Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, December 19, 1890

     My birthday!—born 1858. Received letter from Stoddart as follows:


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Dec. 18, 1890

Dear Sir:—

Will you kindly call here tomorrow or next day in reference to Mr. Whitman's autobiography. I will not be here on Saturday, however, after one o'clock.

Yours truly,

J M Stoddart


     In to see him between four and five. Much talk, showed me W.'s manuscript—which W. desired him to print without a name. Stoddart opposed—told me positively he would not. Had a type-written copy of the whole article—broad spaces between lines—with suggestions of changes—"he" to "I"—from third to first person, throughout. Stoddart first thought he would take over—now suggested I do it. About three-quarters page "Old Age Echoes" in type—gave one proof for W. Another poem needed, which he would pay for certainly. Designed Whitman number for (say) March—to contain the portrait—which Stoddart had shown W., who expressed himself as satisfied—this page of poems—my article (which Stoddart said he had by no means abandoned)—W.'s autobiography. W. had suggested $20 for the manuscript he had sent Stoddart—but Stoddart would pay more than that—wished to throw as much in the old man's way as he could. Asked me to use what influence I could with W. Wished my own article in about ten days, if possible. Is going to New York tomorrow—will be over to see W. next week. Stoddart remarked that he noticed money was a bait to W. unaccountably at times.

     5:45 P.M. Straight over from Stoddart's to W.'s. Warren said W. had spent a very poor day but seemed better now. I went upstairs. W. certainly both looked and talked better than last night. Explained: "I have been miserable—misoble—as the darkey says—all the day up to this afternoon, when Mary made and brought me a cup of hot tea—at my suggestion. It helped me—helped me." Was the room kept warm enough for

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him? "If it is not, it is my fault—there is plenty of wood here and I have all the time there is. No, no—it is the critter himself's the trouble." Told him Morris was in to say to me he had met Mitchell last night who assured him W.'s trouble was altogether of the bladder—nothing serious—only the old man trouble—that if W. would take the pills regularly, the bladder would be eased, etc. W. said, "I take the pills, some—have not taken any today—but take them, generally. O well! the Doctor only knows the kidney!—but there's the whole critter to be considered. What does he know of him?" Said he had a letter from Bucke. "It was short—but sweet, good—was mainly—all—about brother Jeff. He had received my Engineering Record. I wrote on the blank side and mailed the letter out to my niece, Jessie—at St. Louis." As to the Doctor, laughingly said, "If this, that, the other—then!" And further: "It minds me of a story—of the boy who was stuffed full at the dinner—was advised to eat more—said first he could not—then that he could if he stood up! If I stand up I might bite off more—but could I stand up?" Discussed his own condition frankly—spoke of bladder. "It seems to be a natural old-age broadening of the aperture." I said, "As with woman and child when the child comes first late in life." W. then, "A very good analogy—probably for allied reasons."

     Gave him the package from Stoddart. Looked at proof of poems. "I am glad to get that anyway. Yes, I will send him another to complete the page." Then showed him the auobiography manuscript—telling him in brief Stoddart's idea, but he shook his head at once—positively, "Nope—nope—nope—I will not do it—no—no." I laughed, "I think you ought to—Stoddart means you well, has the true idea on the subject. Listen," and I went more fully into Stoddart's arguments. But still he persisted: "Nope—nope. I was sure it was for you to say, or some other—so fixed it."

     I frankly told him I did not care to father it. It would make me look ridiculous. What did I mean? "Why—your style is

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there—everywhere: no Whitman man but would penetrate it at once. How would that be for me? Besides—I would not parent it anyhow: it is not mine," etc.
He finally admitted all this—had "rather expected" I would "incorporate it in something else" than put it out just as it was. I suggested that if there were things he would rather have me say than say himself he give to me to put into my five pages. This appealed to him. Still—he would not yield. Finally I went across the room, sat on the bed near his chair and said, "Stoddart says you suggested $20 for this manuscript?" He nodded assent. "Well," I went on, "he told me he wished to do the best thing by you—if you would touch this up, add to it, he would pay you well for it." W. at once said: "That is an argument, to be sure. Now it sounds to be listened to." And from that moment he was acquiescent—laying sheets on bed and saying he would turn it over tomorrow. This led to talk of Stoddart himself—my comment that he was "plain and frank" causing W. to explain, "You are right—I like that of him—he is both—and in fact my opinion was favorable from the jump—from our first meeting years ago. There is no airisfines about him—no hauteur. Years back he came over with Oscar Wilde, when Wilde was here in America and the noise over him was at its height. They came in great style—with a flunky and all that. And what struck me then, instantly, in Stoddart, was his eminent tact. He said to me, 'If you are willing—will excuse me—I will go off for an hour or so—come back again—leaving you together,' etc. I told him, 'We would be glad to have you stay—but do not feel to come back in an hour. Don't come for two or three'—and he did not—I think did not come till nightfall. And all I have had to do with him since is equally to his credit. That is why I felt sure about Jim Scovel—that we were safe from him—that Stoddart understood. He has tact, in an eminent degree." I told him of Stoddart's repeated professions of good will and W. nodded assent. "I am disposed to believe it—have every reason to believe it—of him."


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     Stoddart had said something to me of Grant's meanness in old age, but W. was disposed to shake his head over it—reciting elements in his St. Louis life "as told me by old residents—friends—who knew the General there"—W. dwelling particularly on Grant's non-ostentation in that early life as being "the beginning of all—the explication of his future." Then— "But for being mean: well, there's much more to be spoken for in Grant's life than the public could know. And these unknown things determine the issue."

     Discussed Courier account of W.'s lot in Harleigh Cemetery. I spoke of the conversation as "idiotic"—and he thought I was right—then himself spoke freely of the tomb. Had sent paper to Bucke and several others. Thought Bucke had never acknowledged though I remember he did in a letter W. gave me. Memory perceptibly weak at times. Again referred to picture: "I was satisfied with Stoddart's picture—it will do. But it is by no means as good as the pictures we are having printed now."


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