Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, December 8, 1890

     Further favors from Somerby, which, as before, I mailed instantly to W. with request to hand to me in evening. Wrote Bucke a positive note, the better to dispel the gloom of his two letters found at home last night. Yet in my heart I do feel some fear that his forebodings are not unreasonable. Morris came to tell me he had been up to Lippincott's to see Harry Walsh. Stoddart saw him there, called him, showed him the manuscript "Walt Whitman the Poet," which I had returned to W. and he had forwarded to Stoddart. Stoddart wished W.'s signature to it—W. indisposed to give. Morris advised him to print it in brackets, unsigned, arguing that W.'s fingermarks were everywhere. Asked Stoddart, "Does this cut off Traubel's article?" Stoddart replying—no—he wanted both. I told Morris Stoddart's last note had discouraged me, and I did not intend to proceed unless by more definite understanding—Morris saying, "You are right," and going away. My determination invincible. I care nothing for the result except in so far as it may help the cause.

     5:55 P.M. In at W.'s—the weather strong—snow falling—the earth white. W.'s room warmed by a busy fire. All very happy there. He grasped my hand and held it, saying, "I am glad to have it again: it carries me into my right humor once more." And then: "Sit right down—draw up a chair—tell me all about New York—the people—who you saw there—what—how it all impressed you." And so for more than half an hour I entered with him into a lively stream of questions and answers. How did I like the Johnstons? "And the girls—you saw them? May, Bertha—the young one, Kitty? And the mother, too—Alma: did you talk with her? She is the brightest of all—a rare woman—one of the rarest—I associate her with Mrs. Gilchrist—which is

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to say a good deal—for me to say the most. I know no other woman living who so attracts me. And she is a frail delicate creature, too—though, like so many of these, full of grit, work, efficiency, accomplishment. And she was a literary woman, long ago—has written books, I think. Went through in earlier life just such seeings—investigations—as have made Adler what he is. Down in the raggedness of society—the shadows, horrors—in marsh, swamp—full of teachableness—from which no man can come the same person as before. All the girls are good girls—the top of the Johnston heap, of course. Indeed, I think the best women are always the best of all: the flower—the justification of the race—the summit, crown—aureoling the shadows which make up the rest."
And when I spoke of running to New York again, he said, "Yes—do so—and if you do, cultivate Alma. She is your woman—most of all yours—for I know what you most enjoy: take her into some corner—ply her—you will find that all I say is true—that she is a most rare person."

     Then I told him detailedly how I had found Bob and of our delightful hour and more together—displaying the written sheets which he read again and again—and admired. "The noble hand!" he exclaimed—swinging his arm to indicate its freedom. "It is as liberal, generous, big as the man!" Questioned me till I believed I had told him everything I remembered of our talk. "It ought to be put down—recorded! How always we must regret that these rarest talks—the best things of all—pass absolutely away with the men who shared them!" Laughed vociferously over the story of the dotting of the i's. Asked me to repeat description of Bob at his work. "And so it is high up in the big building? And has it vista? There must be a joy even about that." Wished to know about Johnston's business. Asked me, too, "And the convention—what did it do?" And to my descriptions (especially of discussing Saturday night our summer school of Ethics—R. H. Newton, Lyman Abbott, Brinton, Adler participating)—he put in, "I should like to have been there. Had

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I, this is what I would have said: that the grandest phenomena of these times pass their way almost unperceived—the grand intestinal agitation, moving the American masses, bringing a new promise day by day—hastening us on, unconsciously even to the masses which it agitates. And with this the unmistakable levelling of things up—the disinclination of our people to accept giants, to crown individuality, however imposing. Undoubtedly a powerful tendency, whatever of the old adoration of heroes remains. And it is moral: no school of Ethics so real as this, once it is comprehended."

     Such was the drift of our talk, and I had almost violently to break away into other things. One remark of Andrews (President of Brown University) moved W.'s laughter—that our century was absolutely without any high or real poetic evidences etc.—Brinton saying to me of it afterwards: "With Browning and Whitman that seems an extraordinary statement." W. only laughed: "He evidently has not heard of us. But why should he?"

     Letter from Law. He said he did not write though he did inspire the Scottish World, Ingersoll notes. W. gave me copy I had left with him. Shall send to Bucke. My New Ideal piece out. Had no copy with me. Have sent copies to Ingersoll and Baker. W. said, "I should like to see it: it touched me—I am drawn to it. And endorse it—which I do not mind to have you tell the Colonel."

     Asked him pointedly about health. Ache gone? "No, but it is not so vehement today as some days. I am in a bad way these days—stomach, head, worried troubles, achey, sticky—shadowed all. I don't know if it's the weather—or what: I know it is—which is enough—enough." Had not of course been out. I had taken a cracker from a full plate on the table. He leaned over, took up a handful: "Take 'em—Mary brings 'em up—I can't eat 'em, they don't agree with me."

     He was happy with the sundry reports I made on Bush, and

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said: "He must be a rare quiet fellow—truly our man—generous, free, true. And the wife?—he has a good wife?—that most of all belongs to him!"

     Thought my souvenir would be "thoroughly unique: I almost enviges you!"

     Had heard from Bucke "almost every day." I explained to W. the snarl Bucke had got in over the Lippincott's poem and he laughed— "I guess we keep him pretty well up with the times. Between us he must get everything—duplicates of some." And then: "Of course I always enjoy his letters—and all is going well there." I talked of the big houses—the more striking luxuries in New York—W. saying to it: "Yes—it is well for a man to see such things once in a while—to see what damned common foolishness it all is!"


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