Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, February 13, 1890

     5.35 P.M. W. sat by the bed-room window, his dinner just done, his attitude pensive or musing. I returned him the Tennyson book. His questions were many and curious, without committing him, yet indication of the lines in which he had himself hoped. "Is there any weakness? Does he show any sign of failing—even a slight sign? No? How does it average? Has it an average?" And on my remark that Tennyson certainly expressed more strength than—for instance—was expressed in Whittier, W. assented: "That is so—thoroughly so: Whittier has very few strings—very few—to his harp—only three or four—though, to be sure, these are pure and strong."


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     Gave me Poet Lore for February, with the remark, when I told him that Prof. Seidensticker (represented therein by an essay—"The Relation of English to German Literature in the Eighteenth Century") was a friend of my father's: "I have read the article—it is quite good—suggestive." These were really the only pages of the magazine cut.

     Brinton said in the course of a letter I received today: "Thanks for conveying my wishes to W. W. In whatever shape he is moved to express himself, prose or verse, as a letter or a prefatory remark, brief or lengthy, it will be welcome to me, and appreciated by all lovers of the strong men of history." W. exclaimed upon my reading: "That is certainly fine—fine—fine! I shall do what I can for him—certainly shall do something if the spirit impels me—and I always wait for that, as you know." And when I told him of a judgment I heard the other day—that W. is "the only writer in America now of the first rank," W. jokingly and laughingly said: "If that is so—if I am in any danger that people will think so of me, I had better watch myself more closely—for fear my house of cards may be shaken, shattered—should collapse utterly."

     He made some reference to the murder trial still going on up the street—but thought the story "horrible—lacerating" in its details. Spoke of a proposition now to bridge the Delaware. "I was out a long time today—it was mild—sweet: we went to the river—saw it go past—the sky above—across there the big town." And "how sad" the prospect that the islands were "doubtless to be torn away!" And yet would they not be necessary if the bridge project now in Congress came to a head? "Oh! the bridge appeals to me—it should come: a grand, expansive undertaking it would be! I am always in favor of great bridges—great roads. Fifty years or so ago—or forty—there was a scheme to connect all America by noble roads—the west to the east—the north to the south—and some of them were even commenced. There are said to be several great roads—roads that will compare with the Roman,

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the best so far known in history—out around Pittsburgh. But the scheme came to nothing—for soon we had the cars—the great railraods—and then such a thing as a turnpike became vulgar—no one would hear to it. And yet a great road is a great moral agent. Oh! a great road is not the stone merely, or the what-not, that goes to make it—but something more—far more!"


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