Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, December 3, 1889

     7.40 P.M. W. accosted me as "the stranger," but reached forward his hand and cordially pressed mine. I had left proof for him this morning, though not seeing him. This he had looked over and enveloped for me. Had decided to issue a circular first, advertisement on one side, autobiographical note on the other—both subsequently to go in L. of G. "I had half a notion to send it over to you, but a day or two really makes no difference." And added, "I had the greatest difficulty in getting it just as I wanted it—you knowing disappointment at first. The printers all have their own ideas, too. I think some men are marked out from all eternity to be printers.

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That would have been Fourier's idea, and wonderful good it is, too—justified, in a sense, by all that we know of human nature, and so, the printer is born"
—saying this with a laugh— "to contradict us—to have his own way—at least, sometimes. One man is born to be a printer, one a bookbinder, and so on and so on. I never felt this so much as with nurses—how some have the nurse's gift. I knew one man, a Tennesseean—it was wonderful, his power to uplift, to spread cheer, light. It was good merely to be near him—yet no one could tell why. I myself, felt the contagion—the inspiration—and what of the poor sick boys, then, do you think?"

     Called my attention to a copy of The Illustrated London News sent by Pearsall Smith. "See," he said, "that is the way we are done up again." I exclaiming at once, disappointed in the portrait, "Yes, done up!" W. thereupon laughing and saying: "Dr. Bucke has seen it and damns it as a failure—in which opinion I can fairly say I concur. Is it necessary for the engraver to see the critter in order to reach an effect? Yet I suppose, not." And he "wondered" if, sending the Gutekunst pictures to Paris or Berlin, "it would turn out well—adhering to the truthfulness of the original"—for the original, people said was good. "And of course," he said merrily, "I consider them wise in that." And then further: "The Lounger [in The Critic] thinks he sees something in the eye that arrests him—a peering, inquisitive, inquiring look. And I don't know but there is a point that will bear looking into." He pointed to the Symonds picture against the wall: "That, for instance—how beyond measure that seems. Doctor's there" on the mantel "I always liked extremely, but when I turn to this other, Doctor's must take a second place."

     He said the Hall life of Lincoln "did not appeal" to him. "It has parts of which I have my doubts. There are places, occasions, when a man's postwar bitterness might show to advantage, be as it should be—asserted, made known. But I do not think that is the place. When Tom Donaldson was over last,

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he spoke of Herndon's Lincoln. Do you know anything about it? Tom seemed to think it contained credible stories, interesting, throwing many happy side lights. We do not seem to realize, even at this late day, how many loyal men there were at the South—were too of the most tenacious patriotism. And there was New York halved, too—the very rich and the very poor allied strangely together in Southern sympathies."

     I saw Salvini in The Gladiator last evening. W. speaking of S.: "It is the objection of Billy Winter—and of him alone—that Salvini lacks intellectuality. But what does that signify? I suppose that nature lacks intellectuality, too, for that matter."

     Developed some talk of adulteration, W. saying: "If there's anything that will destroy our American people, our States, it will be fraud—the element of fraud. It is the poison, the danger, of our civilization." Instanced the buildings going up "in Philadelphia—in Camden—rows of shells—not a genuine house among them. Mr. Smith and his wife come along—see a house—it has a neat, dainty facade—all is fair without. Here then is what we want—and they take it. But a year passes—now they see their bargain. It gapes, yawns, strains—not a joint secure. That is one side of our life—a side that makes American boasts farcical. Yet I don't know but we are now paying the penalty, that at last we will safely issue." Adding: "Kirkbride, water engineer in Brooklyn, many a time told me of it. He went abroad—reported the old Roman masonry, aqueducts, as sound, apparently, as when new. My brother George knows the fraud. He was a pipe inspector there in New York. The henchmen thought his place, salary, belonged to democratical purses, so he was removed. But finally they had to re-engage him. Everything for politics—for the principles nothing."

     W. called my attention to a curious circular issued by his painter, Curtz. "Patronize him," he urged, "if you have any little jobs, take them there. I do, I have given him many. He is old, poor, sometimes ridiculed."


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