Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, March 24, 1890

     5.45 P.M. W. reading the local papers. In his bedroom. Said at once after greeting me: "We have had a wonderful jaunt today—several hours of it. We have been at Newmayer's—looked at the picture there: and to your father's, there to see the second version. How nobly fitted your father seems for that work! These two are all in all probably the best Whitman pictures extant—oh! the best! Warren liked the second one even better than the first. I don't know if time and my own thought will justify that opinion—though it is not improbable. And the frame there at Newmayer's! It is a surprising inspiration—they tell me it was yours? I know none more fit—wonder only that they are not more common." His "jaunt" had "all been a great treat—the look-in on your father and his

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work—the turn to Newmayer's—the glimpse of the peopled streets again."

     I had a letter from Bush today. He is now back in New York. Among other things (wishing to send some) he asked the question— "Does Walt Whitman drink champagne?"—a smile playing upon W., who asked, "Does a duck swim?" and laughed heartily. "Yes—let him send a sip or two—it has a wonderful lift for a man!" Adding— "This Bush is evidently a genuine man: he serves us right and left, with the greatest generosity and willingness." His wife still in Stuttgart: he may come on to Philadelphia soon.

     W. spoke of a visit from Harned yesterday. "He came with Mrs. Harned." They had convened about the dinner, which we are to talk over informally tonight at Brinton's house. W. said: "I think I made it plain to Tom that so far as I am concerned there must be two factors not excluded—women, wine. The Camden dinner was such an unqualified success in all ways—sui generis—that one would not dare raise a word of criticism. But this is a new affair—there is time to steer it right—let us do it: or do you do it! I know there are two sides to the wine question, but this time we'll try this one!" But he warned me: "Let us have nothing high-falutin'—let everything be done in temperance: a good hand-shake there together." Yet he was in our hands— "and what you do I am sure I shall assent to."

     My invitation to attend some sort of Whitman meeting, uptown [Philadelphia] Wednesday—residence of Adams, 20th and Green—W. looked at seriously and urged me to go. I expressed some fear, lest they would call on me to say something. Whereupon W. laughingly: "Well—you can easily evade that. Tell them you will wait till you have heard all the others—then if anything needs to be added, and you have it in you to share, add it for them." I mentioned the literary dinner at which Emerson was called on for a speech—reluctantly rising—looking around upon the company, serenely

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smiling, sitting down again, no word at all said. W. remarked: "That is exceedingly fine—that is one of those natural impulses—the happy inspiration of a moment—by which men are marked for great things. I can think of Emerson so situated—the lift of the body—the poise—the smile: then the finale: all his own. Stupid! oh no! but a difficulty sublimely escaped! I know how a man often exceeds himself in such an act—surprises himself. One of the last times I was in New York some of the boys toted me around to see things—meetings, what-not. Perhaps I have told you of this. They took me one day into a meeting of infidels—horrible heretics, all—but tip-top fellows—and right up front. They were discussing blue glass: it was the time of the upness of that theory, and lots was being said. By and bye I was called on to say something—and at first I refused—but next [to] me was the good fellow who took me and he wanted me to get up—whispered, 'Get on your feet—show yourself, if no more' or something of that sort—so up I got—my full length: and put in a word or two—about to this effect: 'As long as you seem to insist upon it, here I am. I get up, the better to see you, and to be seen, face to face. As to the theory of blue-glass, I know nothing about it and shall not therefore add anything to the general fund of misinformation by attempting any share in the debate with you today.' It seemed to take them by storm: they set up a great applause. I was surprised at myself, that I so well acquitted the hour. Now, these impulsive incidents—off-throwings of the moment, would not suit men like Edward Everett—or our own Lowell—to whom elegance and care and propriety is the first consideration: the big-wigs: but to some of us, it is a solution of the whole difficulty of natural vocal expression."


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