Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, November 30, 1890

     3:10 P.M. Met Coit at Broad Street Station—with him across river and to Whitman's this hour. W. at first seemed disposed to say nothing or very, very little, but by and by a well-turned question from Coit drew him out into fine communication. He had just been out in his chair, he said, but spoke of his lameness—that he was "much broken-up" and "whacked away splinter by splinter," etc. Coit alluded to John Burns. Had W. met him? "No—but I have had letters from him—several." Coit knew him well, going into some particulars and W. listening and questioning intently. Did W. take interest in the labor question? "Yes, some: but it is not intense, not absorbing. I might say, I have not time for it." Had he ever been to Europe? "No—I am quite a fresh-water fish—quite. Time was, when I was young—years, years ago—that I aspired to go to Europe—indeed, to go round the whole world. But that desire—its expectation—is all past now." Coit admitted that when he went to Europe a few years ago he knew (cared) nothing of Whitman—that his associations with radical enthusiasts there had won him over. This I could see pleased W. Coit also spoke of the frequent pictures of

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W. in Townbee Hall. This was new to us both. Talk, however, lapsed sadly till Coit struck upon America—what it was as a unity: whether its states did not foster division—destroy national idealism. There was Westminster Abbey—he had seen the funeral of Browning there, surely worthy: and for America, why not an Abbey or Pantheon, too? But W. shook his head. "No, I do not believe in them. I do not think we want Abbeys or Pantheons. That is the idea of concentration." He spoke very deliberately. "America ought to be diffusion—ought to scatter. Nature's method is always the method of diffusion—in her winds, skies, streams, all. I can see how the Abbeys might be all right—necessary—for England, for Europe, but ours is a different necessity." But was not a central idea, a purpose, better enforced in such a unity as England, which knew no states? etc. But W. demurred: "America—her clouds, her rivers, her woods—all her origin, purpose, ideals; let it be reflected in the majesty of each individual. Nature exhales; let man exhale—let our America exhale—to do this is her work." But Coit missed the sense of fatherland here, etc.; felt the lack of a grand national ideal. W. assenting, "I can see all that: I am duly taking account of all you urge—yes, acknowledge it. Yet I know it is a thing we will overcome—that our future is ahead of all that." He felt that "the majesty of life, being—let it be reflected in every mechanic, laborer, lawyer, statesman, artist, everyone." Coit asked about W.'s feeling for Browning and he said, "I feel he is a great light—yet I really know little about him—not enough to speak upon." This was the drift of the talk. The simple naturalness of W. never more beautifully set forth. Coit remarked it instantly on our exit. Told W. frankly he had been the first to give him the sense of America as a unit, etc.

     I told W. what J. K. Mitchell had written me about the pills. "Oh yes! but I am taking them—and taking four or five a day. I think that is what he directed—and that reminds me I will take one now: it is about time," looking for the box on table and simply and naturally opening and providing himself.


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