Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, February 5, 1890

     7.30 P.M. W. has improved over condition of yesterday. Less depressed. "Out today? Oh, yes! We took quite a long jaunt." And again: "I had a letter from Bucke to cheer me: it was a jolly one. He does not refer to the hospital matter again." One of his curious statements: "The fellows who wrote up Socrates—Plato, whoever—had many axes to grind—so they ground them and put Socrates' name on the result." The Emerson writer in The Century "dialogued—reported—Emerson efficiently, after a sense." But was the dialogue dull? He thought so, "therein certainly losing position when contrasted with the reports of the Socratean conversations."

     He spoke of the Nicolay-Hay Lincoln. I called it "a lost opportunity"—the death of Lincoln opening up much which they had not availed themselves of. W. then: "You think so? They stole a part of that from me—not in this number but in the last—in the account of the assassination—not successive passages—here and there I could get glimpses—not of me alone but of others." I spoke of W.'s own vividness and pulse—and then of Brinton's speech the other night— "So simple, they thought nothing was in it: yet it was crowded with matter." W. then: "That is good—that is noble—that is the whole story—so simple they thought there was nothing in it! That is the whole story—the inevitability of the result, out of the simplest means." Questioning me of Lumholz—I promised sometime in my leisure to give him an account of curious bits of information imparted. When he sees me now with a copy

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of L. of G., he jokingly asks— "Whitman's Bible eh? God help you!"

     This is one of the ways he illustrates narrow reasoning: "Like the man who gets sick and blames all his trouble on boiled oysters: he had been just on the point of sickness—anything would have turned the scale—the whole body was eligible to disturbance: then he takes the oysters and the deed is done! A thousand other things would have caused the same trouble—the oysters only brought matters to a head—yet the oysters alone are rebuked." "It is a good sample of average reasoning, where men don't look for the cause of the cause of things."

     He spoke of "how one's egotism carries him a great way towards endurance. It is so with me—I have stuck and stuck—through a something within me which my enemies would think hopeless conceit." And so, of "the rounded Leaves of Grass" as turning up in the recent poems about old age as in previous poems of the then contemporaneous— "You are quite right there—I am fully convinced on that point—my egotism, if nothing more, holds me fast there."

     Referred to Stedman's "stained glass" epithet again and then proceeded to talk of stained glass itself. "I was in such a stained glass establishment some years ago in New York. What wonderful work they do! I looked at things long and long and long. Going at the old rate, what must they not be able to do now." We had some talk about the proposed dinner. I explained that it was the opinion of Morris and Frank Williams that W. should not embrace the tender—that the young men were more concerned to advertise their journal (Society) than for anything else &c. W. said: "I put myself in your hands. You say Morris and Frank are quite agreed? Then let me give the declination courteous!" And even of the proposed celebration of his birthday, which we have long had in mind,— "Don't force anything: if anything suggests itself—

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arises spontaneously—proceed—not otherwise. Don't get into anything extreme: as I told you, no brass bands!"


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