Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, September 18, 1889

     7:30 P.M. W. in parlor, with a little girl sitting at the opposite window. W. introduced her to me in the dark: in a little while she went back to Mrs. Davis in the kitchen, evidently not interested in our talk. W. asked me: "Does it show any more inclination to clear off? I seemed to sniff the air of something tonight, but later it came as cloudy as ever." I referred to the magnificence of the golden sunset as I had seen it from the boat. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "that must have been the glint I perceived—the influence I caught—in the early evening." And then he added: "No—I am not extra well—only so-so!" I had left at the house for him in the forenoon copies of Liberty. He remarked: "Yes, I got them—sent 3 or 4 of them off at once today—one to Mrs. O'Connor, not knowing if she already had a copy—one to Doctor—one to that dear friend of William's who is also my dear friend—who is in the revenue service there in California. I could easily use other copies." And after a pause: "Already I have an idea I discern a faint

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glint, glimmer, growing, of reviving interest in William. It will come more and more."

     We discussed the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The Glasgow copy I brought last week he had already forgotten. "Did I sign it? It was already passed out of mind!" he remarked. Yet the old things he remembers with perfect clearness—as that of Cliff Riggs, whom I met on the Logan train the other night and who asked me to find out from W. if he remembered a young man who came to him from Sinnickson Chew about 1880 for a copy of more of L. of G. for Edmund Clarence Stedman and of whom W. instantly asked on my doing so: "Was he a printer boy—tall, slim, bright—very tall?"—indicating absolute remembrance. "Oh, yes! I remember him well, though I did not know he got the book for Stedman. Of course, matters of moment still make the wonted impression, but the minor details are apt to go." He went on to describe the first edition. "It was in green back—dark green—mottled—rough—large gilt letters." Tom had spoken of getting—or trying to get—a first edition. W. appealed: "Tell him not to—tell him it's not worth while—not worth the powder. I don't know what a fellow can want with it—it costs 20 dollars—I think that is the price. If Bucke got one for less—I think he did—he got it at a discount. Yes, yes—tell Tom not to. It is held at a ridiculous figure. Why, I should think a fellow would want the last book—the last edition—the full edition—complete. Doctor, along with other things, is a curio hunter, anyhow—and I greatly encourage, humor, it in him, too—send him all sorts of scraps I think he would count of value. Having committed himself to this thing,—us—he works it for all its worth—must have things, de novo."

     He asked me— "You have read 'Leaves of Grass' Imprints? the little book before the war? I came across a copy today—and for fear you had not seen it, I put it here in this envelope for you"—reaching to table and taking from it a bulky big envelope marked


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     "'Leaves of Grass Imprints'
1860
O'Connor's Criticism
in 1866
the Burns Monument
in Rome
return to W.W. without
fail"—


     Added— "I put in the other pieces, knowing you are interested in old things—in new, too: for there's not only the O'Connor piece but another, from the Boston Transcript—written by Chamberlain—a good friend there of Leaves of Grass. It is about Bruno—it seems somebody over in Italy forwarded him photographs of the monument. The event has been in every way a success." I suggested laughingly: "In spite of the Pope and the Cardinal?" And he responded: "Yes indeed—I was going to say, in part because of them—on the ground that none of the greatest men—discoverers, leaders—but had to pass through the ordeal of the Popes, Cardinals, such: the squirming, hissing, squealing, howling, anathematizingness, of Popes and Cardinals belong—set the event off, in fact. All the great fellows realized it—even Columbus had to be handcuffed, died in poverty."

     He inquired later: "What have you done about the Symonds letter?" When I explained that McKay would not pay the cost of composition but would pay all others, he said: "Well, if we have to do that we might do more—I have been thinking over something to propose—not for anything written for me—but matter of some sort or other that might fitly go in as an appendix." Then he turned more definitely to Symonds. "The significance of the Symonds letter is in Symonds himself." I gave him my conclusions—that S. made three overwhelming statements—that L. of G. was the greatest single volume ever written—S. excepting only the Bible,

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which is a literature, not the work of one person—that W. was the emancipator of literature and life (quote "Academical culture") and in closing, signed himself a disciple. W. again: "Symonds stands high—is the greatest of Greekists—in the spirit at the very top, in the letter almost as high—classicist of classicists, among all men in England in our day—so I have understood. When you get the matter in type, can't you get me an extra proof of it?" He had "not got hold of the points definitely, clearly" the other night when I read. "This deafness stands badly in my way—and worse, it seems to be growing and growing."

     I left photographs with mounter today and am promised them finished in a week, price 4 cents per copy, as before—even though the card requires to be larger. W. laughed about the envelope man, and said of him— "He knows how to charge as well as how to make an envelope." Comparing Press editorial today on Arnold with the interview report, W. called the former "more respectable."


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