Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, February 8, 1890

     7.25 P.M. W. in his room as usual, reading the paper. Did not look comfortable and said he did not feel so. Day badly inclement. No outing.

     Complained somewhat: "I haven't heard from Phillips—Melville Phillips. I hope he will send me proofs. It is provoking to be left without proofs." And as to any "contract" with M. P. (I heard a contract reported in Philadelphia among the literary fellows)— "I am not conscious of a contract—indeed, should like to know what for—what it could be for—"&c. The photograph he had not heard of. "The result is dubious. Once in many, many trials something turns up unexpectedly good—but in the great mass of trials the outcome is a damned farrago—a libel of libels—past all one's patience." "They have the metal, the light, the room, me—yet have none!—that is, they have them really only when they have them in a certain way—in their harmonies."

     Referred to Carlyle's latter-day sorrow over "the toil and moil" of the world—wrong in its coach-and-four—right then trudging afoot. "I do not think any trace of such a thing is to be found in me—in my book—in Leaves of Grass: I know it has never animated me—put me by a straw's measure to right, to left: altered my career, life, work, in any way—not affected it in the slightest. I would no more question it—the

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existence of such facts—nor that they mean the best, either, than question the law of gravitation. If John Smith leans too far over the housetop—falls over—it is sorrowful for him, but good for the universe: if the universe spared him the law—what then? Facts are divine—they are so and so. The toil and moil side must not get too strong—or at any rate a dark—hold on us. I feel that I am exempt—that Leaves of Grass is exempt—from the faintest tinge of a tinge of a question!"

     Book sale chronicled in the Critic has a 1st. edition of L. of G. selling for 15 dollars. W. said it "amused" him—and added: "If I had some of 'em now, I might have 'em set me up!" Then, poking the fire and laughing: "They say—some of them—that the first edition sold—sold through the good Emerson's letter—but that's not true: nobody would have 'em, for gift or price: nobody: some even returned their copies:—editors—others. You can rely upon Dr. Bucke's book on all those matters: it is all verified—there is no mystery there to clear up: that is all thorough, authentic—substantially from my own hands."

     Thought Garland's enthusiastic greeting of Howells in the current Standard as the American novelist, par excellence—the man most typically hitting off American life— "probably with some justification"—yet— "I am not a reader of stories—would not dare say a word in that direction myself." He was greatly interested in the details I gave him of Lumholtz's Australian experiences.


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