Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, June 16, 1890

     5.50 P.M. W. in his room, writing a postal to Buxton Forman, of whom he at once said: "The package arrived all right—the cost"—specifying, out of the letter which he lifted from the table—and which afterwards he gave to me.

     I showed him the final proofs of cards from Billstein, of which he said— "I am perfectly satisfied that you have seen all things adjusted. Look out that all our names are right." Speaks again: "I must see if 'The Beauty of the Ship' has not been forgotten in late editions." Said his foreign mail is quite

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large"
—including "several letters and papers"—a copy of the "Celebrities of the Century," containing H. B. Forman's Whitman biographical notice among them. Called my attention to it—then to what Forman said of it.

     He had seen the paragraph in today's Press headed "Whitman's Greeting to Victoria," extracted from the Lady's Pictorial—reading as follows:

The Queen was much touched by the numberless tokens of affection and loyalty which reached her on Saturday from every member of her family and all classes of her subjects. The King of the Belgians' graceful act of courtesy was much appreciated by Her Majesty, who is keenly sensitive upon matters of personal chivalry, and the Queen was pecularly gratified by the tribute from Walt Whitman, which was promptly brought to her notice. The old American poet's birthday offering was very striking, coming from a Democrat of Democrats, and his tribute to the magnificent service rendered by the Queen in the "Trent" affair, in averting war between England and America, a remarkable recognition of the personal influence of "a woman and a queen."

     Laughed somewhat over it. "She will probably send you a big draft in memory of the event—for ten thousand," I said—he putting in with great jokiness— "or more—oh! certainly more! But it has not come yet!" Was in doubt if the paragraph was "authentic"—but cared little either way. His point had been to "utter what was in me"—and "the rest must take care of itself."

     Autographed a big book for Daniel Longaker—I taking it with me. Intends sending a copy to Bush in New York. Referring to a note in the Conservator that Clifford had read in church on Sunday "a simple but majestic group of lines from Walt Whitman," and I telling him that Sam Longfellow was present when Clifford did so, and C. thought him interested, W. remarked: "Sam is very gentle, sweet—very much inclined to be radical—but there's something in him"—I put in, "his extreme gentleness takes the edge off his sword"—W.

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continuing— "Yes: I was just going to say that he is—let me see—we might call it, soft—a type of men who stop at the last point, hesitate, fail: it is the way of most we meet—it was the fate of Sam's brother, too. Henry always looked rather stronger—a little portly, though not much that, either." He would like to "read Sam's life of Henry"—had not done so. "They are, or were, both of them men of the old-school—Henry especially so, with something of modern dignity and manner added: and there is anyhow something in that old-school manner full of charm, which justifies itself."

     This led to talk of ministers and ministers: I told W. of Ingersoll's exception of Talmage from much of his respect and W. said, "I might say I share that with him. I don't know anything about Talmage as a man, but if as a man he is anywhere near like the Talmage we know of in a public way, he must be a pretty mean cuss. Didn't I speak to you of his sermon on angels some three or four weeks ago? For sublime and audacious stupidity, it beat all I ever knew for depth of shallowness." I laughed: "A bull! a bull!"—he heartily sharing— "So it is—yet there's the whole truth in it for all that. But however we complain, disdain, there seems to be a constituency for him—he appears to be wanted—has a place—especially in Brooklyn, I should say." But why in Brooklyn? "Well, there are in Brooklyn a great diversity of market for just that sort of thing—that vulgar statement of life—for religious mountebanks, charlatans. There is a large population in Brooklyn of the 15[,]00[0] to 20,000 dollars-a-year people—for whom Talmage is just the thing: vulgar to the last degree—out of the meanest stock—wanting in lofty ideas, beliefs—a Baptist, Presbyterian cut by tendency—perhaps Methodist, too—though the Methodist comes out of ranker, deeper, richer soil, of greater promise, and has in America acquitted itself of higher performances." He had heard he was under ban with Joseph Cook— "But that is right: it would seem much the worser to myself if he smiled upon me"—and

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so with "all Comstock specimens." "We must not forget William O'Connor's priest, who took up Leaves of Grass, spent an hour over it, then in great rage threw it on the floor, 'Damn it! I hate it—will have no more of it!' Oh!" exclaimed W. "if you could have heard O'Connor tell it, throwing into the tale the unction he did, you would split your sides! It was a splendid exhibit of mock passion in William."

     Read W. some extracts form Frederic Harrison's essay on Carlyle which he seemed much to enjoy.


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