Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, April 25, 1890

     5.10 P.M. W. reading a letter. Had found me Garland's letter.


Dear Walt Whitman

I feel like writing at once about something that has delighted me. In talking with Thomas Sergeant Perry last night we fell to discussing your work, and to my delight I found him a great and unequivocal admirer of your work. I was pleased beyond measure, for Mr. Perry's opinion on your work is more valuable to me than that of any man in America—with one exception. Mr. Perry is a man of vast learning. He is a historian of literature. He knows the development of all Western literature, he is just finishing a large volume—very radical—on the Greek literature, he has written on German and English literature. His criticisms are based not on personal feelings but upon principles—he looks at any man from the comparative standpoint. He is the leader of that school of thought with us here. So you see this has value—this opinion of his. He has

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been abroad for some years studying and now is writing on various historical lines. Mr. Howells and he were two of my most honored friends.



      "It seems to be to the same purport as the letter you brought me about Tennyson. It is a straw—they both are straws—to be taken note of. Are we like to become popular in our old age—in our retirement from the stage? Who knows the issue of all this? After all that is gone before—the abuse, defamation—unknowing hatred—this a rebound—but—" and so he ended the matter in a smile—adding, however, again— "Let me send this letter to Bucke when you are done with it. But in the meantime do you turn it over well—take its full measure—for the day may come when you if not I will need to record all the details of this story."

     I proposed sending a copy—extract—about Tennyson to Bucke. W. thought it "a good idea," but added— "The thought strikes me if we had not better have a few of them struck off—say 25 or 50. Curtz down here would put it into type and give us the copies for 25 cents or so. We may want a few: there are several I even now think of who ought to have copies—Burroughs, Kennedy—some even for abroad."

     I asked him if he had any curiosity to see Bucke's piece sent me—but he laughingly shook his head. "No—I can wait till it is in type: as I grow old, I am less and less to be figured in that direction: I never was any too eligible." Left with him a copy of Scribner's containing an article on Millet by T. [Truman] H. Bartlett. W. much drawn to it—pleased with Carroll Beckwith's portrait of Millet. "I should say the fellow who drew this has a future: his method is justified in this hair, if nowhere else—but elsewhere, too." And— "It is wonderful, the fellows now at work, making for new ideas, fields—laying out fresh schemes—in art, everything."

     I told him Morris was somewhat solicitous, lest what he had said of W.'s lack of humor should have evoked feeling. But W. said: "No—it was all right: he does not fully understand:

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why, I am as much as anybody a weigher, investigator—questioning significances—anxious to get at my meanings."
I said: "Very few know how fully you objectify yourself. I am often asked by persons who have been here if I thought you were offended at certain things said: I tell them they do not quite measure you." W.— "You are right—they do not: I hope the time will never come when I will sit [in] stupid denial upon criticism: I welcome all—welcome even the lying, slander."

     Morris had looked over files of the Democratic Review—1842 or thereabout—stories there signed "Walter Whitman"—were they W.'s? W. now said to me: "Yes—I guess there's no doubt of that—they're mine, if I want to claim them—as I do not! I don't think much of 'em—they're better forgotten—lain dusty in the old files." He had no copies, so far as he knew. "Except a stray one, here and there, kept out of forgetfulness." "The Democratic Review was quite famous in those days—started in Washington by a young man—Sullivan, I think was his name: I knew him well—a handsome, generous fellow. He treated me well. Hawthorne published some of his famous tales through the Review."


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