Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 28, 1889

     7 P.M. W. reading paper. Room warm, the wood-fire cheerily burning. Received copies of "Camden's Compliment" from binder at last. One for W. who took it—scanned it keenly and was "much pleased." Thought it "looks well—rather formidable—achieving the purpose of a monogram, which is to tell a thing nobody can find out!" And Morse's picture struck his eye— "How well it looks here, too!"—seemingly very happy over it.

     I gave W. some account of Hilda Clifford's baby description of her visit to W.: that "he came down stairs with his long white beard all on," that she was "afraid of him," that he appeared to her "a bogy," but was still "dear old Walt," for he had given her the most wonderful apple, though she "would not kiss him for it." W. laughed—exclaimed— "How sweet! And what a dear child it is, too! We shall become close friends

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yet—that is always the end of it with the children. When you see her again, tell her Walt Whitman sends his best love—says that we are going to become the closest friends in the world—tell each other all our secrets!"
He had noticed that I came rather early, and said, "Why is it? Where are you going?" I was on my way to the opening meeting of the Unitarian Conference in Philadelphia. I told him Clifford was going to speak. At this his face lighted and he wittily and laughingly remarked: "When you told me you were going to the Conference, I was starting to say, God help you! But now you tell me Clifford is to speak, I see there is no need." Then he added, "Should anything like a report of the speech turn up anywhere in the papers, don't forget to show it to me."

     Reported a letter from Bucke today. "But there's not a word in it about Ed—except to say he has not turned up yet—that was on the 26th. But we must wait—it will be all right—probably is by this time. There are reasons and reasons. The only thing is, I sent Doctor a package of the pictures—which of course he has not yet got." He spoke of "obvious things to do" yet "how often those obvious things were the very things we did not do." Spoke about addresses, etc.—on packages. "It is obvious enough we ought to exercise the utmost care—yet, do we?" Spoke of Washington experiences. "I fell in with Adams express men there—I always had a sneaking notion for transportation men, anyhow. They had a building off in Georgetown for the storage of strayed, lost, packages, freight, and it was a sight to behold. Not an ordinary display, not a poor or small building, but space—capaciousness—measure—and such a mass of material there! And yet the men told me nine-tenths of what was there—fully nine-tenths, even barring the necessarily lost goods in the army, would have got to their proper journey's end with a little more particularity in addressing. It was a lesson to me—I have never forgotten it. It taught me my own definiteness of address—what my friends call my superfluity. I thought of the ignorant, the

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foreigners, the illiterate, the careless, the forgetful, all representatively gathered in that Georgetown building particularly to lesson me—and I did not fail to learn."
And he continued: "People have more conscience in such things than is known, believed,—even having in those cases made efforts to find the owners. It was so in the departments, too—the chiefs were very accommodating for instance, in the answering of letters, some of them verging on idiocy—yet all conscientiously consulted, replied to. I have known this not in the case of the clerks alone, but have known heads of departments with whom it was a principle. They made no such arbitrary rule with the letters as I should and do. When I get a letter that seems to have no importance, I reach right over and put it in the box there, or the stove." Warren came in for the mail as we sat there. W. laughingly admonished him— "There are three papers and a letter—yes: now do your best to bring me a letter back!"

     Spoke of Fields' book. "I have been reading it—have read it now nearly all through—all the essays. I wrote Dr. Bucke that I was reading it and I said to him that hereafter when I met as I had in the past with those who accused his book of extravagance, I should turn them over to this volume of Fields'. He plasters it on awful thick. Whatever the measure with which Doctor plastered it on, I might say, this is plastereder. It is absolute, overwhelming. The Doctor, extreme as he may be accused of being, at least preserves the attitude, the fact, of giving the other side. Yet I can see for Jim Fields, too, that as he wrote, so it was necessary he should write. The best essays in the book are those on Dickens and Hawthorne—Dickens one queer fellow, Hawthorne another, a queerer. They give a good picture of these men—some points not touched upon elsewhere." I interjected something about Fields' modesty—that he did not push his own part forward, whereupon W. again: "No indeed—the book is modest to the last degree. One of the singular felicities—unusual—is the

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way he reproduces the letters—prints whole letters—don't stop with passages. Today I was reading the piece on Miss Mitford, here are page after page of letters—garrulous—gossippy—yet wonderfully to one's liking. The whole book has that simple pleasing air. And Fields himself was just such a man. I don't know if I have told you, but he has been truly a friend to Walt Whitman. When I was in Boston, working over the new edition of Leaves of Grass, Fields and his wife came up one day—drove up, I think—said they had set out to have me for dinner. If my memory serves me, I went that day. It was before that—money had come to Fields some way—he felt embarrassed, or something, by it—sent some of it to me. At that time he had never met me."
Here, after a pause, W. counselled me in a deepened voice: "So you see, we, you, must not forget to bear witness that Fields was one of us—was manly, generous, noble—for, boy, they have not all been so. Oh! many, many not so. Some have been venomous, mean, lying, cowardly, dirty, malignant—Lowell, for one—I count him the most malignant of all." Even than Higginson? "Oh! I take no note of Higginson—he amounts to nothing, anyhow—is a lady's man—there an end!" I happened to mention Higginson's "Buffalo Bill" sentence in Harper's Bazaar, and W., at the name Harper's exclaimed— "That reminds me—did I tell you that I got my piece back from Harper's? Well—I did! They write that it is too much of an improvisation! As if all Leaves of Grass was not improvisation!" Who had written the note? "Alden—H. B. Alden, who is a formalist—a stickler—yet a bright man—even brilliant, after a fashion—at least for his place there, which he must fill to contentment."


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