Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, November 26, 1889

     7.40 P.M. W. said to me as I entered his bedroom (he extending his hand): "I have been reading again, Coquelin's piece here on Molière and Shakespere. It is wonderful full

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and deep."
I had brought him proof sheets, revised. He wished to hold them over till tomorrow. Handed me a copy of the London Spectator. "There is an article in there about Emma Lazarus—nearly a page—interesting. I thought there was some one of you who took a great interest in her—Mrs. Baldwin or some other."

     I had received a letter from Dowden, dated the 16th. Read to W., who commented at some length. "Yes, I have no doubt all of them, especially Rudolph Schmidt, Symonds and Rolleston—will stick to it—turn it over—turn it over again—view it in all lights. It will be to them a revelation of the critter—a revelation from those who knew him in flesh and blood—the walking, talking, acting, man—as a man who drinks wine, takes a good dinner, shakes hands, among men is a man. Heretofore I have been known to them as the author of Leaves of Grass—the man himself unknown, untold of." I said it was in this line I projected my magazine article. He assented: "That is a very good determination—adhere to it—there could be no better way, no better course; give them the concrete narrative—the rest will take care of itself." I put in: "Yes—my purpose is, to start off with Symonds' passage, elevating L. of G. above any single book so far known—then to go on—here is the man, so thought of, long in our midst—what do I, as one of his intimates, make of him?" And I added: "Such matter must be put down as it is seen if at all." W. then: "That is so—that is Dr. Bucke's principle—that is the principle of all men who aim to get at life itself—yet, though the critics will admit it, they start out invariably to do the other things—to make up their estimates from an opposite—a formal, an artificial, basis. The little book will do more than anything else to bring us together—writer, friend, all, face to face." As to Dowden's letter itself: "That is Dowden—conservative—you might almost say, non-committal. In many respects Dowden may be called a duplicate of Sanborn: though the fires inside burn like the devil, like a volcano, they endeavor

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to keep the exterior, the facade, cool, calm, contained. They are, in a sense, personal Vesuviuses. It is the Spartan story over again—the youth who stole the fox, of which, though it gnawed at his vitals, he gave no sign."
Entered into details of the story: "It was a principle with the Spartans that there was, for instance, no particular harm in stealing—in theft—though it argued inherent vice to get caught in such theft—and so, suffer anything and give no sign. Some cute critic has instituted a comparison between this and the Athenian ideal—the ideal of candor, of expression—if to weep, weep; if to laugh, laugh—men, women—and has said, here they are—you are at liberty to choose as you choose—but if you wish a frank opinion, which commends itself to me,—the principle of suppression, the principle of candor, certainly the Athenian is everyway ahead and that is Greece in a nutshell—Greek art, Greek literature, Greek philosophy—better than these, Greek life, the highest of all: if you are base, act basely,—if noble, nobly stand forth for what you are." But he added with a laugh: "Sanborn and Dowden can't fool us—we know them."

     W. said then: "What a grand idea, that of your father's—the last bard! He was in—showed me a photograph of his picture—today. I am going to stop in some time to see it." Expressed his pleasure to learn Hunter was back in Camden.

     And W. said further: "The key to the Greek character is this—freedom, expression, candor, passion, weeping, laughing—yet all these reined in, reason prevailing over all, reason, understanding, the last, the preserving, the balancing, the governing, quality."


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