Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, November 17, 1890

     Saw Stoddart this afternoon. Said he proposed to get out a Whitman number of the magazine, to contain a portrait, a page of poems and a sketch of W.'s life. It was about this last he wished to see me. Talked in an easy frank way, smoking his cigar between sentences. Asked me if W. would write him five autobiographical pages? I told him I thought not. Well, how far would W. assist me? On this point I could answer more confidently and affirmatively. Thought he would co-operate to the best effect. This appeared to satisfy Stoddart. One of the batch of poems W. sent him sometime ago he will use in next issue—the rest for the page mentioned. Portrait not good—but he had got it cheap somewhere and seemed determined to use it even

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when I said I could furnish him a better. I promised to see W. at once and he thought he might himself get over towards the end of the week. Wished to have the Whitman matter in shape without delay. I shall see Stoddart within a couple of days with more definite intelligence. Met Harry Walsh there. Stoddart declared he had never given Scovel any encouragement—wished me to make it plain to W. that if Scovel indicated, "as he undoubtedly" did, "that I wished him to do it, there was no bottom to that idea at all."

     5:30 P.M. In at W.'s—had just finished dinner—in consequent good humor and bright and ready to talk. "Talcott Williams has been here," he said, "bringing over a man named Aide" (or 'Adie': W. spelling it but I forgetting). "He was, is, Stanley's secretary: a man, not young anymore, and very English—very. He says he was really too old—felt he was—to come to America, but Stanley wanted him along and here he is. He speaks of knowing America, but he don't know anything about it—nothing at all. He has been to Boston, New York, Philadelphia—but how much can a man learn from that? However, he is a very nice fellow. I told him I thought the old typical John Bull—the opinionated, dogmatic, assertive, over-nativized John Bull—threatened to go utterly out, but he shook his head and said there were enough of them still. The man made a good impression on me, but left me that amusement: to know America! as if a glimpse, a casual coming and going, gave him, anybody, the first trace!"

     I detailed to him talk I had with Stoddart. He at once said about the autobiography, "You were right. I would not undertake it." But as to co-operating with me, "That I will of course do; and that would be the best method anyhow. You would want bits here and there in outline of my aims, purposes, whatever?" W. continued, "I am glad of what you tell me about Scovel. I felt quite sure Stoddart could not have seriously approached Jim on the subject. Stoddart is too keen—is a man of the world in the best sense. And the magazine? It is a hard one to steer—

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the Lippincott's establishment is so filtered through and through with Mrs. Grundyism. Stoddart seems frank, non-literary, inviting. I am sure the plan he has outlined is a good one, though what you tell me of the picture he will use excites my fear."
And he said further, "I am surprised at what you tell me of the poems—that they will make a page even after using this one in the next issue. Are you quite sure about that? Yes—one of them was in print type: I will tell you how. You know, they were the poems that went to the Harper's Bazar—were refused there. They seem to have had them already in type—accepted them; then, after a new reading, some qualms appeared and conquered, and the poems came back, rejected as improvisations. It was one of my peculiar experiences." Had been working on some poems today. "I called the Lippincott's poems 'Old Age Echoes' or something like that, I think. A broad enough title—will cover anything, everything, almost." Wondered how "that would do for the title of our new volume?"

     Speaking of Mrs. Grundy again, "To say shirt or leg—and she hearing it—is enough: a man is damned forever!"

     I spoke of reading "Leaves of Grass" last night to Anne Montgomerie; that I hit passages the world outlaws—never winced—nor did she, and W. exclaimed, "Admirable! Admirable! And for us fellows, what claim short of that can we ever dare to make?"


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