Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, May 8, 1890

     4.40 P.M. W. in his room, finishing dinner. Said: "I have been making a meal of strawberries. Mrs. Davis brought some in, unhulled—said that was the fashionable way to eat

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them: to take them up, one at a time, in the fingers, dip them in sugar, then swallow. But I returned them to her—told her I had no doubt that was a very good way—perhaps the best way—but that I had been brought up under the old dispensation, to eat them sugared, from a dish."
Then he spoke of a great liking for berries: "Perhaps New Jersey gives us the finest berries known in the world today." Liked all—blackberries, raspberries, strawberries— "perhaps blackberries best of all"—the raspberries better when "mixed with currants—white or red" "I have a sweet tooth—find it appreciates all but things of cloying sweetness: confects of that order." Adding: "Guava jelly was at one time an established confect: in grandmother's time—grandfather's time—it was a great dish—exists still, for that matter—though as I have said, whether imported or not is still a question with me: it can still be bought—a brand I think even better than the old." "The cultivated blackberry beats all I know in this way: it deserves to be apotheosized!"

     I returned him Burroughs' letter, remarking a pathetic vein. W. affirming: "It is so—a sort of passé vein—as if of a cloth, all wrung out. And yet this is evidently written out of some cheer—in a mood reflecting joy, brightness—for John." Among W.'s further reflections were these: "In spite of all, John has been dealt with by literariness—very few but have been so affected—however slightly: though John would indeed be the last man you expect so actuated—participant of out-of-doorness—the minks, foxes, fences, woods, new moons, the paraphernalia of nature—but even upon John the branches hang over, they are full of moisture, he cannot wholly escape the woods yet. But somehow all the great dons seem glad to know somebody who has come out if they cannot shake it all off themselves. There was Emerson, here—not wholly rid of it, yet rejoicing in every sign of delivery—and Tennyson, more radically comprehending even as he grows older—Tennyson, who, if he lasts long enough, will be wholly free at

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last! And John—though I should not call him a don, yet is my friend, seems unaltered towards me. I know I have sometimes asked myself, whether Burroughs' attitude towards me has changed: but no, it has not: I am sure of John to the last. I don't think even you have any idea—so full an idea, anyhow, as I have—how natural some of the feeling about John should be. I seem to see the tendency in him towards literariness grow stronger with age—yet I remember that even so keen and cute a man as William O'Connor—so born critic he was—warned me in those early years in Washington, to put my foot down on John's book about me—to have nothing to do with it—even allow it. Oh yes! William was one of the first to change—to recognize the gold in John: I only mention it now, confidentially, as we sit together here, to illustrate. I cannot imagine anybody doubting John—every page is fresh and juicy—juicy as are few pages that teem about us. When I look about me—realize how the best fellows have strayed off, in greater or less degree—I wonder at myself, that I, near the 72nd year, have not pulled the same building down on my head: have escaped the danger, by almost miraculous manipulations—gone free of the taint, and rejoicing and even rejoiced with by others."

     There was a Gutekunst picture (one of the bad versions) which I picked up from the table. W.— "made of express intent, to produce a good picture: it is destined for the fire, where the others have gone—is only spared because for the present it is used as a paper knife. It indicates well the moving-forces of what is called art: how the elements are feared, the compounds [ ? ] courted." I wished to show this to my father. W. would only let me do it on promise I should surely bring it back. "I design it for the fire," he said again. Showed him an article from a stray New England weekly about Elizabeth Porter Gould—with whom W. was much coupled. He thought: "These are of use, I suppose, to show what is in the air—how we have changed it at last: and to show that eventually

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even the citadel itself will be penetrated, through some chink or other. For the air is all-reaching, permitting no denials."

     Wished me to find out for him date of Queen Victoria's birthday. "My friend John Reed, himself an Englishman, used to pass here daily, but now that I want to see him, I never find him passing at all." Spoke of "Annex to Annex" of L. of G. Said: "I have thought of getting out a little book—a special volme—a part of it to go in in future annexed to November Boughs, a part to Leaves of Grass—perhaps all to November Boughs. I am speculating about it now. Perhaps before long we'll get to work on it. It will of course be uniform: will contain the Century prose piece, the poems, memoranda, odd bits, not printed."

     Had forgotten about Oldach's bill—would write check tomorrow. Thought I should take Schmidt's portrait also to show my father. "I do not like it much myself, but most do. He has had almost a tragic life.—The European fellows beat us—their climate, what-not, are superior. That picture of Symonds—it is unsurpassed, if reached."


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