Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, July 21, 1890

     5:45 P.M. Temperature very cool; turned so last night, partly to W.'s "joy," as he said, "partly to my risk." Sat now by open window, looking north into the coppery sky. I did not think

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[him] very well in appearance, yet seems in speech and spirits of the best turn.

     Reference having been made by me to Whittier's Haverhill poem, published in this week's Critic, W. said, "You are right in all you say: it is very fine, almost strong—but whatever not, certainly sure-of-foot, the sentiment of it, how high, generous! It is almost Greek in its astral sweetness." He had "enjoyed this new glimpse of the old man."

     Who was Jonathan Trumbull who had written the Poet-Lore paper, "Walt Whitman's View of Shakespeare"? He did not know. "It sounds to me like a pseudonym. Has a Revolutionary tone, even," with a laugh, "or pre-Revolutionary!" Then asked me, "Does it amount to much? Do you count much from it?" And when I said, "Mainly for its good feeling; not that it sounds the deeps," he assented, "Yes"—adding after a slight pause— "It seems to me he has lost the most necessary parts, clues, hints, of the case; the glints by which its significance is plain; has missed in me, in what I said about Shakespeare, the most pregnant passage. You will find it in 'November Boughs': 'A Thought on Shakespeare,' where I say, that Shakespeare fails us, as moderns, on the points of our spirituality, our democracy, that he cannot therefore be considered with reference to our particular conditions as to conditions past." Then he repeated with great accuracy (as I found afterward, so far as memory left me to know) the passage on page 55, "Specimen Days," third paragraph, substanced as above. "It is necessary to have that in mind as the first fact, thought, coming before all else. I cannot be judged with that passage passed or forgotten."


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