Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, September 30, 1889

     8 P.M. W. in his room, reading evening mail that Ed had just brought in. I took him the five dollars from Ashton Bell. "I have the ninth volume of Webster's Mark Twain's Stedman's book," he said curiously, "and I like it well—like all the later volumes better than the earlier. In this one are extracts from O'Connor and Burroughs, and a picture of John—a good one, too"—picking the book up from the floor, searching it, finally pointing out portrait of J. B. "This is John, to be sure—a little bit of pain in it—and a stoop—but they belong to him—the picture really very like. But some of them here beat the devil. Here, look at this—Willie Winter"—pointing to a portrait that faced him— "He's a little damned fool anyway: this is all made up: in life, speech, profession, there's nothing like this to him—nothing at all: this is all damned affectation—made up for the occasion." "But there is another face I like much—Mrs. Dodge—Mary Mapes Dodge—probably because I have always sort of liked her." Contemplated her face— "A good one—don't you think? And then they're most of 'em superior in this volume." Pointing to the poem

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opposite— "The two Mysteries"—W. went on— "This is the poem—but the three or four or six lines of explanation that used to go along with it are indispensable. But I suppose they left 'em out 'for reasons.'" By some searching he found out the O'Connor pages. I examined them and said: "And not a word out of 'The Good Gray Poet'!" He asked, "Do you think there ought to be?" I answered, "Yes, I think they're like the lines to that poem—indispensable." He laughed— "So you think that? A part of 'The Carpenter' is here: I am a figure in that."

     Referred to the possibility of Arnold's return to Philadelphia. "He said he was to come from Boston to New York. No time was set, but I am sure he said he was going west." Brinton told me more definitely today that his book on rhythm and the poetic art would be scientific—concerned most for tendencies. He had not read Felton's book—would get it out of a library. W. enlarged on general talk of Greek art—methods: "They believed in the harmonies—harmonies of character—were esthetic, yet not alone that—and moralistic, too. All through history, we find—in all ancient peoples—moralism had a part. They laid a good deal of stress on the physiological man: so do we, in a sense—in the colleges, with the gymnasiums and the like—but then this is an artificial stress—like the Unitarian faith in religion, believing in cold reason, to Spanish Roman Catholicism, which will have nothing but passion, fervor. The Greek principle was one that laid primary stress here." "They did not disdain to draw analogues from the songs of birds—harmony: human character must be many-sided—not one thing alone. They were not blind to what we call the Christian virtues—neither inclined to think the Christian virtues all in all. In such respects inferior to our typical man, some would be inclined to say—in such respects superior, others—and I would be inclined to pass with the last. They would educate the whole man. Some insist they were superior in astronomy, but I am inclined to accept

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that—it appears rather to me, they were inferior. They had a music—a music of their own, undoubtedly. Felton tells in his book there of some scrap that was unearthed, even from the time of Euripides, Sophocles—which he had tried—which was enough to bring the devil out of hell. But I don't think that authentic, even to begin with: there's only one out of ten million chances that it was the thing. Then the wild notion, that an old Greek piece could be rendered—be given justice,—as a modern piano tune! It is out of respect altogether!"

     W. is writing a verse— "Champagne in Ice"—inspired by evident facts. A sheet he has been writing contains a list of philanthropic millionaires. Gave me a copy of the Harper's Weekly poem, printed on a slip by Curtz. "Bravo, Paris Exhibition"—he had changed to "Bravo, Paris Exposition!" and the line originally

      "Add to your show, dear France"

     he made—

      "Add to your show before you close it, France."—

     the change evidently necessitated by the time consumed in refusals of Herald and World to print the poem. Referred to Arnold again as "great on the globe-trot, like our own Americans, most of 'em, when they can." Was "pleased to know" Stedman had "made quotations from Ingersoll in the book." "Some would not have done it."


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