Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, November 24, 1890

     7:48 P.M. I entered the room with the big envelopes under my arm. W. laid down the book he was reading (the Catlin Indian book from Donaldson), took off his glasses, exclaimed, "And here is Horace! And with my big envelopes along, too!" I assented, "Yes, and I want a picture of Walt Whitman or one of Walt Whitman's books for this man Cohen—for he would not take a cent for this work and we ought to recognize it!" I commencing to untie the package and W. acquiescing at once, "You are right—we must—it was a handsome gift." When I exhibited the envelopes W. took one and turned it over and over like a child, making all sorts of admiring comments: "Oh! the beauty! and look at this board, too!" tapping it with his knuckle. "And

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a perfect piece of work throughout!"
Cohen had said to me he could not charge. He was proud of Walt Whitman; wished this to go as his mite, etc. "He is a Philadelphian with the rest of us: we owe a good deal to him." All touched W., for it was a faithful job, exactly fulfilling W.'s desires. And so he directed me to a bundle on the floor marked as containing six copies '82 edition "Leaves of Grass"—author's edition—from which he took one (I re-wrapping and tying the rest), inscribing it as I looked over his shoulder, "C. J. Cohen from the author Nov. 1890." Asked me then in his usual way about Cohen's business, his looks as a man, etc. Oh! that thirst to absorb, to penetrate, life, individualities! It is the secret of the temple!

     I told W. of a letter from Johnston today inviting me to stay with them if I attended Ethical Society convention in New York next week. This would give me a chance to carry the parcel over for Mrs. Ingersoll. "Yes," said W., "that relieves me. I wondered how to get it over. And no one so good as you to take it, either. It will come from you with a great grace. I intend it for a Christmas present, but it won't hurt to go over before, of course." I swung my hand across the big face of the envelope, "There is a chance for you to spread out a big Walt Whitman!" And with a hearty laugh, "You have divined me! That is what I had in mind to do!"

     We spoke of Lippincott's poem. W. got up from chair and toiled across the room. "I have a letter here from Doctor about it. He sets it high. I put the letter aside, thinking you would like to have it. I sent Doctor a slip. Yes, I saw it was in the Press today—mean to get a lot of papers, to use for mailing. But you shall have a copy of the magazine—when they come, as they have not yet."

     W. quoted earlier passages in a general way, then said, "It is a part of our history to say that this poem was refused by Harper's as an 'improvisation,' refused by the Nineteenth Century for general reasons, accepted and paid for by Stoddart, of

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Lippincott's. Improvisation! I wonder if they ever heard of the other things I have written? I should not know what else to do but 'improvise'!"
And he questioned me frankly for the bases of my high estimate. Why did I think it had music, power, spirituality, subtlety? And appeared pleased at my direct replies.

     I am going to see Booth and Barrett transact "Richelieu" tomorrow evening. W. asked, "Booth is the Richelieu?" and then, "I have seen the play often; have even seen Booth in it. Certainly he is grand there; the part fits him well." Diverted then more rapidly upon the powers of the elder Booth. "He was a man of remarkable range and passion. I liked him in many things, but most of all, I often think, in Richard 3rd. I think of what they call the dream scene—his vivid color there—his ability to pass through the fire of the original. When he was in a passion, face, neck, hands, would be suffused, his eye would be frightful—his whole mien enough to scare audience, actors; often the actors were afraid of him. I can see his contortions as he lay on the bed, then as he dragged himself towards the footlights, trembling, gasping, ratting his armor. A mighty triumph of art—or nature, which in meaner hands would be burlesque—sufficient to thrill the house, give it one of the delicious horrors which all audiences enjoy. I think Booth did not insist upon that scene—it is not imperative—he did not always play it—probably did not always feel up to it." And further, "I think—in such passages, such transports of nature—no actor I ever saw was the same—had, at least, anything like his grandeur."

     Said he had been rooting out old manuscripts—a lot of yellowed crumpled sheets on bed. Had Mrs. O'Connor told him to whom she had submitted William's book? "No, she did not tell me." I had quite full letter from Bucke, discussing affairs. Has been off to Detroit. W. saying, "He did not tell me that."


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21 Nov. 1890

My dear Horace

Yesterday and the day before I was absent in Detroit and returned in middle of last night—this morning I find three letters from you and this moment another arrives—I must answer them all in a lump! I am glad you propose writing me oftener but hope you will not have such serious matters to write about (for a while, at least) as two years ago—this leads me to remark that in a letter written 18th W. W. says "belly-ache seems to have about fizzled out" trust it has, but shall not be quite easy until I find it does not return—if it stays away for a week we should consider it transient and of no special moment. Thanks for the bundle of "Truth Seekers"—I shall give Dr. Beemer one from you as requested. Thanks for the "Unity" with the good verses by our friend H.L.T.—I have never had an answer from Johnston or a line from the N.Y. printer—guess their enthusiasm has petered out. I note what you say abt. Millet piece and hope West will print.

Am glad you like the letter for your "book"—the likenesses and differences of two such men as B. & W. are to the last degree interesting but of course could never be put in any one (or dozen) short statement (or statements).

I think you are right abt. using the picture—it is sufficiently true and would give an "outsider" quite an idea of the old man's "den"—I should use it.

All quiet with meter—we hope to begin turning them out early in the year. All looks bright ahead as heretofore—nothing more about libel suit! the thing is absurd, there was nothing the least libelous in the editorial. Yes I will, with great pleasure, send your love to my brother at Ottawa.

I am glad you have written Mitchell and hope he will go to Camden himself—Whoever goes I want his name and address and I will write him myself for his opinion and will let you know what he says—there is no harm (meanwhile) in your asking him what he thinks of W.

I like Stoddart's idea of a Whitman no. and hope he will carry it out—Would he care for my piece (revised and shortened) which you heard me read at Phila. a year & a half ago—do you think? You

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know they had that (in a half written state) and I had some trouble getting it out of them—I thought then they wanted to keep it in case of W.'s death and then print—did not want that then & do not now—but if they fix a date for a W. W. no. and want the piece I will fix it up for them.


We have had (and are having) some of the most delightful Indian Summer weather I ever saw—today has been charming—if you had been here we would have gone for a long drive. As things are I have worked (and hard) all day.

Love to you

RM Bucke


     W. laughed over the fashion: "The fad now is to wear the high hat with the nearest to no rim at all: a damnable practice at the best."


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