Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 254] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, November 7, 1890

     5:45 P.M. Spent about half an hour with W. on my way home. He said he had had a "long voyage today." Gone down to the south of Camden "into the shipyards" and "enjoyed there the industry, the sky, the city opposite, the flowing river." It had been for him "a rare day" and he had been "in best health, too—which was another first."

     Remarked, "I got my piece off to the North American Review today, and portentous it was, too, at least by title: 'National Literature.' That is immense—might promise much!" I wondered if it would strike some of the critics better than "Old Poets"? W. laughed and shook his head. "I guess not: in spite of Dr. Bucke I went right in and made this piece much like the others. Did it for several reasons: because it was easier; then because anything like elaborate effort, any strain to reach solidity,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 255] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
would knock me into smithereens. I am not up to it. Then, as you know, I like advice, comment, criticism from all sides: like to hear what is being said, for I see that everything that is said has reason with it—the reason at least to be heard. But after hearing all that is told me, then I like to demonstrate that I hold the reins, that I know the journey's end and drive accordingly. There's that resistance in me under the simplest circumstance. It perhaps has a value, too."
Did he think Doctor could change his idea of "Old Poets" piece after other readings? "I don't know. Perhaps not, but that is a thing for him, not for me. I must keep on my course, whatever turns up."

     Baker had written me (date, yesterday) about Arena piece:


New York, Nov. 6th 1890.

My dear Traubel:

Your kind & welcome letter rec'd. I cannot resist your appeal for the only left copy I have of the Col.'s. W. W. so I send it to you by this mail. Take it my friend and use it as you propose. The only other copy I have is one with the Col.'s special souvenir auto. But I have no other or better use for the one I reserved, than to hand it over to you "for the uses and purposes mentioned."

Now as to the autographic page you want the Col. to write for you—I would suggest that you ask the Col. for it, personally. It will be a compliment, coming directly from you, first-hand, and he will be more apt to give it attention than if presented second-hand, through me. So you write R.G.I., and send him the size of the sheet, and ask him for just what you want. That I think the better way—don't you? Let him know about what you want for your title-page, and what sort of a sentiment you want—i.e., suggest the sentiment that would be in keeping with the aim of your little souvenir.

As to W. W.'s writing for The Arena—let him take his own time and choose his own theme. The Arena wants not more than 4000 words or so. When the matter is decided by W. W.—that is, the subject, it might be well for you to advise me and I will write to The Arena, & then on getting reply will forward to you.

I hope your Canada trip did you a world of good. Keep well and

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 256] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
hearty. I am excessively busy—hence my scratches and scrawlses—and also my briefness.


Heartily yours

Baker.


      "He is a kind fellow. Yes, I will let you know and you can send on word. Tell him now I have not made up my mind what to write about—that it will require some days yet. You know, if he does not, how much deliberation becomes a part of my life."

     Had laid out the Burroughs book for me.

     Had I written to Stoddart, proposing the Lippincott's article? Yes. He was satisfied.

     Morris sent over by me five manuscript translations of stories from Murger by W. E. Fox. Also a letter containing a translation by M. himself, "The Chanson of Musette." W. thought, "I will enjoy them: ought to enjoy them anyhow."

     I had bill for 50 copies of Truth Seeker with word they had been mailed. But they have not yet arrived.

     Baker seemed to think Colonel would write me title-page for "Curio" lecture volume if I write direct. I asked W. for some dedication (in manuscript) in his own hand to add to it, and he promised he would give it to me. "It is likely to be pretty short, but you may have it, such as it may prove."

     W. still speaks the terms of happiness over the overwhelming character of the election. "It throws some new, good light on (from) our democracy."

     His child-question was inevitable: "What have you got there?" pointing to some papers that protruded from my pocket. And after making some comment upon "the blessing of pockets in general," he examined the Bazar I produced. The paper had one picture which had vastly attracted me. I turned to it at once. "It looks like a Millet," I said ("The Missing Boat" by Souza-Pinto). "It is a Millet?" he half-asked, half-asserted. When I pointed to the name of the painter, "A

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 257] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Spaniard? Yet French character, too."
And he dwelt upon it as if entranced for the longest time. "See," he says, "it has dash, vehemence—it is simple, grand, effective—and see the quiet sky, the strip of water, there, the rough silent shore, and best of all the figures—no beauty borrowed for them, just the measureless gift of truth—truth. Do you see, Horace, how American the faces are, too? How curiously ours they seem?" I interjected Emerson's portrayal of the universality of Plato (How French! How German! etc.), and he said, "I see, and it applies here, too," adding, "The picture certainly has a Milletan power. And the engraving itself is full of virtue." I said, "It is 'Leaves of Grass' to be universal, to excite the Anarchists to exclaim, How Anarchist! The Archists, How Archist!, etc." And he responded, "That is profound criticism: if it is true, it would be for 'Leaves of Grass' its final touch." And when I went back to the picture saying, "This fellow was satisfied to have things just as they might appear," he assented, "That's true; that is its greatness." We turned the sheet over to another picture: "All Saints' Day in France," by Friant. W. expressing a fondness for it, too, though in less degree. Liked its "breadth," dwelt upon the setting for the background—the engraving. Then turned still again to another, "Evening at Balmoral—Bringing Home the Stags" by Carl Haag, which he thought artistic, strong, "but with a touch of that melodrama which the great masters seem to dread. All the figures elegant, made-up, set there—not in natural but art groups." Afterwards turning back to our first picture with great enthusiasm, "But this, this is element, first cause, beginning: this is nature itself, telling its story." Saying still further: "Artists would not like it because it lacks 'art,' but so does nature always lack art."

     Had I brought Higginson's Independent piece? No, but he had not forgotten it. "Bring it, I am a little curious to know if he has had any new revelations."

     7:20 P.M. To W.'s for a brief space again. Truth Seekers not yet arrived, nor at Post Office. W. disappointed, but "can

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 258] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
wait,"
and of course he must. He had been reading Hedge's "Prose Writers and Poets of Germany" again, as, indeed, "a good deal these later days."

     Speaking of his freedom said, "I go my own way—not because I think it the only way, or even the right way, but because it is my way." I spoke of "the freedom to go wrong, or liberty, the invitation to go right," to which: "Yes, and then it might be said again in another way. For instance, that a bit of ground that is hell for weeds is nothing or even richer for something else. That in fact, the weed may not be the best output of the soil: the weed testimony in reality the testimony of ill," etc.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.