Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, March 3, 1890

     7.45 P.M. Night very cold. W. in his room. Not reading. Fire brisk—room hot and close. He asked me immediately about the weather. Not out of course today. He said of his own occupations: "I have written a long letter to John Burroughs, which I sent off tonight—a letter to Dr. Bucke, which also went off tonight—a postal card to Mary Costelloe. These things serve to keep a man awake. Letters coming this way have lately been few. The letters I have received have been mostly of the autograph kind: asking by media of subterfuge. One letter that came was the funniest, the damnedest—. A woman, in the west, in Iowa, Kansas, somewhere, said she

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had heard I gave away copies of Leaves of Grass: which proving so, would I not send a copy to her? That seemed the damnedest I ever heard."
And he laughed most heartily.

     Asked after Dave McKay—then of authors and publishers—instancing Emerson's "wise management of his own plates: ordering a thousand printed from time to time, and so keeping track of his affairs on his own book. John Burroughs thinks he has been most horribly swindled by the publishers. He has not said anything about it to me lately but that used to be his idea. John's books have a wide currency—seem to go pretty much everywhere—and there ought to be some income from them."

     Referred to the Le Coney trial— L. acquitted today. "The main notion seemed to be, to get somebody badly licked: for the truth, no one seemed to care—no one." "Looking at such events, we seem to breathe in a world of lies."

     A letter to me from Williamson (N.Y.) today, asking after W.'s condition and if he could stand the fatigue of sittings for Sergeant, the painter, now from England, if he came on here. W. said: "I don't know what I think, if anything: I have no inclination any way—for or against—except, perhaps, against." But I questioned— "What shall I tell Williamson? I shall write to him." W. then: "If you write him say, yes, let Sergeant come—I will give him all the help I can. Visits—occurrences—of that kind, break in somewhat pleasantly upon the dreary, monotonous life we lead. I cannot promise any great help—perhaps to give him two or three half-hours. When Eakins came, he would spend from half an hour to an hour—and he was a man good to have around—possessed of marked peculiarities. There are pictures and pictures. That Gutekunst picture that your father threw into that great scale, with such noble results—it would be hard to beat that. I can easily see how that should be our final pictorial counterfeit. It thoroughly fills and satisfies me. I suppose we all have a little vanity," &c.


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     He said he had been reading Jefferson's memoirs in the Century "carefully" and was "bound to say" he was "not much impressed" since "Jefferson seems to know remarkably little of events that you would think naturally his own by right of profession." And then: "There are some writers who, knowing the character they have in hand to like corned beef and cabbage, will argue for pages the reason for such a sympathy. Jefferson does so with Forrest—argues elaborately upon points the public cares nothing whatever for—need not know about. I have seen Jefferson act many a time: he is an ad captamdum man—a man of the school of men who, having a character in rags to portray, piles on the rags to the point of suffocation—till the whole affair becomes farcical." As to Sir William Don: "He was not a man of the highest talent, but in the range of his art (to use a very loathsome word) he had certain gifts not to be denied."


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