Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, October 12, 1889

     8 P.M. W. sat in his room, with "Woodstock" turned down on his knee, ruminating. Had rather a fresh, good look. A fire burned in the stove, though it was very mild out of doors. Asked me, "Is it not cooler this evening?" seeming surprised when I said I thought not. He noticed I came empty-handed, so at once exclaimed— "And no sheets tonight again? Well! Well!" I saw design for stamp on cover today. Dave goes away next week, to N.Y. and Boston, but will leave instructions with binder to proceed. W. saw note in today's Critic ("The Lounger")—

     Walt Whitman went over in a carriage from Camden to Philadelphia on Tuesday, August 6, and sat to Gutekunst for a photograph. It was a fine day—a perfect day, indeed—and he much enjoyed the sunshine, the exercise, and even the excitement of his three hours' trip. He felt well and looked well, and the natural result was a capital portrait, representing the old poet as he appears, when at his best, in his seventy-first year. Of this I have been so fortunate as to receive a copy. The picture is a large one—nine and a half by twelve and a half inches,—and shows "the good gray" seated in an armchair, his head bared, his left hand thrust into a pocket of his familiar gray coat, and the right loosely grasping a large walking stick. The wide, turned-down linen collar, and the loose cuffs rolled back over the sleeves, are edged with a narrow border of lace. From its framework of thin white hair and flowing beard, the face of the venerable bard peers out, not with the vigorous serenity of his prime, but a look rather of inquiry and expectation.

      "It was I sent him the photo," he explained, "I sent him the copy we had here—the one I had written upon. The paper

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came early—probably a copy sent by the Lounger himself. I probably shall get another. I noticed that he said of my expression—but that does not worry me."

     Read him the following from [Harper's] Bazaar this week, written by Higginson:

     Foreign nations are sometimes attracted by what is most like themselves, sometimes by what is unlike them. Napoleon and his admirers used to read Ossian; and the Englishmen of today, yearning for some Buffalo Bill at literature, convince themselves that they find it in Whitman."

     He laughed: "Oh! how O'Connor used to go for Higginson—go for him wih almost a rancor: pierce him, worry him, spear him. Did it several times in the literary way, but often among his friends. Higginson is of the Willie Winter group—belongs with the literary crowd of which Winter, Stoddard, Bayard Taylor, were centers, lights. The good fellows who had an awful belief in respectability—an awful hunger to be gentlemen." Asked: "Did I tell you Weda Cook was in to see me yesterday? She looks very bad—she has lost her lover—mourns for him very much." I asked, "What was his name? W. then: "That is just what I was about to ask you: I thought you knew. He has been here with her." "Gems of Walt Whitman" already on the floor. I trod on it first thing tonight. Mailed Morse a little package of pictures.

     W. spoke of the Pan-American delegates: "They go today from Albany—go West, to Niagara—then beyond." As to the comment of some of the English papers that the Congress was in the interest of protection, W. said: "Still I am in favor of it—though it is, I know. But insofar as it means friendship, comity, cooperation, it means free trade, democracy, freedom, too—real free trade. These things transpire so, whether they wish it or no—don't wait to ask if they designed them—" "Not that I weaken on free trade at all. What is valuable but free trade?" Adding: "Protection—high duty—has no

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justification but on the line marked out by Thiers in France, by us in this country after the war—no justification but in this—that it may give a big immediate revenue, to serve a crisis. And there and here we have had such high duty—they got their big fund, we got ours—we got too much by much—now has the time come to cut it off—to cut it in the direction—to the end—of the most absolute freedom."

     Speaking of Morse's bust again, W. said: "I like it and like it: no criticism can shake me. For one thing, see the eye" taking up the card— "open, looking forward—not as I am usually shown, but as I spiritually am. It is exceedingly fine—a revelation of what art can do at its best, when it becomes nature!" Showed me a photo of a ship at sea. "One of the boys brought it in for me. Isn't it wonderful fine? It seems to me astonishing, the vividness of such a portrayal." He put on his glasses. "See the water—the waves—crested—breaking—up and down—I can feel them lift me. Oh! it is a great art, to take hold of the spirit of a scene this way!" Spoke of "the constitution and nomenclature" of secret societies as "utterly and damnably feudalistic."


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