Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 15, 1889

     7.38 P.M. W. talking with Warren as I entered. Gave him injunction to come back sharply at 9. As to his mail (Warren had just been to the Post Office): "This whole week my mail has been small, and what has been has been of an unsatisfactory nature. Autograph letters in plenty—and these of no value except in the return stamp, which I confiscate." They have added a delivery to the mail routes in Camden, and W. is disturbed: "I suppose I will get adjusted to it, but now the mail seems to come all hours of the day." He ridiculed the idea of its necessity—especially someone's suggestion that it was done for Camden's business men. "Where are Camden's business men? Where is Camden's business?"

     Has been writing some today—a new verse, and some few paragraphs about the New York Exposition of 1853. He said: "It has been a long and draggy day." At which I asked: "Haven't you been well?" "Oh yes! As well as usual,—all days are draggy, monotonous, to one penned up, confined—some

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more so, some less—but all dreary. I envy you fellows who can go about, who have something to do—who cross the river, work, see the sunsets—free, unhemmed-in, untrammelled."
I suggested his age—that he had had his own long period of activity ere this confinement of recent years. "That is true—that is to be considered—I do consider it. But then one's life is not always the thing it is supposed to be—has its periods and periods—dark, light, dark again—spots, errors, damned foolishnesses. Looking back over my own time—looking into the period starting with '61—'62—I have nothing to regret, nothing to wish reversed. But then, it might be asked—why is it, just when a man gets his height, his purpose, begins to live, comes the thwarting signs, the hedging-ins, the breakups, the ending? Why is it?" I mentioned that as a question that occurred to Samuel Johnson and was one of his drifts to immortality. "Yes, I can see—and Johnson was right." And there was Johnson's own work, left undone. W.—saying thereto: "Yes—wanting the crown—pursuing his game—almost upon it—light in his eyes—then the sudden dissipation! It is a vivid touch out of life—I see it as if physical phenomena, this moment before my eyes. And not of this life alone—all lives!" In all of this not complainingly—his tone one of seriousness, only.

     On another line, spoke thus: "I have had a picture sent over by George Childs—a Gutekunst picture. It was for Mrs. Kendal, the actor. He said she was anxious to have a copy—wished me to sign it—which I did." She had been reported present at the Ethical meeting last Sunday. "She must be radical," I said, telling this to W. "Yes—and I was about to ask what you know about her—I have a great curiosity to have somebody tell me. Sometimes the conviction is quite strong that the women on the stage are after all way above the men. I say this of malice prepense: I have seen a good deal of both. There was Macready among the men—a great figure in his day—famous—I could never enter into the enthusiasm over

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him—never. He never seemed to address himself to me. And so with many of the men. But I have seen Ristori in her prime—on her first coming—and then in Washington, again, and always with the same admiration. And Ellen Terry—from all I can hear far exceeds Irving. Irving himself I do not think would appeal to me. He is polished, intellectual—yet could never arouse me. I demand that my whole emotional nature be powerfully stirred. I can believe Salvini to be the greatest of all. There is a testimony to that effect which carries conviction along. I have seen Janauschek and liked her—saw her in Maria Stuart—she took the part of Mary—but the other woman, who was the Elizabeth, pleased me quite as well. I always felt myself attracted to Mary Wainwright—she didn't stir me like the devil, but she stirred me."
And he drifted along in his desultory reminiscence and criticism. "How could the little critics say more than they do of Salvini? When an unusual power appears, they are baffled utterly." The great Kean? "Oh no! I never saw him—but in my early years, in Brooklyn, when I loafed a good part of my spare time on the ferryboats, I learned about him. It was in a peculiar way. The companies hired a sort of major-domo to take charge of the cabins—the ladies' cabin, chiefly. The fellow I have in mind was odd, fanciful, fat, took violent likes and dislikes— gossippy—would sit down by the hour and chat, narrate. I was luckily among his likes. A Dickensey character—told me many interesting things. It appears he had once been headdresser for Kean. One of Kean's fancies—he was a man of fancies—was his fancy for this man. The man told me he got in the habit, after Kean was dressed, of leaving the room in charge of his assistant and slipping into the pit, to see and hear—how this became almost necessary to him. He thought Kean the greatest actor that ever was—a man of tremendous flashes." W. remarked again: "It is singular, in connection with Forrest—actor as he was—that he has waited till future generations to be know for what he was." And "What could Willie

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Winter know of the real big fellows?—he, the most miserable little whelp of all!"
And yet— "Winter has his place—take his company, and he fits to it." But as to power "I never heard it mentioned in the same breath with him."

     I referred to Sam Johnson's respect for Grant to the end—Morse's letters to me describing it—how Johnson had regarded Grant as possessed of certain solid qualities—reserve power etc.—not common in America. W. thereupon: "And Johnson was cute enough to see it, naturally. I know Grant—you remember in your book, in John Burroughs' letter—where John speaks of the prime defect of the American character—that it lacks inertia? He uses the word inertia. It is very good as so used. Now that you speak of Grant—telling me of Johnson, I realize that there was Grant's power—he had this inertia—had it in marked degree." The world often attributed Grant's successes to pertinacity rather than mental force. But W.: "That is a mistake—Grant had all the more power from his care not to show it. He had inertia, with all that it implies. I don't know if Lincoln had it, but Grant, certainly." I said: "And John seems to think you are the only man in our literature that exemplifies him." W.— "It is a high word: one would wish he were the man even if he were not!"


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