having anything to do with disease, old age, pain, invalidism, sunsets, sitting in an old cane chair—or housed in any way—or the like. That was Mrs. Gilchrist."


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