Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, April 1, 1890

     7.30 P.M. W. in the parlor, securely wrapped in a blanket. Better? "Not much!" But wasn't something much? "I suppose it is: do you notice it in my voice? I suppose the weather will eliminate it, with much more." I said, "Yes—time and the weather." To which W.— "That is undoubtedly a great cosmic combination—the most powerful we know, against which [there is] no appeal."

     He remarked: "The Century came today," evidently desiring to turn from continued talk of his condition—a habit of his— "and it has quite a fat pouch of things good coin in the literary market—things that seem demanded. Among them, with the most excellent engravings—exceedingly fine, true—specimens of that single abomination which always makes me gag—Madonna and Child—exquisitely engraved. You and your father would enjoy the technique of it—but of all the outdated creations: it is that, surely."

     And again: "Several of the pictures in Jefferson's piece are of a high order. But the more I have seen of Jefferson himself and now see of these pictures, the more convinced I am that he is not the man to personate Rip van Winkle: Hackett was the man who could do it." And he swelt upon the joy of those early days in his own life "when stage-people were my daily bread" &c. "I think I must some day before long pick myself together and write out remembrances of the old Park Theatre.

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Rayner was one of the men there—an English gentleman. Sir William Don, later on, was a character, too. I was only a boy, but all that there was in me of the aesthetic, the musical, was stirred by their impulse. I did not know them personally. Hackett was too great a man in his way to be so obscured as he is now. Nobody seems to know of him: he was perhaps too first-rate for preservation."
I urged him to the writing. "You think I could do it offhand—impromptu? I don't know if I have the faculty for making the statement called for. There is some hint of it all in Specimen Days—the early part—but only a casual hint. I want to do it—yet I am afraid to undertake it. I am not up to exertion nowadays: what I do I must do at my ease—not with bonds upon me."

     I told him I had a note from Brinton asking how many of the Bruno books we wished and that I had replied, 50 or 75—for both our uses. W. then again spoke of the hope that Brinton would some day meet Thayer "on that, if not some other, common ground. Thayer has a special Italo-American knowledge—perhaps such knowledge as Brinton would enjoy rubbing against: I don't know—persons are hard to predict! Brinton would have to be on his guard, lest he be driven off by the first evidence in Thayer of extreme scholarship, culture, worldliness. Thayer is largely dominated by such an element, although beneath that sympathetic, emotional, to a degree, too. This quality, however, intervenes—is to be counted on. No—not as necessarily the part of the scholar. Take Sloane Kennedy—although this was inextricably mixed in his composition—as I should want it mixed,—scholarship in him and all that it implies—yet his spirit is not so mixed: his spirit is free, freeing." And there was O'Connor, too— "he was the universal democrat—a man of our own make-up. Kennedy comes by right to his scholarship: yet his spirit—the personality—is with him the first fact; the prevailing impulse. Even in his espousal of the Baconian theory, O'Connor maintained his individuality untouched—unhindered. The glory of the

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Bacon-Shakespeare plays—and O'Connor recognized it, insisted upon it—not only in what he wrote but in what he always said to me—was in the fact that they started out to make the statement of feudalism—the life of it, its persons, what-not—and made it, letting all else to take care of itself. That is art at its best—at the point where it is nature. If my own work tallies with less than this, it fails of the hope I set for it."


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