Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 21, 1889

     8 P.M. W. in his room. Greeted me with an unusual cheer, and admitted: "Yes—I am passing through a period of ease—almost enjoyment. I got out yesterday—out and to the river. It was a rare treat." Spoke of visitors: "They came yesterday—Lincoln Eyre, his brother—Wilson, isn't it?—and a gentleman named Macaulay. What do you know about Macaulay? They were here half an hour. I was pleased with their coming—I like Lincoln—his brother, too. They said they had stopped by the way to find you but you were not home." Then laughed over the fact that the new nurse had not turned up today—made no sign. "He must have thought I was a damned lunatic—very evidently was frightened off by the aspect of things—did not like our democratic ways here." I had today engaged Warren Fritzinger to take Ed's place. They had come into the Bank together to talk about it. Warren had resisted me last week when I proposed it, but had thought better of it. W. "well pleased" and asked me— "It will do, won't it?" expressing his desire that "Warren should take care of me"—etc. "Ed is gone—no doubt is already a good stretch in New

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York State. He must go that way—by what is called the Lehigh route."

     Told him I learned from Dave that Hunter thought of returning to Camden. W. said: "That's good news: I hope he'll come near me—come in often to see me." Dave sold one copy of the big book on his Boston-New York trip last week. Says buyers complain of the cover of the book. W. thereupon: "Let 'em complain! That is my arcanum! If they want to put five dollars or 50 dollars into a cover, let them: the book invites it or helps it. If they kick they must kick: kicking is good exercise!"

     He gave me Bucke's letter of the 18th—also read mine of same date, in part. B.'s suggestion as to the book were these:


London, Ont., 18 Oct 1889

I wrote a note this morning and this evening have received yours of 16th enclosing Fanny M. Gr[whole name illegible] quite affecting little letter and Mrs. Spaulding's card. You ask me whether there is anything I desire Ed. to bring me from Camden. I do not know that there is except the pictures wh I mentioned in mine of this morning. I mean the little collection of Photo's and engravings which you are about issuing. I suppose you do not want to send me that 1872 L. of G.? And I do not want you to send it untill you are quite ready—but do not let somebody else carry it off! I suppose you never found that copy of Harrington? I have never been able to get a copy and it seems as if I never should get one. Yes, I think we may flatter ourselves that L. of G. has got a locus standi at last. No one now (unless inspired by ignorance as well as stupidity) can hoot at the book as the unco guid thought well to do awhile ago. L. of G. has come to stay and must be seriously considered by all serious men henceforth whether they like it or whether they don't—what the outcome of the consideration will be (on the whole) I for one have no fear. I asked you this morning whether you had a man engaged in Ed's place—I hope you will tell me this as I am anxious about it

Love to you

R M Bucke—



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     W. said: "That is his notion: another notion is another man's: we all have our notions. We like title pages as we like women: we can't tell why—only that we do!" And as to B.'s idea about giving it general circulation: "I have no doubt it will get about, have its influence: have no doubt it will do us a great good—me, Leaves of Grass, the cause. The book will have to take its fate, whatever that may be." And he added: "I had a paper here—a San Francisco paper—California—in which they said that Wagner, Salvini, Walt Whitman, were the burst-forthers of our time. Did not use that word—burst-forther"—W. laughed at himself— "but words of that import." He said he had not read The Critic notice of Salvini fully— "but I have looked at it—it is very fine—full of suggestion." I spoke in my usual strain of Salvini, and W. listened and questioned as if it were all new to him, evidently enjoying it. "Yes he's our man—I can see him—hear him. The Othello is not the written Othello, but the Othello as the actor makes it. Little Billie Winter, little damned fool, says, 'take Othello to the closet: there he comes most nearly to you,' but that's all he knows." I instanced "the Outlaw" as acted by Salvini as enforcing W.'s argument, and he said— "I can understand"—and when I described S., W. asked— "And on that, that—and on all the great voice? I saw a fine complimentary notice of Salvini in some other paper today."

      "I had," he said again— "another paper here to show you." He looked about for some time, finally saying: "It seems to be gone—perhaps I unknowingly sent it away somewhere with other papers. I wanted you to see it. In it was a reprint of Tennyson's new piece 'The Throstle,' and with it a parody—oh! very good! As a rule I would not encourage, enjoy, parodies, but this thoroughly took hold of me—I had a hearty laugh over it before dinner. It seems to me in the poem itself I notice for the first time in Tennyson—the very first time—a trembling, a change, a weakening. I am not certain that this is so—not certain that I believe it so—but sort of suspect it is: which suspicion, or uncertainty, is itself fatal, I suppose. I

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have heard much, as everyone has the last year about the old man's senility, weakness, going-down-hill-ness, but until this I had no evidence of it in his work."
I returned Edwin Arnold's London Telegraph letter with some stricture upon the many absurd inaccuracies, not only of his visit to W. but of Philadelphia matters. W. laughed: "It is so. Dr. Johnson would say even in his time—in his own way—that if you wished really to appreciate the value of history—its reliability—you should carefully watch the reports that go forth of your own friends—what is written—how truth is fallen short of, long, long, even by contemporaries." Clifford had asked me yesterday, anent this report of Arnold's: "Why is it, the people who go to see Walt, in writing about it, seem to try to do their worst—in getting as far from the truth as possible." W. thought "That is so: and why is it so? It is a thing for us to inquire into." He laughed highly over Arnold's description (high-drawn) of their reading passages from L. of G. together. He asked: "Well—what about the Epoch paragraph?" H.L.T: "I haven't seen the Epoch—but I have had half a dozen people ask me the last two days who the young man is who, according to the Epoch, drives W. out, has taken down every word he spoke, and will lecture on him when he is dead?" W. laughed— "Why—that must be Billy Duckett—who else?" It amused him into great laughter.

     I heard Herne, the actor, last evening at St. George's Hall, read Garland's story "Under the Lion's Paw." W., after asking me if it "was worth while" asked further— "What was the drift of the story?" And when I had got along in the explanation to the point, he was quick to see, and exclaimed— "So that was the lion's paw!" Adding thereupon: "I don't know—I should not like to state it for an actual resemblance—but this seems to me much like the case of a man who goes off to a high ledge—to the very brink of a precipice—or to a coping—a housetop somewhere—leans over and over and over till his balance is lost—falls to the earth—then makes a devil of a fuss about the accident. But was not the accident one with

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the fact that keeps the earth in its place—us on the earth—life in us? Just today I read a paragraph from Bob Ingersoll—it was in the editorial corner of one of the papers—I think a Camden paper—about so much"
—measuring about 2 inches on his fingers— "it was on this very point." Adding— "and I think Bob hit the nail on the head." He said of the book tonight: "I feel thoroughly at rest about it now: a day or two more or less with Oldach now will not worry me. The book is a palpable fact—it is printed—we have had it in our hands—our eyes have seen it—pored over it: the evidence is complete! So, let the Doctor worry—we will not!" He speaks of his "poemet" in the next Century. "It is only a few lines—6 or 7—and those of very little importance you will think."

     I showed him a crayon of Morse my father had made for me. He regarded it with great and long attention. "What wonderful fine work the fellows do nowadays: it is a skill that baffles explanation with some of us." And he said of Morse— "How handsome he is, anyhow: how chiselled and strong! It is a face to conjure with." Speaking again of what makes players great, W. said: "To Salvini—the great body, the great head you tell me about,—add the voice! the voice!" Then: "I remember a New York experience—a long time ago: an antic that seemed funny at first thought—funny is not just the word, but the only word that comes to me now—it was too profound in its lesson for 'funny.' They would run along the line of the alphabet, pronouncing the letters—nothing else—but doing this so infinitely—in such countless ways—one would now, if never before begin to comprehend the range of human expression." I spoke of Janaushek, in this connection, and he said— "I believe I have heard of her."


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