Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, December 13, 1890

     7:50 P.M. With W. nearly an hour—though on my first coming he spoke of "the bad day" he had had, "a weary congregation of shadows all along," etc. But I brought him several things—copy of New Ideal, Current Literature, receipt form Oldach, and ten-dollar bill from Johnston as per letter received from Johnston today:


New York, Dec. 12, 1890

Dear Traubel:

Yes I will stand by Walt to the day of Judgment. Will send you $5 the first of every month.

Inclosed find $10, which please hand to Walt with my love, and some day I will talk with you and him of the peculiar processes of the human mind.

I am very very busy and cannot say more tonight.

Sincerely yours

J H Johnston

Will you destroy my letter and this, and oblige.

J.H.J.


     W. touched by this last, as I had been. "It is like Johnston—I know him." And asked me: "You did not say anything about me when you wrote him?" "Only that I had showed you his letter and you had nothing to say." He smiled. "That was right—perfectly right." And when I said further, "I told him I could not be honest and not say I thought he had done wrong," and added that I had always found such candor best, W. assented: "I have no doubt—so have I." I wrote Johnston an immediate acknowledgment, W. now expressing himself as "much pleased" I had done so. W. said, "That Bible saying—

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let not your left hand know what the right doeth: oh! it is profound, profound—inspiring!"
I quoted Confucius—that men should not aspire to hold but to be worthy to hold office—and thought this a good portal for what we call "public life." W. exclaimed, "How like Washington!" and then added, "There's a lot of such subtle streams wandering through Oriental literature, life. And now and then we catch one." When Ingersoll had quoted an Eastern saying—that the lute is sweet to him who has not heard the laugh of a child, Jerry Black seemed to think it evidence of insipid taste. W. thought, "That is an extraordinary opinion from Black: he was a cute lawyer—ought to have known better than to make a fool of himself."

     Curious to know if weather was milder. But it was not. The fire warmed his room excellently. Not out today. "I tried it yesterday—a short while—but was licked—came home licked: it was too cold."

     I gave him Inquirer containing the Whitman passage (his own throughout, sent at Gilder's request)—printed with a lot defining from authors themselves [their] prospective work:

What Walt Whitman Is Doing
From the New York Critic.
Walt Whitman is putting the later touches to a volume called "Good-Bye, My Fancy," containing his old age songlets, and intended as a "second annex and completion" to "Leaves of Grass." The publication will contain his prose essays and shorter bits and speeches of the last two years; also, in an appendix (partly to fill out, as the book is a small one) translations from the French of Gabriel Sarrazin's Paris review of "Leaves of Grass," besides another from the Dresden (German) address by Rolleston, and also Colonel Ingersoll's late lecture in Philadelphia. Walt Whitman is now well along in his seventy-second year, quite completely paralyzed in body (a legacy of the Secession war), but with normal mentality and good right-arm power. He yet lives in his cottage, with housekeeper and nurse, in Mickle street, Camden, New Jersey, retains buoyant sprits, sells his own books to purchasers, and gets outdoors in good weather, propelled down to the Delaware River shores in a wheel

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chair. Mr. Whitman is to furnish a brief prefatory note to a volume containing "The Brazen Android," an unpublished tale by the late William D. O'Connor, of Washington, together with "The Carpenter" and other stories, some of them still in manuscript.


      "I think the Inquirer is distinctly friendly to me. I must have at least one friend there. Who is their editor?—their managing man?" A Doctor somebody—I could not remember name—had met him while arranging Ingersoll lecture. W. said, "Find out for me some time: not directly, but at some club—or some way from the fellows you meet: you can do it." And then, "The Inquirer is worth having on your side: it has a clientele—has of late years improved—forsaken its antiquarianism."

     Signed for me a couple of copies "Leaves of Grass" preface (Trübner's)— "Horace L. Traubel Dec: 1890." Had a letter from Bucke, he thought yesterday. None today. Wore his new glasses. How did they go? "Very well—very well!" Referred to doctors who had been over—Thomas and Schneiderman—the latter young, a man I know. W. said, "I sent them copies of my leather-covered book: did they get them?" I happened to know they had. Warren describes humorously how W. at first disregarded the new glasses—would not wear them—that accidently one day he got them on thinking they were the old—was then converted—has since adopted them. I cautioned him not to give out any of the just-bound books till they were numbered, and he promised to regard this. "I have been reading your scrapbook a good deal. How much solid invaluable stuff you have there! I read the Voltaire, Hugo, Ingersoll—all. And all superb. What it is to grasp these things—attach to them before they are away. So much that is precious gets into the newspapers—is no more heard of: often, I think, the best." Copy of Egoism nearby—a marked poem in it from J. William Lloyd. W. thought, "I must have some friends there: I have all sorts of reminders of a personal-literary kind, day by day." Said he had been "writing some today" but "the

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infernal aches and pains were against me—wearing, throbbing away without break."
What was the trouble? "No particular trouble—a general discomfort." Had heard again from Bucke. "All is well with him: he says he has three lectures to write yet." Proved a little impatient about proof of photo which I am to get Monday.

     Spoke of towers on the big buildings. "How are they calculated as against the storms—lightning—the winds? Will they stand it? That has often been on my mind." And when I said, "They never—or but rarely—are struck," he laughed and said, "They never—or but rarely—are!—practically amounts to a new untried thing." Then of the N.Y. World housewarming— "The big tower: under it boodle, elegance, luxury, chicanery, respectability—they must all be considered. But above below beyond these—oh! the world that throbs and controls!"

     I called it a "moral advance" that in the public squares about which there was framed a fence and "rules" printed and posted—now all fences down and the simple legend, "These grounds are under the protection of the public"—which had proved the Mayor more after all. W. exclaimed, "It is a moral advance—is a decisive step taken."


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