Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, March 21, 1890

     6 P.M. W. sitting in his big chair, close up to the fire, seeming to enjoy himself against the wet weather out-of-doors. Has now been kept at home days. I gave him the change for his 5-pound note. Had paid Ferguson's bill out of it.

     I had a letter from Williamson in which he said as to Sargent [letter missing]. W. remarked: "All right—let him come:

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I have no doubt I shall sit for him if he gets here—persists in his determination. It can be managed."

     We talked of Emerson's personality. Salter read an essay in Philadelphia last evening and took occasion to speak of Emerson's "flinty" personality: that it is the books, not the man, that are supremely great etc., and that E. was lacking in mobility, imagination etc. I took exception—saying to Salter that Whitman's picture to me of Emerson had been of another character. W. assented: "I am glad that you did object. That was a great mistake—a great: there is no worse error to surrender to about Emerson. As a man, a companion, an intimate, he was impeccable—a character of essences, elements—no man ever lived more so: a certain stateliness, dignity, reserve—of course he had it—but none too much—not more than was required. Who more, who ever so much as, Emerson, demanded, was entitled to, a reserve? Every man needs it. I have found even in myself the call for care, circumspection. I cannot go to Philadelphia—or could not when I got about—without guarding myself against questions, comers, strangers, reporters, writers, intrusions varied in kind. Emerson, much more subject to interruptions, bore himself grandly before them all. Emerson fulfills his work—more than fulfills it—Emerson the man glorifies Emerson the writer. I know no one of whom this can be more fitly said—no one: in fact, none so fitly. Wherever you are you can say this for me—I authorize you to say it, wheresoever. I am glad you were on hand last night to say your word of dissent, and my word in the bargain." I said I wished he had been there to speak for himself. "I wish I had been only ten minutes. But from what you say you delivered the right message." As to Emerson's being "unapproachable," I insisted— "It is according to how he was approached, whether he was approachable or not." And W. asserted that "just there is the gist of the case." Adding more fully: "Emerson was of course himself—he was not all types but one type—including all, but combining

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himself into one. He was not hail-fellow in the sense of the good general, the old sailor—the sailor put in earliest years before the mast—roughing it in that line a life through—but he was a man, every inch of him—as I may say it again, using my old story,—he was a font of type—a genuine letter—only set into a new text. The wonder is, considering all, that he maintained his phenomenal sweetness. I should wish everywhere to bear my testimony to him. The note-worthy fact is, that all our modern men—the late men—have been eminent fellows as men—in the great humanities—in personal radiance of habit, demeanor,—in pulse of comradeship: Walter Scott certainly was—and Tennyson: oh! I am sure of him. And here in America among our own men—take Bryant, for example—cold, exteriorly, in a way—marbeline—to coin a word—yet superbly true on all sides. And Whittier, too—a circumscribed nature in some ways—with an unquestioned streak of fanaticism, yet pure, human, secure—his very fanaticism no doubt his necessity."


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