Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, September 23, 1889

     8:10 P.M. W. in his room—staying upstairs now entirely. Reading "Waverly." Looked ruddy, but said he had not been "chipper." A couple of visitors today—women, New Yorkers, who bought copies of November Boughs. Referred to Tom's visit yesterday and to the fact that Clifford, though in Camden, did not stop in. I wrote Brinton in response to his postal, inviting him to come over to see Walt instead of eking out mere hints of his condition by correspondence. Told W., who was pleased. "I am glad you did it," he announced, "Brinton is one of our men." I asked W. about the Arnold letter to him printed in the Times. "As I told Tom—haven't I told you?—it was all news to me as to others: I never got such a letter." I

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said, "If it is true that Arnold said, as reported in Herald there"—I returned him the Herald sheet with the Washington interview— "that Longfellow is our greatest poet, then I give no weight to his endorsement of you." W. gave a slight laugh. "But you know, Horace, you must not predicate a man's judgment by anything you see in the papers about him. We ought to know, of all men! For you have often heard me say, it is with a newspaper man, not, 'What is the truth? What can I tell here that is true?' but, 'What is interesting, spicy?—what can I tell here that will interest, sparkle, attract?'" Repeatedly speaks of this as "the Moncure-Conwayism of journalism."

     He had quite a siege hunting up Johnston's address for me in the notebook. Then later he tried to find the Sarrazin manuscript, which just the other day had been the top of the heap but now had entirely disappeared. His expressions were very amusing. He hunted—leaned over,—till his head hurt—then would sit back—then recommence. Finally relinquished. "It will turn up readily enough when I am not looking." Would take his cane, give a pile of books, &c., a knock— "make matters worse," as he said. "To-morrow, I'm sure to hit upon it somewhere."

     Showed him the slip herewith, from Item last week. He laughed especially with idea of the Item getting on moral stilts—the dirtiest lyingest sheet in these parts. "Reminded him," he said, "of the old-time criticisms" in which now there seemed a lull.

Sir Edwin Arnold


It was very kind of Mr. Childs to give a dinner to Sir Edwin Arnold, but the gifted Englishman ought not to assume that we are deaf, dumb and blind, and lack understanding.

Coinciding with the New York World, we assume that Sir Edwin intended the following remarks about "Walt" Whitman in the kindest spirit to the American people: "I am more than ever convinced

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 016] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - that he is one of the greatest of your American writers. His poetry is wonderful. Prudish people, I know, object to some of it, but there is nothing impure in it. It is the expression of a simple child of nature."


It is, perhaps, ungracious to object to what is intended to be flattering in the remark of so distinguished a visitor, but we cannot help saying that, unless Sir Edwin is acquainted only with the expurgated English edition of Whitman's poems, his compliment is a little left-handed. If it be conceded to "Walt's" admirers that the proportion of nastiness they prefer in their poetry is a matter of taste, they should at least refrain from calling those who prefer poetry without nastiness "prudish people."

There are many fairly educated people who do not find Whitman's writings poetry at all, and to whom his filth is only a source of added weariness; but those who are so constituted as to admire him will hardly, we think, indorse Sir Edwin's opinion that there is "nothing impure" in his writing. They could not easily do so, if they had read all his verses, without admitting that impurity is not a quality of dirt.

     Handed me a picture of Tolstoi out of Book News—remarking my interest in him and "the strong face."


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