Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, July 5, 1890

     8.10 P.M. W. not in when I arrived but was wheeled along by Warren in about ten minutes. Sat in front of the step—then talked with me for full an hour. Seemed very bright. Was exhilarated by the weather—so much cooler. Night before last did not sleep at all—last night better—tonight expects "to do it handsomely." Had been down to the river. Hand cold—but would not let Warren bring a wrap.

     Said Kennedy was now with Bucke—the latter had so written him. W. spoke of the Ingersoll piece on oratory—how "deeply" it had "struck" him. "It is very profound in many ways. For instance, while it is subject perhaps to criticism, take that part in which he says, there can be no more Decoration Day orations because men, to speak well, must have acted a part in the thing they speak [of]—that is profoundly so." And when I said, "And in that piece is practically an arraignment of modern average writing—that men are not speaking what they live—therefore do not move us" and that "No writing is good or of value that does not stir us"—he assented— "That is every word true—that is not to be sneered away." I quoted for instance the comparison made by Stedman and others, classing W.'s Lincoln ode and Lowell's together—and I objected that Lowell's did not stir me: "It is a thing built, not a current flowing: his is a structure, grown story by story: yours a limpid river." He said— "That is a striking distinction. I too, have often known them put together: but could never see the reason why—except, perhaps, as being upon the same subject." We lingered for some time in this talk, W. referring to Ingersoll's "gifts" repeatedly.


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     W. much amused over the Catholic priest who, having seen the Conservator, prophesied I would soon come to a recognition of the true faith &c. &c. "It might have been said that you already concluded you had the true faith," W. remarked. "It is the same story with those fellows: pork and beans is my dish, therefore you must like it—but no, we shake our heads at that—though we return them good for evil by not forcing our dish on them."

     Spoke of Stedman as "no longer young—must be 60"—of the "bad son" and the good one—deserting him. "He is a man of worrying nature—does not take life calmly—is small and slender." Then of Wanamaker and the Brittanica [sic] suit—that it "ought to go against him"—of Wanamaker's lax moral notions, "pretended religiousness." I inquired today at Wanamaker's if they had Tolstoi's "Kreutzer Sonata." No, but I could get it at Porter and Coates'. W. commenting— "I hear they are considering whether to handle Leaves of Grass"—I saying— "That is worse than to instantly reject it—it is the attitude of the man with his hand on the knob of the door, doubtful whether to admit you or not"—and W. assenting— "that is a sharp way to say it—but it says!" Childs quite another man from Wanamaker— "He is a rare dish—there are numerous rare dishes—one for this and that—but all are necessary, and Childs is one." He knew Childs—knew his "generosities," rejoiced to hear incidents I could tell him. Childs' reminiscences "very simple"—this inducing comparison with Stoddard's—and W.'s: "Dick Stoddard is a poor mean cuss—made so, perhaps, in some part, by his ills—old age—the bad digestion, eyes, what-not." I suggested probably disappointments, too. W. thereupon speaking of the early poems: "'The Woman on the Town' impressed me most deeply—I read that more than once." But— "there was an acid in Stoddard—events, I don't know what, have stirred it up—the effect disastrous." This "reminded" him— "Did you read Conway's piece in the Press this morning—'Boccaccio in His Garden'—

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That is a first-rate sample of what we have been speaking about. Conway starts out to write an interesting article and does it, no matter who suffers—but it is writing at long range, and Ingersoll is right—we must participate in the life of anything we attempt to portray."
And— "Conway's proclivities are good: he wants to be all that is required—to be radical, liberal, even free—but with all that, he's such a hell of a liar, there's no knowing which part of him to credit."

     When I spoke of Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days as composing "a remarkably consecutive life," he was evidently much attracted, questioning me very closely. "Do you say that? Do you think they hang well together?"—cementing it— "That is what ought to be."

     Happening to mention Williamson, W. asked— "was he asked to the dinner?" then— "and Stedman?" Adding to this: "I am afraid we have missed some: there was Dave—we missed him and I never cease regretting it. Yes indeed, he ought to have been there—I was going to say he was almost sine qua non. You have been in to see him? You ought to go in—Dave is very philosophical—more so than you would suppose. He will take it all right. The way to do is, to put it all on my shoulders—that is the surest way out—I am the one who should have thought of him." I said I only knew Dave very mad on one score—Worthington—and I said to W.: "Dr. Bucke, who sees occult meanings to all you do, says, never mind, W. wishes that Worthington book to circulate" &c—as if with a wink. But W. only laughed heartily— "Yes, so much so I'd like to wring his neck."


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