Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, December 7, 1889

     7.45 P.M. W. in his room reading a volume of Stedman's cyclopedia which he laid down. I had in my hands a package of his circulars, from Ferguson. "What's that?" he asked. And on my rendering over, said: "It looks well—and on good paper, too!"—so was quite satisfied.

      "I was out to supper last night—evening—" he said, "up to Tom's. Tom had there Mr. Corning and his daughter, Professor Cope, Frank and me—and of course Mrs. Harned. After the meal was over, all the rest of them went off together to discuss the gay and festive subject of the descent of man—of which I doubt if anybody knows anything at all: but not any of that for me, you can be sure. I was in New York some years ago, attended a meeting of the Liberal Club there. It was at the time of the blue glass craze and they were discussing blue glass. Some of them wished to hear from me on the subject

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and I refused by saying that I did not wish to add to the misinformation on the subject."
In today's papers were notes of McCosh's debate with Griggs on Presbyterian doctrines. W. referred to it heartily: "I hope they become mutually informed"—and adding, "There was a conference of which some word [was] in the papers the other day, adopting a resolution in connection with the damnation of little babies in their little-babyhood. How rich all that!—making nuts for Bob to crack—and he'll crack 'em!"

      "Professor Cope appears to be a lively, interesting man," W. said further. "Do you know much about William Kingdon Clifford, the English scientist? He is said to have been a man brimming over with human kindliness—would go to parties, dance, joke, prove himself a generous, expansive man. But that consumption! He tried to fight it off—went to Italy—but it was of no avail. It was an hereditary case." Referred again to his enjoyment of last evening. "And coming home, the fine transparent moon! I stopped a while to look at it—and the whole air so sweet and mild. I doubt if the Mediterranean—the north shore—the south—can show a better. And how is it tonight?—just as mild? All last night—all today—we seem possessed of a spirit of peace—of purity." And then he told me he had been out today. "I went along, in a carriage, to Harleigh Cemetery. Mr. Wood, the superintendant, stopped here for me, then we went up to Tom's—took Tom and Mrs. Harned with us—all went out together, were gone about an hour and a half. I gained some quite new views of the country. Tom and Mrs. Harned and I sat inside—the rest out. They said nothing to me about a lot, nor did I broach the subject."

      "I see the papers are full of the death of Jefferson Davis"—which expression [his] led to some discussion. I set up a mild defense of Davis, W. then: "I don't know—I don't see it that way. I noticed in one of the papers this morning an expression of admiration for the old man's inflexibility, which I suppose has a sort of nobility—admirability—in itself. But Davis was

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absolutely without lubricity. Was like a general, having made a mistake, with time for retrieval—but was too proud to unbend, to acknowledge his mistake. If you grant that, then goodby science—to the devil with progress! The top-most glory of science, our science, today—is its spirit of tolerance—its broad human spirit of acceptance—its admission equally of every view—making dogma of none. Davis was of a damned bad type—of the type which, liking cabbage (to give a homely instance) or onions, would damn anybody who does not. But that is not modern—that is not up to us—we have reached beyond and beyond. The South has had some of the best samples and some of the meanest. I have seen Davis often—we measured him long ago. It would not be well to have an America of such men. He was a venerable looking man—a little like our carpenter over here at the corner, do you know him? Slender and tall. I saw in the papers that he was tall and straight. He was tall—but straight I doubt—was rather round-shouldered as I knew him."

     Adler had asked me last Sunday for a note from W. introducing him to Burroughs. W. said: "I will gladly give you such a letter for the Professor. Tell him so." I had word from Chubb this morning that he had a letter to W. from Edward Carpenter. W. remarked, "It was not necessary." We talked over Salvini's Gladiator, which I saw last night. I detailed the story to W., who then went over the sketch of Bird's Gladiator, saying at the end: "The plot turns on such points, small points, as I think them." And then— "Salvini must have given you a glorious performance last night."

     Turning again to Jefferson Davis— "No, he is not our man. There was Carlyle: there was something genuine in Carlyle—we always feel that he stood for something—if not our something, still something." I left with him a copy of the New Ideal in which there was a review of the banquet book. He returned me Current Literature— "which I have taken up again and again." Gave me also a copy of the Photographic Journal

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containing a piece on the Gutekunst portrait—a picture of bathers there reproduced had "struck" him "favorably."

     Warren got off a good thing tonight. He does not much like Corning—therefore said: "It's all very nice in them Unitarians—but their Unitarity ends with the church: outside the church they're anything you choose!"


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