Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 29, 1889

     7.30 P.M. W. in his room. The night cold. He kept his fire burning at a great rate. The Current Literature he said he had read. "I found Bob. How wonderful fine it is, too! How grandly he can do that!" Adding— "I notice by the paper that he has received what is thought a great honor—has been invited to deliver the annual address before the American Bar Association on 'The Imperfections of the Modern Law' or what not."

     I spoke of Chubb—and questioned: "After all, are you not best understood abroad? or accepted more widely?" To which W.: "I wonder? And if I am I am—I must stand it! Often, the rule in our offices—not the rule so much of the editors as the publishers—is delicateness—delicateness—everything sacrificed for that—everything." He had noticed the snarling of the dog on my entrance down stairs, and remarked: "There are good dogs and bad dogs, like there are good Irishmen and bad. A good Irishman is a tip-top fellow—you want no better: but a bad?—Oh! there's hell to pay!" He laughed. As to influence of whiskey in the Irish character, W. thought: "I feel the philosophy which says—whiskey—drink—whatever, is the truth: that what inheres to a man mainly, the drink will bring forth—reveal. This might not be a general rule, but it is a rule."


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     I laughed with him over the Current Literature personal (already much met with in papers) that a young man of 12 who drives him out, likes and will lecture on him after he is dead, having taken notes of all he has said. A blundering passage, probably originating in Billy Duckett. W. said: "Billy was here to see me the other day, but they would not let him in—the people downstairs." Expressed no regret that it was so. "The personal has most of all, lie in big, big type—flaring, flaming then underneath, in the smallest possible compass, the most diminutive proportions—the type of truth—almost not to be seen at all!"

     Referring to the proof I said— "I suppose there will be no change in the autobiographic note?" He asked: "Is there anything in it which you think ought to be changed?—I should like to hear. I have a sort of remembrance that at the time it first went into type, you felt so. I don't know that there's any point at which it can be attacked, except perhaps this—about the New Orleans trip—passing over Lake Huron"—he quoted the line. "Strictly speaking, that is not true—I see now that I did not at that time cross Huron—at least, I do not think I did. Now, what is your opinion? Should I change it?"—I said— "I suppose the man after origins, would insist upon the change." W. then: "That's so—I can understand"—and with a laugh— "That's Dr. Bucke—he gets as mad as the devil over the least doubt. I very vividly recall one of his catechisms: he would ask vehemently—'You were not there? That's enough! Out with it then!' and so, out it went. I might in that way do something for him which I might not do for other reasons. Tom will come in—want an autograph, a scrap of manuscript,—debris—what-not—perhaps for a lawyer-friend. I may not care a damn for the man—may not know him,—yet I would do anything for Tom—do this." "Then," he added, laughing again, "I always have the printers in mind—in heart—I have been a printer myself—I know what it means to make such a correction."


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     Some one writes McKay that he has come in possession of the manuscript of "Carol Harvest." What idea could McKay give of its value? W. laughed: "How could Dave tell him—any-one tell him? That's a merely as-it-may-happen price, anyhow—up or down. There is a story about that manuscript. Do you remember The Galaxy? There were two brothers had it. One of them, passing through Washington after the war, asked me to write such a carol, which I did. They took it and paid me for it—paid me well—I think 50 or 60 dollars, 60 probably. Before they printed it, they entered into some arrangement with a London publisher—sold the poem to him—for more than he paid me. It was schemed to have it appear contemporaneously there and here. At a conference some of us held at that time, the question was brought up—the moral question involved. I thoroughly felt—O'Connor was very clear—that the Galaxy men were honor bound to me for a least half that sale price—but they did not think so, evidently. I was at first disposed to make a point of it, but thought differently—decided not—in the end. They wrote me very complimentarily about the piece—and they were rather nice men. It must be that manuscript which has fallen into these new hands—caught up out of the remains of the Galaxy possessions."

     I had with me the Parker manuscript from the hands of Samuel Johnson. W. looked at it curiously—thought it "fine manuscript"—suggesting: "When you print it, call it 'Theodore Parker'—that alone—don't give it more. I suppose it is in the line of my piece on Hicks?" Then dwelt upon the "little currency of Parker and Hicks"—adding: "Hicks was a Carlylean man—a forceful personality. Carlyle cared nothing for theories, principles, abstractions—sent them all to hell—but a forceful personality—a flesh-and-blood personality—appealed to him—like his Frederick. To me Frederick appears only half-good: he was half bad if not more—but he was forceful—had certain powerful and impressive characteristics."

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And after further inspecting the manuscript—remarking Johnson's "fullness and care"—he exclaimed: "Oh! those notes—materials!—they pile up on a man—pile him under! How much of a relief it is to come upon a work which gives out the air of unpreparedness!"

     W. had laid aside for me a letter from Rolleston (written at Wiesbaden) enclosing an extract from Piccadilly emphatically and favorably reviewing the German edition of L. of G. Also put with it a letter from Caroline Sherman (Chicago) containing a printed article of hers on Edward Carpenter. She spoke of the latter as having "a great deal of interest."


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