Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, November 16, 1889

     8 P.M. W. in his room, reading. Spoke of Alice [Alys] Smith as having been over, and Mrs. O'Connor again. Flowers from both on the table. "Nellie is evidently having a good time in Philadelphia. Goes home Monday morning." Left with W. November Scribner's. Article therein on Goethe's home at Weimar. W. "sure it will greatly interest" him. He held the magazine stretched before him. "How fine it looks!—and the type inside, too!" Had he ever sent anything to them? "No." Would he not? "Who knows?" And then he inquired: "Can you tell me the editor's name?" And as I could not, "Well,

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find it out for me"
adding: "Some little piece some day may tempt me their way." Mrs. O'Connor had not said anything today about William's stories, but he was "in favor of having them put into book form." He had not given Mrs. O'C. Mrs. Lewis' pictures because she said I knew better what were wanted. Hunted and found all but the Gutekunst portraits while I was there. Gave me a copy of the Lear for Aggie, who projected having a big charcoal copy made by my father. "I might send her a number." W. said, "but she would no doubt select this one anyhow."

     Little heard so far from those to whom books were sent, but W. said: "They will yet come straying in, one after another." And he remarked about the book, when I said Clifford thought a good deal of Forman's letter: "It is remarkable how men's views differ. Out of the dozen and more who have spoken to me critically of the book, no two have the same preferences. A number have spoken to me of Tom's speech—Tom himself thinks Clifford's speech the best—but the Symonds and Sarrazin letters—undoubtedly and far ahead the best things in the book—go without mention: no one appears to discover them." I remarked that the world at large knew little of Symonds himself—that in order to realize his letter, its background needed to be known. "Yes, that is true—that is an answer—I don't know but a final one. But the diction of Symonds' letter itself—isn't it superb—simple, direct, like the elementary laws?" And further: "But the grand feature of the book is its power to grow—its ever better and better aspect—and its remarkable continuity—no one man stepping in another's bailiwick."

     When he learned Howells had sent me some money in Whitman fund: "The good fellow! the good fellow!" Alluded to Hilda Clifford's description of him. "The opinions are very interesting—tell her that back of their mere words is a profound metaphysical something. We will become acquainted yet. When we were out the other day in our chair up at Lee's,

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the stationers, near the Post Office, was a little girl. It has been years now since I saw her. In the old times I held her, dandled her. Now I said: 'Come here little girl, and kiss me' but she ran at that into the store shocked, evidently. She little knew that her shock was her shame—that here, in this, was worked out the prudery of a false society—its influence in the growing child—the kiss, the public, what-not, feared,—its natural impulse lost."
As he tied up a bundle: "There's a talent in knots. Warrie has been giving me lessons: I thought I knew some—but I had no idea how many there were—the mystery of 'em: every true sailor has his deft control of the secret."

     Wondered "if this is a good latitude for people to live in? such violent changes," etc. Boston, however, "is damp, raw—and the Bostonee by no means takes commensurate care of himself. The great features of the typical Bostonee are intellectuality, consumption, dyspepsia." I laughed: "Shall I quote that in the New England Magazine?" He laughed, too, saying, however, neither yes nor no. But asked, "What has become of the magazine? Have you seen its last number? A new one is out." This brought up a matter which had evidently moved him: "Over in town the other day, evening, Kennan spoke: and after he was done, a man in the audience, a preacher, got up and proposed that our government be called on to present a protest to Russia. But no—no—no. My advice would be in the words of Punch in its picture—the little word of four letters, printed as big, said as loud, as could be—d-o-n'-t! And had I been there, I should have in the moment spelled the word and so advised. We have enough ills of our own to rectify: let us stick to them. There are two sides to all these matters. I glory in Kennan's pluck, grit, brains, indeed, if occasion should ever offer, I want you to say so for me—but these things are not properly for government interference. I applaud all he has done—I say with the moral plowman: God damn it! let this earth be ploughed up and up—let it be turned—let it be given to the light of day—let us see what it

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has hidden—what comes, atrocities, blessings, the worst, the best—let nothing escape! But all this can best be done apart from the state. It seems to me the part of noble enterprise for a great magazine like The Century to set apart 15 or 20 thousand dollars and to say, this—whatever else—is left to be devoted to the investigation of Siberia. I know no better deed."

     W. greatly attracted by reports (vague still) of revolution in Brazil, Dom Pedro's abdication, the declaration of a Republic. "Losing Dom Pedro, they're lucky if they do as well with a Republic." To Howells as to all other friends W. counselled me to say, "Walt Whitman's not yet sunk—still has his head above water." As to Percival Chubb's lecture on Walt Whitman (Chubb expected in Philadelphia in Dec.): "If you get a look at the essay you can without a doubt set him right where he is wrong about us—knowing more," etc.

     W. said then: "I got the Transcript from Kennedy again today. In it there was a great display line—head line 'Daniel Dougherty's Eloquent Bosh"'—in relation to speech at opening of Catholic University—W. adding— "I was certain of the 'bosh' but about the eloquence, not so certain." Advised me to tell Howells if I wrote— "Walt Whitman is still on this earth, head-up, sorto"'—and he laughingly spelled "sorto" saying— "It is a word I often use—one of my words—a trace of dialect."


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