Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, November 20, 1890

     5:10 P.M. Sat with W. in his dark room, with the flickering light of the fire playing through the half-open stove door with W.'s beard and face—the picturesqueness of the dim objects and the form of the old man accentuated and tantalized. A good half hour's talk. Warren came in with me and handed W. a package which proved to be his old hat. Warren told him "they say they cannot dye it." W. interrupting, "Oh! they be damned!" then laughing merrily, "I tell Warrie the hatters have a boycott on me. I sent this over to be cleaned and they said they could not clean it but could dye it. I sent it over to be dyed and they say they cannot even dye it! It is a notion," etc. Warren was amused by it, "They said, it was part felt and part wool; if it was all felt or all wool, they could dye it." W. laughed again, "Smart logic! part felt and part wool. As if they knew that better than any other of us!"

     We proceeded into a miscellaneous talk. W. asked, "Did you read the manuscript? How did it come up to you?" My idea was, that it would do to go in with an article, but was not enough, and not just what I thought Stoddart wished, standing alone. Then I feared it might in part conflict with my other piece now nearly done. Had we not better hold over till he had seen the last? He readily acquiesced: "I can see the point in what you say—it is an important one. We can't be too careful about such a thing—it is so much a part of duty and honesty." I was very frank to tell him I would not use the piece as it stood and he as frankly said, "You must do as you think: there is no other course; I would do that myself—do nothing else."

     Asked me, "What about my envelopes?" I had seen Cohen. They would not be done till Monday. I started to give him Cohen's explanation, whereat he said, laughing heartily,

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"There's no need to do that. You should have told him the story of our army colonel. His men came to him to tell why they had failed to take a certain position. And he said, 'Damn you! I don't care for reasons why; it is enough for me to know you did not take it!'"

     Had had another letter from McKay. "He says he has heard from Washington again that the two copies of 'November Boughs' never came, that I am liable to forfeiture of copyright if I do not send copies at once. Yet I did send the books—say, six or eight months ago, and they must have been pilfered or lost. But of course there's nothing for me to do but send again. It puzzles me a little how they can have gone astray, if they did. For I am specific enough in all packages I send away, even at the risk of overloading the directions. My brothers and their folks complain of overcrowding—that I put too much on. They laugh at me: it seems to give them some amusement, but I insist on it—do it anyway." Then he spoke again of "the angry letter" he had had from McKay about payment for the large orders for complete Whitman. "He ought to have understood—I made it plain enough for anybody to comprehend: three dollars per copy, cash down. But now he says he is subject to the methods or whims of the party who took the book—when they pay, he will pay. That is canny enough, to say no more. I am sure that especially in all money transactions I am cautious enough for everybody to realize the terms."

     W. referred to a postal he had written Bucke—its substance. Then of Bucke himself, "He is the thorough man of science—the inquirer: wants to get the concrete details of every case—if you understand what I mean by that. Wants to know if I drink whiskey at all, what kind, how much, when; what I eat at breakfast—how my bowels are—whether my head's clear—a whole army of points and points—rank and file." I told him how Bucke and his brother had played vociferous games of backgammon in the library, and I would sit and read or write—they sipping their whiskey and water, etc. W. was much

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interested, saying, "If Doctor took whiskey it was from a base of logic, practicality—from knowing what it meant for his whole body, mind."

     Letter from Bush today explaining why he had not called on me last week. Is now in New Hampshire, building a bridge:


Peterboro, N.H. Nov. 18 1890.

Dear Traubel:

I wrote you I would see you in Phil. last week.

I went to Pencoyd as expected but the gentleman I wished to see in the city office P. Iron Works was out of town. I had a big day's work at Pencoyd and could not leave for pleasure.

Am here putting up a bridge for Mr. Morison, as a favor to him (he having no one else to send) it being work of a kind I thought I was through with some years ago.

Shall be here till early next and returning shall send you check which I am sorry I again forgot. I have been 3 times busy lately, this job and the Pencoyd inspection being extra and causing me to neglect work I must make up on my return.

I must either go to Phil. soon and see the man who was out of town last week, or he will come to N.Y. to see me.

Let us hope the former. Am sorry you were engaged for evening of Sat. the 8th as I assumed from your message. I tried to get through by 3:20—only way I could meet you at 4—but it was impossible. You see rising at 6 skipping any formal breakfast and starting for Phil. at 7:20 A.M. from N.Y. doesn't get me to Pencoyd until 10:30 and after that one must work until late in the P.M. to do a day's work.

Sincerely,

H. D. Bush

Mrs. Bush and I are now enjoying Felix Adler's lectures on Sundays in New York.


     This from Baker this forenoon attracted me greatly:


New York, Nov. 19th 1890.

My dear Traubel:

I only have time, fully and ab imo pectore, to respond to all your kind and loving words in yours of yesterday—and to say:


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The Col. has received your request about the souvenir pamphlet. I called his attention to it again today. He will do what you wish only, he is so busy, and goes away tonight to Washington, for the rest of the week. You must forgive and understand all his delays, etc. They are inevitable.

Yes, I have rec'd & read—& so has the Col. to whom I showed them—your eloquent little expressions about him and the W. W. tribute, in "The Conservator." Thanks for your loving kindness and praise for your discriminating genius.

Now for the Truth Seeker's re-publication of the Col.'s Lecture. They wrote me yesterday that proof-plates wd. be ready in a few days & they would submit them for any corrections. The Col. does not care to make any material alterations. I suggest this, however, that if you will go over the Lecture as you have it, and note the misquotations that you speak of, by page and line, and send them to me as soon as you can, when I get the Truth Seeker's plate-proofs, I will make the corrections you note, so that the thing may be in best final possible shape.

The Truth Seeker is publishing the lecture by permission of the Colonel, for their own uses and purposes. We are interested only to see that it is in right shape.

Please send me the corrected annotations, as soon as you can.

Au revoir my dear Traubel.

Yours & yours,

I. N. Baker

I have not noticed anything about Morris's piece in The American. If you can, without trouble, sometime send it to me. B.


     I imparted its gist to W. as it was too dark to read the lines, even by the darting flame of the fire. W. said, "That is good—that satisfies me. Then you will get it into thorough shape." And as to the fact that Bob would not revise his own text, "I did not expect he would; it seems to have a thorough reason for being as it is. Such direct manly speech is so rare, we get mad to have it touched once it is down. Oh yes! It will do a world of good for us—is a power. It has a vigor, a masterliness, its own: drives straight to its work. One of the valuable features

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to me is its indirection—how much ground it covers that is not set in the letter of it—is not suspected by casual, careless readers. We must accentuate our own adhesion by getting quite a big bundle of the pamphlets—I shall want many myself. The testimony has such a valuable reach. I have been thankful enough for the Truth Seeker—though I will like this better. I was in such a tremble, horror, before the lecture, that something would happen to make us lose it—that no one can understand my relief when I knew he had put it in type himself. Think of the birthday speech! That great great great utterance! That wonderfulest word, look, voice, ever was! and ease of it—his port, fire—and the poetry!—and all lost, lost! I shall mourn, mourn after that till I die. Nowadays when I look at this speech, I congratulate myself—so much is saved whatever is gone!"

     I have no word from Weir Mitchell today. Wrote to this effect to Bucke. W. glad I "wrote often and long" to Bucke because he "could not."

     Advised me, "After all about the Lippincott's piece—pitch in—see what you make of independent matter—only using mine if it comes in on the way—if not, not."

     Failure in town today of a great banking firm, Barker Brothers. W. inquired after it. Then very specifically to know "bottom reasons for all these catastrophes that are now startling the world." I entered into some details, so far as they were familiar—he questioning like a lawyer in court. I exclaimed after the long bout: "This explained 'Leaves of Grass'!" And he laughed—I could catch the assent, a half-assenting laugh, as if to admit, "You are on the track of it now."

     Asked after certain features of my New England Magazine paper again. "I think I will be gratified—know I will—from what you tell me."

     W. called attention to some Garnier illustrations of Rabelais—an exhibition of them, he thought suppressed in London. "It is the police-judgment against judgment—the brutal power

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of force. And it reminds me of a piece I read in the Post today—that down Federal Street is an unoccupied store, and that the youngsters of the neighborhood have been amusing themselves by stoning and breaking all the windows. And never a policeman near to know the fact or catch the little devils—while, if it should happen that one of these same little devils went a-swimming off the shore—the wharves—some big burly brute would come along—march them off in great grandeur. I am against police-judgment; it always goes wrong—it's always brutal, always to be despised."

      "Walt Whitman," he said again, "is undoubtedly taboo in the bookstores as in other places." I had said no sign of "Leaves of Grass" on Lippincott's or Porter & Coates' counters.


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