Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, December 4, 1889

     6.55 P.M. I went down with Agnes, staying about 15 minutes myself, and leaving her with him when I left. I went upstairs first and told him she was there, at which he instantly said: "Why certainly, let her come up!" So I went downstairs and had her follow me up, W. crying without waiting for her entrance, "Come right in, Aggie, you are very welcome!" And as she came near, took her hand and kissed her. Had been out today, but the weather was too cool, so they soon repaired homeward.

     I was on the way to Othello. "I almost envy you," he said, "but the next best thing to going yourself, is to have a good next fellow tell you. So I rely upon a good account from you to make up for my loss." And then to Agnes— "Are you going too?" And learning not, he said, "Well—Othello is a man's piece, anyhow." Agnes demurring, but W. insisting— "It is a man's piece, nevertheless." Then, as if this reminded him of something: "The best thing I have heard about Herbert's picture there" pointing to the table where a photograph of it stood "is a little story Herbert brings me from London. You know about Lord Elgin—his treasures. Among them is a piece representing a horse rising out of the sea, shaking his mane, as if to throw off the water—so"—indicating—his hair flying wildly as he did so. "And someone told Herbert that he never looked at that picture, or that old, old piece of art, but that one reminded him of the other! It is a capital story. I was almost saying the story was better than the picture." And then he added to my remonstrance that the picture did not satisfy me— "I am not always sure but you fellows do Herbert injustice—at least, fail to do him justice. Certainly the London fellows like the picture. The opinions of it from England, he tells me, are high in their praise. The opinion of the man who has not seen the actual critter—seen him as you see me here—is to be considered, too. I was myself too much inclined—

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am yet inclined—your way. Which is perhaps the reason I am putting up this defense now. It is true Herbert was and is a good deal more conventional than we like—than we could be—than consists with an entire rapport: gave me, for instance, the Romeo curls, while certainly knowing I did not have them. Yet he and the drawing-rooms no doubt, thought I should have 'em if I haven't, and that was enough.
" I put in: " Look out! I am not always sure that you fellows do justice to Herbert!"—and he laughed heartily, then going on: "I was about to say, we ought not to be so certain of our own notions, seeing how they are crossed at their most sacred junctures. Horace Howard Furness was here the other day—he won't hear either to the Eakins picture or the bust. Yet to me it seems almost incredible that anybody can look at either and fail to see their immense power, vitality, vivification." "But then, with Herbert's as with another's work, we must apply Heine's method faithfully: What did he start out to do?—has he done that? If he has done that, then it's a bee—whatever our feeling that the aim was wrong." Then, however: "And yet my friend Arnold would say to all this: You would not talk so if you were a reader of Leaves of Grass as I am!" W. saw my sister's inquiring look and knew what it meant. "No, not Edwin Arnold, another Arnold, a friend whom I knew well."

      "I have been reading 'The Merry Chanter,'" he said, before I went. "Frank Stockton's story here in The Century. It is very interesting. I very rarely read these things."


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