Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, February 24, 1890

     7.45 P.M. I received a letter from Brinton this morning, saying the Bruno matter would be in type the last of this week. Not having time to go down to W.'s I sent him a note by mail. The first thing now after shaking hands (he was in his room as usual, reading) he said: "I had your note this morning, and"—putting his hand into his inside vest pocket and drawing forth an envelope boldly addressed "Dr. Brinton"— "here is a word or two—probably 5 or 6 lines—impromptued today. They may do—may not: I can hardly say: you will know, I am sure. Send them to the Doctor if you think they will serve his purpose. I am sure I feel it an honor to be asked, and am glad to have my word go in there, for I feel it is in good company." I met Davidson yesterday and he told me his own speech was to go along with Brinton's. "And he tells me Walt Whitman is to write the preface." I laughed at the idea of "preface," though sure W. would write a few lines, as now he has done. At first he was going to sign simply "Walt Whitman"—but his final thought was to write— "Impromptu words of Walt Whitman"—and so it stands. "I must have proof," he further said. I put in— "I'll tell Brinton you want proof and plenty of copies!"—to which with laughter— "Yes, that is better still: that is a point we must not forget." Said he was sure he "would like Davidson." Davidson well knows Jeff. W.: "Jeff is a good deal about New York: you know, he debued [?] there!"

     Felicitated over a paragraph in the Press describing a still

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further improvement in Tennyson's condition. "They call it—'a shade better'—that's the way they put it. Well—he's an old man on the last edge of life. And there's the wife, too—the mate of him all these years: how it would treat me to see her—I don't know nearly but as much as to see him." Spoke similarly of Gladstone's long wedded life.

     Said he had heard nothing of the flash picture taken in his room. "And having heard nothing, I suppose nothing resulted. I had my doubts from the first." He asked me suddenly, with amusing color: "What do you know of Bok"—spelling his name— "the newspaper writer? He has lately come into these parts—gone on one of the weeklies. What do you know about Dr. Allibone, the quotation man? Bok is much such a man. Allibone was a sort of chief-cook-and-bottle-washer in literature—a hunter after dates,—made up of curioish tendencies—a searcher after hidden lines, useless origins, ridiculous gossipries—a sweeper of the literary floorboards—how many editions—and how bound—and where was the cloth bought—and who printed: a literary branch leading mostly into lies—not artificiality merely, but downright lies. Bok has proved a most assiduous man—as assiduous as Humboldt's Albany correspondent, who wanted an autograph, a sentiment: I believe letters two, 3, 4, 5, if not more came, and all to the same effect—kept it up for years. America is still very young, and yet seems able to support quite a number of such fellows—a crop of them. They are called literary, but God help literariness if they are literary!"

     The mention of Humboldt caused the remark that Humboldt, Macaulay and [Washington] Irving died the same year (1859)— "And Humboldt head and shoulders above both the others" W. thinks— "easily—easily. And the brother, too—Wilhelm—a great man by all my means of knowing. Sometimes they hunted double—in pairs, I think." Bok has not yet been over to see W.


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