Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 21, 1890

     7:00 P.M. W. was in his room, wrapped in his coat. The evening had turned rather chill out of doors and he complained of it. "It penetrates me; I cannot resist it." Had a rosy fire in the stove. Asked after "news." "I see that the world is collapsing—the financial world. What does it mean? I sit in my room here—my den, my little corner—and wonder—wonder." I asked after his health. He was frank enough to say, "It is nothing to brag of—I come along—exist. That is all. The depression hangs heavy." I had a note from Weir Mitchell's secretary this morning: "Dr. Mitchell desires me to ask you if you will kindly call upon him on Saturday between 9-1 o'clock." Doubt about tomorrow but shall try to see him Sunday.

     W. alluded affectionately to "Doctor Bucke's faithfulness." "I hear almost every day, and always with such cheer!" I described Bucke's impatience over the meter project: how when I was at London we went into town almost daily to see how things got on—Bucke sometimes storming, sometimes laughing, over the tantalizing delays. I spoke in this connection of Bucke's "perfect health, which saved him from being absorbed," W. exclaiming,

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"That is so—Doctor's of that type—I value him for that almost most of all!"

     I exhibited to him proof-sheet I just received from West (New Ideal) of a "Walt Whitman/Robert Ingersoll" page I had sent up Sunday night. W. asked first if I would not leave it over night, but finding I could not, read it at once—saying at end, "Good! and I can echo every word of it: I can see the justice of it all." It was not in ill taste or effusive? "Not a bit: it is thoroughly symmetrical as it stands—neither overdoing or underdoing." West had also replied thus about Doctor's article which I had forwarded him:


THE NEW IDEAL, Boston, Mass.
Nov. 20, 1890.

Dear Mr. Traubel;—

Unless you hack this proof up beyond recognition, I think it can go in the December magazine. I am glad you sent it.

By the time it can get back the forms will be waiting for the press.

I think the similitude between Whitman's and Millet's life-experience, etc., as presented by Dr. Bucke, not only interesting but novel. You sent it for The New Ideal? If the magazine goes on I will use it in January number. The parallel is certainly striking, and the article ought to do good—be helpful—in one or two ways. It would be one more public word bringing Walt forward into sight, where he belongs,—and it would give such a taste of his biography that "more" would be wanted.* Such a piece of work as this—the parallel, the comparison, the similitude—is usually read quite eagerly by all.

Truly,

James F. West

*And I am not forgetting Millet. But Walt is more especially our charge and our love.


     I read to W., who liked it and hoped Bucke's "message" would "get into the types."

     On the bed printed slips: "An Old Man's Recitative." He asked, "What should I do with them? This is the Arena mat-

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ter—two pages, I should say—new poetic drift, for them to use if they will or not if they are opposed. I used to like the Nineteenth Century way of adopting poems—giving the first two pages to me as a series: they have done it for Tennyson, for Swinburne, for others to my knowledge. I was going to suggest this to the Arena. What do you think?"
And again he asked me, "What am I to do with the copy? Send it direct to Boston, hand it to you to send to Baker, or send to Baker myself?" And that we discussed fully, coming to no conclusion; I finally saying to W., "Follow your own notions purely," and he responding, "I guess I'll do one of these two things: give it to you or to Baker. That would probably be the more effective scheme." Very anxious to know if I had "heard further from either Baker or Bob."

     W. had much to say of a note I exhibited from Dr. Furness. "His 89 years are a marvel to me—excite my wonder. I don't know what picture in life makes a man more tend to believe."

     Asked him for a piece of manuscript for Williamson and he expressed himself as "very glad to please him with it—if it please him."


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