Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, October 23, 1889

     7.30 P.M. Found W. as usual, sitting up and reading. His "currying-brush" as he calls it, lay on the bed. Had been used this afternoon, much—as W. thought—to his benefit. I asked him how he got along with Warren and he responded quickly: "Oh! very well indeed, Warrie and I come to understand each other pretty well—very well. I like his touch and he is strong, a font of bodily power." I said: "Yes, he was telling me you

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told him as he rubbed yesterday, 'I see you are noways weak!'"
W. answering, "Yes, I did use such an expression—nor is he. As I was saying, I liked his touch—like to have him around—he has that wonderful indescribable combination—rarely found, precious when found—which, with great manly strength, unites sweet delicacy, soft as a woman's, gentle enough to nurse a child." And so on. This has all relieved me hugely.

     Said: "I sent a pocket-edition Leaves of Grass to Harvard College today. A young man there wanted it—sent me the 5 dollars—so I at once dispatched the book. I have sold 3 or 4 copies to students there!" Returned him the papers he had given me last night. I asked, "Which is the more ridiculous—Tennyson's poem or the parody?" He laughed, but grew at once serious again when I asked further— "Did Tennyson really write the poem?"—looking at me scanningly and remarking— "You mean to hint that you think it is a humbug? a sell? Do you know, I never thought of that and yet I can very well see how that should be an explanation of it. My own explanation was, that somebody or other plagued him for a piece—offered him 50 pounds, guineas, for it—and he said, 'Well, as you insist—as you won't let me alone—take this'—thereon bunching a couple or more discarded verses and pocketing his 50 guineas, pounds, forthwith. Who is Law, the Camden man, who wrote the parody? I never met the name before." Continued, that he was "curious about the origin of that poem—where it was first printed," etc.

     We then discussed Arnold's California interview. To my idea, "Arnold is not discriminate' W. returned, "I don't know—I should hardly say it that way: he is demonstrative—demonstrative is the word—perhaps more demonstrative than the average Englishman. He is florid—florid: but then, as meeting this, what may seem, defect, I particularly observed when he was here—it was markedly true of him—that his floridness became him—seemed to belong to him—to be

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an integer."
Here W. laughed merrily: "I was going to give as one reason in excuse of him, that I was the object of some of his demonstrations—his praises; perhaps the fact that I was so addressed tended to excuse him in my eyes. But no—it was more than that. I know we all have spots, if only they can be touched, at which flattery is pleasant, but the story of Edwin Arnold is a bigger story than this. And whatever—he is surely not fearsome—has the courage of what he believes—he talks Walt Whitman from Boston to San Francisco. This is important evidence in point." And he said again: "I see by that piece that he proposes to return to America next year—but who knows? much may happen in a year. I suppose at this very minute Arnold is somewhere off at sea, there on the Pacific. That demonstrativeness is not peculiar alone to him—Lord Houghton was in that much the same sort of a man. I remember he used to say, vehemently, to Americans—(you know he was here in the Centennial Year)—he would say—'God damn you! What's the use going off to Greece, 3000 miles, or into 20 dead centuries to get what you have right here, within your own doors!' He would say it in almost those same words—blunt—to the point—emphatic. Houghton, as you know, was here to see me—spent 3 or 4 hours with us there on Stevens Street. He was an exceedingly plain, old-school sort of a fellow—his manners altogether simple, unaffected. He expressed some wish while he was with me to see the folks, so I took him down. My brother George was there, and they sat together and had quite a chat. After awhile we broke some wine—I had some Virginia wine"—I smiled and he said at once very defensively— "Oh! and it was very good, too—very genuine in its flavor. It was sent me by Jesse Baker, from Norfolk. I don't know if I have mentioned Jesse in Specimen Days or not—there were 2 brothers of them—Frank and Jesse—both ardent friends of mine, of Leaves of Grass—readers. I had many such espousers in Washington [some] time ago—perhaps have still—these fellows belonged among my

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friends. Frank studied surgery, pathology, everything else connected with the medical profession—got quite a headway. I don't know what has come of Jesse—I must write to someone—find out: he was always one of the true fellows—plain but firm."

     I had entered the room this evening rather silently, and W. said, when he saw me: "Well—you are my ghostly visitor! If I was in the theatrical business and needed a ghost, I would hire you." I asked— "Do I look like one?" to which he said— "No indeed: it's all in the footstep!"


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