Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 14, 1889

     5.45 P.M. W. sat in his room—in the dark—alone. Evidently recognized my step, for no sooner than had I opened the door but he exclaimed— "Ah! Horace! Is it you?" And he asked me instantly— "And you have the sheets tonight? That is the most important question of all!" And as I had the sheets

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and handed them to him— "Here at last! I wished them a great deal for myself, of course, but mainly for the Doctor." I put in, "I have already mailed the Doctor's copy—with it a note, explaining the delay." W., "Good! Good! So the Doctor's is under way? I am glad. I had another note from him today. He is in a devil of a mood—evidently thinks he is neglected, forgotten, passed by. But that is a mistake. I never remarked before that the Doctor was choleric, but there are times when evidence of it is thick. I always knew him to be impatient—all that—but choleric? hardly!" Then added, "I shall read the book myself—never fear." The room was dark. "I shall look at it first thing"—meaning, when the light was up.

      "I had a letter from Charles Eldridge today. He is still out there in California in the Internal Revenue service—collecting revenue—managing affairs. He speaks of the brandy they make out there—they seem to make a fine brand of it—and of the difficulty the government has, collecting its revenue—the tendency of people being to evade its payment wherever possible. Indeed, that is one of the arguments for free trade. It seems that in every land, every time, people have thought it little if any harm to smuggle goods—shirk tariff duties. Even I myself—though I have never been in a position to have it tested—even I should probably take the same course should it open to me. We somehow assume at the start there's a wrong in it—in the very imposition of revenue. Our government, in spite of all that is not paid, deserves a great fund from the drinkables." W. said again: "I received today a book from Edward Carpenter—a book discussing the meaning of civilization—a most tremendous and fearful theme! But he handles it well, though gloomily: seems to come to the conclusion that we are in a fair way to go to the dogs anyway. It is singular and interesting, how Edward,—democrat, progressist, reformer,—in this way puts himself on record in almost Carlyle's exact words—coming to his conclusion by other processes. Carlyle—not the democrat—thinking our

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civilization a bent stick."
He added— "But Edward comes to the task equipped: he is a college man, knows history, is intensely sympathetic. I think the book would interest you: I want you to read it. It probably would interest you and some others a great deal more than it would me."

     I had a postal today from Mead about the Whitman article. W. said: I should suggest that you do not make it so much a discussion of Leaves of Grass as anecdotal—making up a sort of narrative—descriptive: making it concrete, every-day—typical, as for instance, of you and me sitting here now, talking." Mead wanted a picture of W.'s "study." W. laughed. "I have no objection to having this room taken, though I should not advise it, and for several reasons. In the first place, it is not characteristic—then, it would be difficult to make—and I think anyhow a written description of it would best meet the case. You must do as you choose." Mead was satisfied wih my suggestion of the Gutekunst portrait. Wished also a picture of the house. "I have that," W. said, "somewhere about here—Lord knows where—but it will turn up." Asked me: "Before I forget it, Horace—I want to ask you to make for me a copy of that page I gave you about Whittier. I don't know of any immediate place for it, but I may want to use it, and would like to have it there. A copy will do, and when you can." Referred to printing—hoped book "well in that respect." Then referred to the birthday book: "Ferguson spoiled it for us, without a doubt. I get mad every time I think of it—sometimes furious, even. It had a wanton air, almost: we had prepared the way for one of the best effects and got the worst—the whole business turned wrong and botched." W. said again of Bucke: "He is greatly mistaken—he is never overlooked, neglected. I do not blame you at all. I do not understand his excitement, anyhow. I had no such feeling myself about the book, even at the very first. The Doctor is extremely, unnecessarily vehement." He did not offer to show me B.'s letter. Have not got on track of a nurse yet.


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