Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 366] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, April 16, 1890

     5.10 P.M. W. in his room. I found him engaged, writing a piece which he had headed— "Walt Whitman address night"—part of it on opened envelopes, part on brown paper, and part on good cap: 4 or 5 pages (small).

     I inquired at once how he had weathered the night past. "Oh! we got home trim: it was a good ride, both ways: such an easy carriage! And then our human man who drove us! We held our chin up very well. The thing we ought to felicitate ourselves on, is, that we didn't give out altogether—that we came out of it alive! It was a good trip: I enjoyed it: it was a full breath—a new aroma. . . . Why! you certainly got together there a tony crowd—such handsome women: I looked about—saw so many: young, older—even the old ladies! And so many in what they call evening dress—gaiety, light. My own feeling was, that in such a place, on such a platform, where the usual man comes, grammatical, accurate, literary, polished, elegant, a dash of the un-couth, of the un-elegant—a strain from other altitudes—from open-airs, I hope—the light and shade of woods, our river, the sea—comes well—comes appropriately—may fill in a need, expedite social evolution. Oh! it was there the emphasis laid itself—I took it all in curiously." He confessed that his eyes troubled him, and inquired— "But did you hear? did they all hear, do you think?"

     He had not yet seen the portrait (his own) in the Illustrated American—current number: now I called his attention to it—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 367] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
showed him a copy. He asked— "You will leave this with me?" And then: "It is the Sarony picture: and look here—he has put a harp on it! I should say, heave all that away—the harp, the wreath, this line"—indicating a plain line about the picture. Then, consulting a little 3-inch article inside,— "They asked it from me and I sent it—but this facsimile I intended for the portrait page: well! well! it don't seem to matter what you tell these fellows—they go about it their own way anyhow! Certainly it's pretty good: he has the idea of the hair—makes it in wave, not curled—and the shadows not so deep as in the original, and better not." Said something vehemently again about editors and their habits.

     Spoke about his writing. Had felt well enough to go at it. "I slept well after the storm: all seemed well-ordained. I promise you the additional matter in manuscript—a copy of it, someway: I think I may in a day or two have it all printed." Said: "Dave reports to me that this paper will not thrive—does not—cannot live. But perhaps that is only one side of the story—the side of outside business judgment—by no means always correct." I gave him a mucilage bottle, self-sponging—which seemed to attract his attention amusingly. Had asked me for it the other day.

     Dwelt again and again on the significance of the meeting—his own presence there— "in-elegant, not clothed by a mode, rugged, old, a long fight back of me—what ahead?" Was altogether unscathed by his experience: his color strong, his amusement (a great deal of that in his impressions) jovially explained. I urged him to write his reflections. Told him of Montaigne's cat, whose playing induced M. to remark: "She amuses me: who knows but I as much amuse her?" W. exclaimed: "I don't know whether that is new to me or known once and lost—I incline to think, never known. But however, and simple as are its words, I am moved by it: oh! how deep it cuts! how centers in the heart of things!" And so—whoever the cat, the man,—we were to hear W.'s version. "I remember

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 368] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
that a long time ago, down at Timber Creek—I would go along the stream, looking, singing, reciting, reading, ruminating—and one fellow there—a splendid sapling—I would take in my hands—pull back—so-so: let it fly, as it did with a will, into position again—its uprightness. One day I stopped in the exercise, the thought striking me: this is great amusement to me: I wonder if not as great to the sapling? It was a fruitful pause: I never forgot it: nor answered it. I suppose—this is a new strophe—Montaigne in other dress."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.