Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 406] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, May 16, 1890

     5.20 P.M. Found Dr. Bucke in the room with W. W. Talk was animated. W. did not look over-well, but seemed thoroughly awake—not at all reserved.

     We talked of the stranger— "the unknown," as W. sometimes

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 407] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
times calls him. "The coachman—the hansom man—calls him Lindsy." And— "That is just as he wrote the card—'1605 Post'—though what it means—whether army post, post-office, or street, I don't know." This in answer to our question. Then further: "I haven't the least doubt in the world but the case is just as he represents it: he has Leaves of Grass on the brain—it is a bad case. I did not of course ask, but if, as I suppose, he has fortune—and he spoke as though he had: had the manner of a man of the kind—a mere matter of more or less—the proposition he made to me—was nothing to him. If I am mistaken in him—if my experience of human nature leads me astray now, in a case of which I am so confident, then I shall never set up to judge again! The hansom came again today. I went out—but after we had got about half way to where I intended—the mist seeming about a foot thick—the rain falling—I advised him to turn back—though not making any feint or sign that way himself, he did turn back. Warren was also with me. The cabbie told me he had coached Lezinsky, Lindsy, off and on for four or five years. He comes in, making flying trips—as he did from Washington the other day: in Philadelphia to meet an engagement late in the afternoon, then back to the depot again and away to Washington. That is a sample of his methods." Again W. assured us: "I told him the other day I wanted him to meet you—also, Horace. In some way we must arrange for it. All my inclinations are to trust him. You fellows can get a shy: see how he measures up to you."

     Subsequently W. said, half-seriously, half in mock-despair: "I have had unwanted news today—bad news—almost startling news: the Century has rejected my poem—the poem I sent the other day"—turning to me, because I had mailed it for him: "Ye Jocund Twain" &c.— "It comes with this note, which you might as well read"—handing to us a page and a half note— "My dear Whitman"—from Gilder personally—reciting that previous poems sent by W. would "help" him

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 408] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
and were not so markedly personal &c. W. said: "You might take the poem along with you if you choose—though you must bring it back, as I never like to give matter away in proof—especially as it may still be sold—that somebody may buy it." We discussed the note, somewhat, W. saying laughingly— "It is bad enough to be rejected, just that alone—and by the Century. Yet they are not all friendly to me even there—Roswell Smith, for instance: he never has been. But Gilder? I have always counted on Gilder. I guess he wields a controlling hand—possibly, however, not an absolute one." And again: "I do not see that the poem is any more personal or subjective, though it is both, than others, many, perhaps all—which they have paid for and used. It may be that someone there has now woken up to the fact! This may be somewhat involved, too, but I guess not markedly so—not more so than others. All my poems require to be read again and again—three, four, five, six times,—before they enter into the reader, are grasped—filter their way to the undersoil." Bucke argued somewhat that the publisher knew the small comparative quota of Whitman readers—perhaps a few out of three-hundred-thousand—therefore from their standpoint were justified—but W. shook his head: "No—I do not see the weight of that: it does not appeal to me—does not explain the situation."

     I suggested that he try the poem with Scribner's—but he looked dubious. Bucke urged it—then both—but he still shook his head. "I should get it back." Well, suppose you do, &c. "You mean that if I do not expect acceptance, it would be so much fat?" And again— "I shall not promise." I put in— "We don't want you to promise, so you send it!" And yet— "It will do no good—no good: they would not take it: I will get it back!"

     Should Bucke come again in the evening? "Yes—say at half-past seven—for a little while."


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.