Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, November 11, 1889

     5.15 P.M. W. sitting in twilight. Had just finished dinner. Greeted me with his wonted cordiality. I said: "Having a quiet time all by yourself?" And he responding: "Yes—I always do. There is no other way about it. What a glum sort of a day, too! I have been sitting here looking at the clouded, misty, sky for a long time." Talked then very freely of various matters till nearly 6. I alluded to the sermon from Clifford last evening on the Sunday question and C.'s quotation of Taine's satirical picture of a London Sunday. W. affirmed: "I can see it—see it all. I was out in my chair yesterday—Warrie took me and we went up towards the city hall. Generally, on weekdays, there are boys playing base ball—a fine air of activity, life, but yesterday everything was glum—neither boy nor ball

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to be seen. I thought then—told Warrie, too—how much better it would be for the boys to be in the place—how much better the play, the open air, the beautiful sky, the active movement, than restriction, Sabbathism."
As to his own trip: "I enjoyed the fine day beyond the measure of telling—oh! far! It did me a great good."

     I had met Dr. Reeder, who broached W. W.—I thereupon explaining to him W.'s philosophy of the body, Reeder instinctively declaring: "Every doctor will affirm that—every one." W. said: "It is so, too: the real doctor, the genuine scientist—he is my man—he every time. He will say to all of Leaves of Grass 'Aye'—and then 'Aye' again. But the followers of the colleges, the churches, the schools, the tradition—these will never know." And to the general position of science now—Huxley's 'working hypothesis' for instance— "It is the superbest issue out of time: I know no higher gospel." As to Reeder's finding even his Hicksite Quakerism bigoted, squeezing him practically out of meeting, etc. W. said: "The invariable, inevitable tendency—however liberal the organization, finally restrictions, limitation, revolution." Of L. of G. again: "Leaves of Grass is evolution—evolution in its most varied, freest, largest sense." Referred here once more to Bucke: "He has the best combination—physio-spiritual combination—I know, using institutions as he finds them today, yet ready for anything that may turn up."

     A copy of The Boston Herald had come to me in his care, containing a notice of the birthday book, evidently written by Baxter. W. said: "We have some of our best friends in Boston—friends of thorough-going reliability—Baxter, Kennedy, Garland. And by the way, I came across a poem of Garland's today—extracted from the Youth's Companion—very pretty, nice—I enjoyed it—I want you to read it." Kept The Herald to read.

     W. had a letter from Mrs. O'Connor today. "She goes over mostly the same ground as in your letter. Says she fears to go

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into the lonely house alone, at night, with all its cluster of sweet memories—sad. She promises to send me word of her coming—will probably be here in a day or two."

     The cashier of the bank brought me a catalogue of rare books today—one book L. of G., edition 1871, marked at $8.50. W. said: "I can see how it occurs—most of that edition went abroad—two-thirds of it anyhow. I would get them 100 at a time. Dillingham at that time sold for me in New York and I want to say for him that he was the only one of the publishers there who did not gouge me. All his actions towards me were of a manly character, he was straightforward, honest, made genuine returns. I have always respected him. At that time, 20 years ago nearly, he was still a young man." "But," continued W., "except as curios, these old editions are by no means as good as the new. The '71 edition was nice, I know, but the Boston book is so full of changes, so liberally interspersed with additions, it should not be given up for any old one. I consider this pocket edition—with 'A Backward Glance' and 'Sands at Seventy,' the cream of all—if I may be allowed to use that word." Then he told me of a new project—of "a new edition of Leaves of Grass—much like the pocket edition, yet without the flap, and bound plainly in cloth." He is still "a little mad at Ferguson," he said laughingly, so is not certain if he will not have Sherman print for him. "Still I am not mad at him only, but fond of him too—and my sneaking notion is, to go there again." Until he decided, I should do nothing in the matter. I asked if he thought a popular edition of L. of G. would go. "I do not know. I feel sure, however, that if a hustler got hold of Leaves of Grass the book would make the fur fly in many places it don't touch at all. And Dave is not a hustler—I know that well enough." But "I am fully determined upon getting out a small edition—say of two hundred; no, 3—3 is better—for my own use." As to the pocket edition: "I stick to my liking. I had it in my earliest years—that to put a book in your pocket and off to the seashore

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or the forest—that is an ideal pleasure. I was on the point of getting out a pocket edition of Leaves of Grass many years ago. A woman—and a very cute one, too—objected. There's not one in ten—one in a hundred—wants it so. People as a rule like to open books on center tables, in parlors, and so on and so on. I took entirely too much notice of it at the time—let the matter slide then—now return to it."

     Asked me if I could tell him anything about George Chainey— "Where is he now? what doing?" Adding descriptively—what I well knew: "Chainey proved a good friend of Leaves of Grass. He was there in Boston for awhile: ran the gauntlet of the faiths—all of 'em—was orthodox—Ingersollian—everything by turns. At the last I heard was a howling spiritualist. I have been wondering if he has taken the full leap back yet? I expect to hear of him back in orthodoxy. He was a wonderfully fluent man—had something of William O'Connor's fluency—something of his very figure, too. I have met him—was favorably impressed indeed."

     Remarked: "I have just sent up to Tom some scraps, debris, quite a bundle for his Philadelphia lawyer-friend"—and noticing my look of not knowing: "Oh! you don't know about it. Tom was here yesterday, with Mrs. Harned—a glad visit, to me, it was, too! He asked about it then—just after Mr. Corning and his daughter came in." I spoke of C.'s "soft-soap"—and W. then laughingly: "I see what you mean. And Warrie who has quite a curious nature at taking instant instinctive likes and dislikes—he takes our view—and Ed's too, for that matter. But we must not be too sure—not too sure. I remember a case in the army. Unconsciously—altogether—I too was affected by the opinion of one of the army corps that a certain member of the staff, who was truly a dandy, delicate, dressy, shirty, tie-y—all that—was only a dandy. But never was there a greater mistake, for we found afterwards that he was the bravest man on the staff. I know there is no rule for that—perhaps not for anything. I don't in fact think nature after all

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works by rule—at least, by any rule we know."
Alluded to Kennedy as "a good fellow to brisk us up in that Emerson matter: he is cute, instinctive, in the Boston swim, yet not of it—knowing men, means, everything related."


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