Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, February 10, 1890

     5.30 P.M. Spent half an hour with W. in his own room. Had just finished his afternoon meal; now sat reading the local papers. I did not think he seemed exceedingly well. It having been quite cool, even cold, he had not ventured out today. His first question to me was about the temperature. "Pretty cold—isn't it? Too cold to be out?" And yet when I told him of Harned's sickness and my belief that much of it came from too much in-doorness, he averred: "I can see it well: one must in a way, live with out-of-doors"—for— "How much of all disease comes from the stomach—how much if not all! And the stomach is in direct communication with the sun, the air, the rivers—" &c. Then he amusedly asked me— "you have not seen my new mittens, have you?"—after some search pulling them out from under a pile of papers. "There—see these! Ain't they fine!" And then he went into child-like playing over them. "What struck me most was their seamlessness—their one-piecedness." And he enlarged on the wonder of mechanism through which they had grown. He spoke of his "growing sensitiveness," to the cold and that "these aids are not to be sneezed away"—though there was a time when his "blood flowed that freely" he "could almost have dispensed with covering altogether." "Mary got them for me—they were recommended to her there in the city as policemen's mitts. So," laughing, "you see the new category I am included in!"

     Said he had "a long letter from Sidney—from Morse." Then: "I have not given it the careful reading I want to yet; when I do you shall have it. He sends along two newspaper bits—one about his own doings, goings-about—the other an old clipping about our dinners here." Then the mention of Morse seemed to arouse some other matter. "Did you ever meet Leonard Morgan Brown when he was here? It was several years ago—Morse was with me at the time—a fine fellow. We all liked him—Morse did—and Mary, too: he impressed

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her. He was Ernest Rhys without Rhys' articulateness—strangely reserved—a strong, unspeaking, patient nature: had not the literariness, the discursive power, of Rhys—a rather sickly fellow, having trouble with his body—a constant contending as I understand it. I hear from him from time to time. He is now in London—teaching. Today his letter contained a five-pound note—I shall probably have you get it changed for me."
&c.

     He advised me: "I have been thinking today about your mention of my birthday. If you decide to take any notice of it, it appears to me, the best thing to do would be to make it 'the young people's compliment to Walt Whitman.' That would tickle me—I am curious to know how much the young people count—and it would better answer your own plans, perhaps. And then, have the girls there: it is not a little in my mind, how the girls are appealed to—it has, oh! a great significance—a great!" And in the course of remarks that followed: "Oh! 40 is not old! I consider even some centurions young! See Bob—why, Ingersoll is young to the core—heart, speech,—his vivacity inextinguishable—a child of the modern—if the modern can be so talked of as young—and I guess it can."

     J. L. G. Ferris wrote in Sunday's Press (in connection with the Academy Exhibition): "Mr. Alexander's portrait of Walt Whitman should be taken notice of. The picture, without a doubt, has been painted only for that purpose. Nothing else will excuse the personal liberties taken with the bard." W. said: "Yes, liberties! Damn their lights—the whole kit of them! These artists are spoiled by the iniquities of the time. The drift of art everywhere—literature—have the vice common to theology, the clergy, churches—what they call religion (what impudence to call that religion!)" "The belief that things are explicated in parts—portions—details—prettinesses: as if nature ever in anything took the small way of communication!" And then: "I want you to go see it—to tell

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me frankly—I know you will: I hardly need to say that—what you think of it—the whole story of it."
I said I had met Boyle at the Club last week and asked him what he thought of Gilchrist's Whitman, Boyle replying: "I don't like it at all—I don't like anything he does—I don't like the man!" W. smiled and asked, "Are they his words?"—and to my assent— "It is important to know what such a man thinks,"—though very cautious as I could see, not to say a word in the direction of endorsement.


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