Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, April 15, 1890

     In at W.'s on my way home, at 5.15. He sat close by the fire in his room, his shawl about his shoulders (the day cooler than yesterday)—ruminating. I shook hands—asked him how he felt. He said: "Not as robust as yesterday—not so sassy—but still stupendously determined." Jastrow had come in to tell me today that Higginson was in town and would come. W. exclaimed on my repeating it— "Oh! damn Higginson!" And when I said further, "He is staying with Miss Repplier I believe,"—he added— "and damn Miss Repplier—damn 'em both: that's my compliment to them!" And yet with a laugh— "Let him come: it can do no one harm."

     W.'s manuscript there on the table, tied up in the covers. He has been writing a few words of new introduction—one of the discarded sheets of which was on the table and he had me read. Asked me about the carriage. We will take the 8 o'clock boat, in order to get W. there late, and have him start at once:

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it is his own desire. "No reception," he said, "you do quite right, boy—Horace. Keep 'em off! No gush, no heat: a sacred act—entrance: a word of reverence: let that be its spirit, its dome, enclosing all!" He asked again: "You are going with us? We want you."



     Down again to W.'s at 7.40 —he in his unlighted room, asleep. Carriage at the door. I gave the driver his directions. Overhead, cloud: the air chill—but neither mist nor storm. Things so far reasonably auspicious.

     Warren and I proceeded at once to W.'s room, Warren lighting a candle. W. was roused by our entrance—got up instantly. "I was fast asleep," he explained, "but am ready—just as you decide." Inquired if the carriage was there—and "is it a closed carriage?" then—laughing— "Well—if we go overboard we'll all be drowned! It's an ignominious death!" So we helped him on with his hat. He suggested taking the blue wrapper. It was rather dilapidated—Warren looked at me—urged the shawl instead and I reinforced him. So the shawl was pinned about his shoulders. Once, trying to stand up, he fell forward, only restrained by Warren's hand and my own from falling. Weak. The downstairs trip was rather unsteady. "I still feel queer in my smooth new shoes," he explained; but there was weakness, too, of which he took no regard. Had he the manuscript? "Oh yes! it is here—in my pocket"—clapping his hand there. Downstairs he stopped in the hall half a minute, to further adjust the shawl—then with us into the carriage: unevenly down the step, across the pavement—leaning heavily on Warren. He and Mrs. Davis sat in the back of the carriage, Warren and I opposite. Walt at once inquired if the windows were open—learning that they were, was satisfied.

     I had received a letter form Bucke today—very dubious about W.—the "instability" of things. I wrote instantly, describing W.'s improvement. Now I told W. of Bucke's probable early visit—then that B. had promised me a piece for the Conservator on "W. W. and Modern Science." W. was much

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struck with "the pungency of that question"—said it brought back Brinton to him. Then wondered— "Has Brinton much [use?] for poetics?" I replying— "Modern men of science look for something in literature which they rarely find: Brinton is one of these men: he sees much in Browning, espouses Leaves of Grass." W. thereupon: "That is very significant: there must be something in Browning, when such fellows hold to him: to me it is an unread—not necessarily a flouted story." Electric lights everywhere on streets and boat blinked him. "They are too strong for my old sight." Yet on the boat a sign on one of Strawbridge and Clothier's wagons—a small line of letters, 10 feet at least distant—he saw with precision. We thought his sight not so bad as he imagined, but he insisted— "It is going—it is going: I know it—feel it." Talked of the beauty of the wagon, its mirror: then upon Warren's reference to the current of the Ganges, questioned him definitely of details. At the ferry he waved his hand to several of the men— "How are you, boys?"—no incident, however: I did not press talk. He thought the river "a trifle coolish, but refreshing."

     We drove out Market Street to Broad and down Broad. W. talked little. Said at one moment reflectively, touching Bucke's complaint of health: "Doctor has waged a long and heroic fight: it is in his mould." Occasionally peered out at some object. "Things look familiar." Coming off the boat, laughed— "Yes—here are the gin mills, all in place!" The Broad Street coaches attracted him—especially the people on top. "It is a reminder: it stirs up memories."

     As we drove up at the Art Club (8.24), Harned stood there, the first to greet us, calling out word: then Frank Williams—Morris—and quickly Talcott Williams from indoors. It was a laborious task getting him upstairs to the 2nd. floor (the elevator inoperative): W. insisted on walking: which was done, slow-paced, several supporting him, but Warren mainly. At the summit I gave him a chair, on which he fell heavily, much

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exhausted: "I feel dazed: my head is in a whirl: let us pause here." He left hat and shawl with us—waved his hand to several standing about the doorway: greeted Morris. Then, when recovered in port, was led by Warren to the stand: a low platform, 2 feet high. Morris and Frank Williams had placed some lilacs there on the table. A little whispered collocation with the chairman and with Tom Dudly, who greeted him, then—first regarding the lilacs, had them put aside—so as to command the table. Read preliminarily a few written paragraphs of introduction, then the lecture as known in print. W. sat with his legs crossed—his arms on the arm of the chair—the body resting to the left. His position was easy, however: he seemed to read with difficulty—or to see so. A light brought him did not better the situation. His tone strong, melodic,—at times rising to great eloquence—as when treating of the battle fields—then of Lincolnian meanings. His figure—background: all grand. It was an extraordinary gathering—from 3 to 4 hundred. A victory his, after 3 decades of scorn and slander—brought into the very citadel of literary fashion and bequeathed the hour's (and future's) triumph. He was applauded several times—once responding with a wave of the hand. At times he would throw his body back in order the more sharply to define his emphases. After he had finished the address, he read "O Captain!"—with greatest effect—power and pathos.

     Nor did he hurry out at once when done: stayed for Furness' talk—occupying about 10 minutes—rather inconsequential—applauding him, pushing his own chair back on the platform. His going was much as his coming. Everybody rose spontaneously with his own rising. He greeted some by name—H. H. Furness, for one. Halted in the hallway a minute, sitting—we adjusting his coat and hat. Would he have something? First he rather thought yes: what had we? But again: "I guess, nothing. No, Horace—thank you. You know the old saying—silver is good, but gold is better: it would be

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nice to have some, but nicer not."
This the briefest sketch of a memorable, impressive evening. His voyage to the carriage laborious: he took the flowers with him. I did not take the return trip with them. "Thank God for the open air!" he exclaimed on getting outside. How did he feel? "Oh! all right! I'll stand it!" And so good night!


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