Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 22, 1889

     7.45 P.M. W. gave me his customary cordial greeting. Sat in his room, reading a paper. "I have had Horace Howard Furness here with me today. He had his trumpet,—we got along very well. His own speech is to me just the thing—his voice just the right pitch for my ears." And he added: "Horace is a noble fellow—a right royal man, truly among the rare characters in literature."

     He handed me a postal enclosed by Kennedy in a letter received today. Sanborn had written K. on another matter, and at the foot of the postal added— "What a good volume that about Whitman!" W. thought: "That outweighs all that can be said to the detriment of the book." And as to notes of dissatisfaction heard locally: "I do not see what they are for. The book is full, noble. I don't see what more could have been said. There were speeches enough."

     Gilchrist said at Harned's last evening, upon hearing that Mr. Coates had retired from the fund—that there may have been some connection between that and the poem "To the Year 1889" which had in some quarters excited criticism. W. said now, upon my questioning if there could have been the least idea there of resenting the aid of his friends: "I am not conscious that I thought at all on the matter—every man

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must give his own interpretation. If anybody is determined to think that, he will think it no matter what may be said to the contrary."
I said my explanation of it as only of general meaning—having rather to do with the abstract view of his condition and the needs it aroused had easily been accepted by Morris long ago. W. then: "I think Morris' basic quality, soil, measure, is human kindness, generosity, sympathy. He is open to statement, open to candor and he is eligible to see right, to grow, build up—at least in on the way."

     I left with him the current North American Review. He "wished to read Ingersoll and Burroughs"—articles from both therein—Ingersoll on Divorce, Burroughs on "The Corroboration of Prof. Huxley." "I see there is a new fortnightly—The Arena. Its appearance would seem to signify that the public is in for heavier matter—wants it. This"—tapping the Review, on his lap— "then The Forum—now The Arena. They have had many reviews—this or that—in England, abroad. In the early part of this century they were much for literary explication, examination." And as to Keats' sacrifice under criticism: "That is what is said of it, though it is vehemently denied too. But I have no doubt that had something to do with it. Keats' whole being seemed absorbed in what is called beauty—the sense of the beautiful—perfection of form—polish—aesthetic beauty. It was on him, on this, the criticism fell. It was vitriol. On Keats, Byron, Kirke White, others, this scurrility, abuse, contempt, was bestowed. Byron prospered under it—indeed, I don't know but that was the greatest factor in his development. He published his first book at 19 or 20 or 21, thereabouts—Hours of Idleness—and very good ones, some, too. But it was left for the later experience to make him what he is now known to have been." I asked W. if the old reviewers had ever been more bitter in discussion than their followers in what was said of L. of G.? And he at once said: "No—I think our treatment was almost beyond precedent. No one can know it as I know it—not my nearest

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friends of the old days—not even William O'Connor, not even John Burroughs."

     He spoke of the Mrs. Kendal interview, over which, as Harned puts it: "Walt came up to my house and drank with me a glass of champagne." "The interviewer seemed to get hold of her just as she was leaving—putting her coat on—and she was very free to confess. I have always seemed to have a good clientage among the actors—clientele—women, men—irrespectively. That abroad is at least as emphatic as that at home, the fact is one I deeply respond to."

     He "wondered" at the accuracy of the mails. "I have a young man friend down in Mexico—a place called Jesus Maria—something of that ridiculous sort. I sent him a package of these photos awhile ago—sent them doubtingly: and yet here today a letter comes from him—an effusive, gushing letter—saying the pictures had arrived, intact—not a break—not a damage. Think of the distance—the facility—the integrity with which the mails are handled: even on the way to Jesus Maria—to Mexico—to the land of priests, theology!"


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