Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, December 13, 1889

     7.30 P.M. W. in his room, but not reading. Hands folded—meditative. Said: "We had a good outing today—two hours, fully—went up and into the ship-yard. Oh! the incredible inspiration of it to me!" He was positive he had much benefited by the trip. I left with him a copy of the N. A. Review, the contents of which he at once proceeded to look over.

     Immediately on my entrance, almost, he spoke of a volume he took up in his hands—Roden Noel's "Essays on Poetry and Poets." "I laid it out for you—it probably will interest you—maybe more than it does me, though I don't know that I should say that, for I find myself going back to it, from time to time, which is one test, and a good one." I spoke of the letter I had addressed to Noel, anent the celebration—that was returned to me (though addressed care of The London Times, with request to "forward")—with inscription—"person unknown," or to that effect. W. much enjoyed my story, exclaiming:

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"That's John Bull—that's the bull of him—supercilious, disdainful—thinks his character is in danger of being misunderstood if that is not made very patent. This trait will hang on to him yet for a long while. Of course they know who Roden Noel is: but then, it would not become their reputation to admit it. I usually take all risks in a case like that—send with a simple town address, perhaps in care of the P. O.—and as a general thing they go right: though it goes against my grain to send off a letter or what not with an insufficient or doubtful address."

     He read today a poem sent to him through McKay. "It is quite good," he remarked, "I am very much done up that way of late." There was a New Yorker, W. J. O'Reardon, who sent him a "greeting" about the time of his birthday, which still remains intact.

     Again he spoke: "And so Browning is dead! Who now, except Tennyson and Whittier, is to be talked of? Although some would object, I think Whittier distinctive, typical of something, striking a pure note that lifts him up and up, I think very high—with the great. Some would say, Holmes, too—but I should not say Holmes." And although there were manifest ways in which Whittier obviously lacked world-mind, "yet after that is said, more remains to be said—the best yet, to be said in his favor." But as to Browning: "He died suddenly—has created much—yet I know little about him, in reality. I ought in fact to take him up—weigh him—make sure of myself—but I doubt if I should in any way tie to him. 'The Ring and the Book' I have read pretty thoroughly, but that is all."

     The morning papers announced by cabled dispatch, Tennyson's new volume. W. had seen the notice and it excited his interest. "I should not wonder but the New York Herald or some other paper would have the whole book or a part of it, cabled tomorrow. If it does, I am going to ask you to get me a copy. It would be a feast! If men only knew that they were

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to become great—as they never do—how well they might prepare for it! Start in youth, fill the table drawers with poems, stories, whatever: then, when fame is on, and the editors will take most of anything a man writes, bring 'em out!"

     Some one had brought him in some fruits—bananas, dates—and cakes: and another, flowers. He spoke affectionately of the visitors who so remembered him. I brought him back the Sarrazin book with a little letter enclosed from Morris.


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