Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, December 14, 1890

     4:40 P.M. On way to W.'s stopped at Post Office—where I found final proofs from Somerby of Ingersoll lecture. Left them with W., who will send them up to the house sometime this evening by Warren. Caused him to speak of the lecture again. "How noble—how superb it all is! There in Current Literature is a good block of it right on the second page: the opening and closing passages. And can you think what they call it? 'The Achievements of Walt Whitman'! That made me laugh—it seemed to have a distinct ironical tone—some part of it. Yet I don't know that I should say that, either—for I have no reason to suppose them inimical. It looks well there." I said, "The

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closing passage will be classic"
—to which W. added his assent. "Indeed it will: it is superb—superb: full and full of meat, picture, throb." By and by when he said, "And that is one of the things we flatter ourselves for," laughing with the "we," he added, "And Bob has subtly fathomed all that—has summoned it up as perhaps nobody else—nobody." I referred to "the book, or the person, called 'Leaves of Grass,'" Bob's notable line, W. exclaiming: "How penetrating—how subtle—all, you might say, in a word! Catholicity—receptiveness—welcome: that is 'Leaves of Grass.'"

     Had he been well today? "Very much eased anyhow—certainly that." Thought he had had a chill yesterday. Mentioned our Post Office in Camden. "I think there is no office in America where everything is so ordered for the convenience of the men who work it—or pretend to. Under the Postmaster worse than ever. The policy of the men is to profess ignorance—to know nothing."

     Had not been out. Curiously—day beautiful—yet had remained voluntarily indoors. The other day—very cold—went out. Goes out, not with reference to the weather but to how he feels. Had been reading Current Literature. "There are several articles in it which I want yet to read—several." Laughed again over his translation of Murger. Would he advise me to send copies of New Ideal to Johnston and Wallace (England)? "Yes—they would like it a good deal. I have had a couple of letters from Johnston: he speaks of you very warmly—you should be happy in it." Gave me letters to take. "Wallace is near him. I think Wallace is a sick man—not vigorous, anyway—has to lay by a good deal. He is a natural reader—one of the men born to it—to whom it is not second but first nature."

     Told him of debate in class this morning—as to the bond of veracity: whether it was owed even to the peril of the sick. Whitman much discussed. I quoted him as saying he did lie and would have lied to the soldiers if they were in danger and the lie or the simulated cheer would help them. Hotly contested.

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Now W. said to me, "You were right, Horace: I found cases without number. Any Doctor will tell you how necessary it is—a species of mind cure. I could not count the times I did it—not deliberately—for its own sake—not because I would not have preferred to tell the truth. I did not seek to have to say anything—but said what I felt to say to fit the gravity of the cases. Oh! You've no idea how the poor fellows would cling to the last—crave hope, cheer, sunlight; and all I could free—all that could flow out of me—was theirs, theirs."

     Mrs. Davis tells me of a minute's passion in W. yesterday because a letter he had thought mailed had been neglected; unusual.

     Refers to (English) Johnston as "a noble receptive fellow, who belongs to us by natural affinity." I said, "The real value of these fellows is in the way they have come—as of the Ingersoll lecture in the way Bob did it all." "Never anything better said!" exclaimed W. "Noble all—no one more than I—perhaps no one as much—can acknowledge, appreciate, accept it."


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