Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, September 20, 1889

     5:30 p.m. I found W. in his room just eating his dinner. He sat eating and talking during nearly the whole time of my stay. At one point said: "I think this is the heartiest meal I have eaten in a fortnight." Because he was extra well? "No—not that—but this corn"—munching a little for an instant— "This corn is the cause of it and you can put it down in your notes." Laughingly: "I remember when Sidney was here—he took lots of notes—always had his pencil ready—and I would say to him—put this down—that down. Now you put down for me—say that Walt Whitman likes nothing on this earth in the way of eating better than good, genuine, sweet corn. Mrs. Davis gets a good batch now and then—knows just how to

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prepare it for me—to suit me."
Mrs. Davis came into the room with a little baby— "This is Mrs. Williams'—she is going—I thought I would bring it in for you to see." W. was radiant, instantly—took up the towel, wiped his lips and hands. "O the dear! the dear! Why, it is pretty, too—almost the prettiest I ever seed. Why, I must up and take it—it has been a long time since I held a youngster like that in my arms"—reached out for it—took it—kissed it. The baby (only 3 weeks old) crying instantly—Mrs. D. hurrying in with it from the room and W. exclaiming— "Oh! it is afraid of me! it's afraid of the critter—afraid I'll eat it up!" I advised him to have a little fire in his room. "I have been thinking that myself," he replied, "especially if this chill keeps up."

     I brought him copies of the picture-envelopes, now finished, which he examined. "It is a noble, genuine job," he said at once, "though this red silk—I don't know about it—I prepared the yellow" &c. Put his hand in his vest pocket—gave me a 10 dollar bill. "Pay him out of this," he said, "he is a stranger—don't know us—we must treat him well." "I shall send but a few of them away at a time—for the present a very few" &c. Said: "I have read Symonds' letter, now I have the point of it. It is grand—grand!" And he said later on: "I must send him a copy of the big book. I have not done it—should have done it long ago."

     Near by a copy of Poet-Lore containing H. S. Morris' paper on Browning. Said W.: "I saw it there—looked into it a little—did not read it, however. Horace, there must certainly be something in Browning that the young fellows take hold of him—something—perhaps a great deal. A young Englishman recently told me, the young fellows over there were leaving Tennyson and taking up with Browning—with Browning." Then after a pause— "and one other—Walt Whitman." I asked: "Was it Arnold?" "No—not Arnold—another—Herbert." And then: "But they don't know: so many of my friends think I make too much of Tennyson—but no—no—I do not—

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I am sure of my ground—I take Tennyson the native, in the rough, for basic uses, origins—and I see him large because I see him."
I asked: "O'Connor never reproached you on that score?" "No—no indeed. O'Connor was one who knew, himself, of these things. But there are many of my friends—and fond friends—who do not understand it"—here he laughed— "do not understand my preference. But neither do some of my friends understand my love for the prairies—my statement, insistence, that the prairies typify America—our land—these States—democracy—freedom, expanse, vista, magnificence, sweep, hospitality. But I understand why I make my claim—I know—I see its justification—its necessity. I have been on the prairies by day, by night—have seen the great, vast spaces spreading out before me—often the stars overhead—then the sun. I would look from car-windows—and to me it was a revelation, even a glory—a magnificent spiritual drama, lesson." He spoke with great feeling. I had with me a copy of the Magazine of Art, containing a paper (illustrated) on Millet, by David Croal Thompson, which W. asked me to leave with him. He put on his glasses and took a great interest in the pictures. "There's the Sower—there's the Angelus, too—that is the picture some of the fellows over there think too much is thought of, paid for." I said: "Perhaps—but in a sense, they're not up to him." W. exclaiming: "That's it!—they're not up to him—nor for long will be. It takes a long time to get up to him—to the likes of such a man. Yet, even in his life, just before he died, there were those astonishing prices."

     Seeing papers in my hand, and learning they were last Sunday's Press and Times—he referred emphatically to the man Green again. "That Press reporter was vulgar—a liar—a most unfit, unprepossessing man—to me absolutely disgusting. His description of the visit of Arnold was grotesque, in fact. I was down-stairs with Arnold—sat at the front window, as you have hundreds of times seen me—there was no

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excitement—no looker-on. That touch, about the neighbors, was the touch of the vulgarian—thinking it would be a bright stroke to represent the neighborhood all out. Yet I venture to say there was not a single person abroad for the purpose given—not a person. Indeed, the American character itself is my backer—for an American as a rule does no such gazing, impertinently—what not, they might take furtive glances, but that would be all. This man Green made a great enemy of Mrs. Davis that day he came—I don't know what he said—or whether it was only some action at the door—but whatever, she was aroused and indignant."
He handed me a copy of the N.Y. Herald of Saturday last—containing a Washington interview with Arnold— "before his coming here." A reference in it to W. W. W. added: "I suppose he is in Boston now. He is to lecture there—speak—at the college, I think—on the Mahabharata—something of that character."

     I told him of an opportunity I had to sell a complete Whitman for 5 dollars, if he chose—and he laughingly reflected: "Well—as the tradesman says, we'd better let it go at that price—as trade is dull, and our stock languishes, we'd better do what we can to deal it out! Of course they'll all distribute by and by, when we are dead—but we may just as well have some of the glory, the fun, now!" When I started up to leave, he called me back and advised me how to adjust my various papers so as most easily to manage with them in walking— "You see, I am as stiff in that point as old A. T. Stewart with his string. He expostulated with a boy who was using too much string for an 80 dollar sale." I said: "He was given but little string when he died," and W. in a laughing way— "True enough—but as much as he deserved." Fixed up my Gutekunst picture for me as I waited. Wrote his own name and "taken from life" with date. "I was going to put your name there with my own—but did not do it; unless you think so, I'll not do it." And so I did not insist, I took the picture as it was. He spoke of Gilchrist's having been over last night. "He

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comes quite frequently nowadays—often stays long."
Had followed up my proposition of last night for a piece out of the Sarrazin essay to close the book. Copied off several manuscript pages and indited an advertisement of his books. In a blue envelope—inscribed—

"Excerpt f'm Gabriel Sarrazin
to fill out Horace's book
(correct and bring proof)"


     Said: "Doctor always speaks of it as 'Horace's book.'"


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