Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, December 20, 1890

     5:40 P.M. From Mrs. Davis' report I concluded that W. had been much better today—and after I had entered his room and he had offered his big hand—clasped my own, I was sure he was greatly improved, though he did still insist upon it that he was "poorly—poorly—still." Said, "I have been congratulating myself upon the now several clear cold days. They will help our pictures along." And— "He will certainly give us some Monday—and if he does, we will be supplied for Christmas." Asked curiously, "How do you get a check certified? Tell me how you would go about it?" And before I could answer— "For instance, if a fellow wanted to send money to some fellow in another state—say, Vermont." I raised my eyes—was it his sister? Something to outwit this scoundrel in Burlington? This simply

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crossed my mind—I made no mention of it. I told him specifically and he seemed quickly to understand, thanking me for it.

     Said he still had no word from Talcott Williams. How about Lippincott's piece? "I will do it. I wrote Stoddart today—have already commenced, making changes here and there." Might give me "odds and ends" for my piece.

     Then to another topic: "I have an item of news for you—three or four days old—but I forgot to tell you. My piece is not to appear in the North American Review for January. The editor has so written me." I asked, "But only for reasons of space?" "I think possibly it was part that—but more than that, too: there are other reasons, too—word from this or that to this or that effect." I tried to discredit, but he explained, "There are things which the fellows probably do not like—for instance, I say in effect at one point that a literature adequate to America is not to come alone from New England influences—religious, political, scientific, social—and so on. I am quite sure that such paragraphs are not pleasant reading to the college men." Still I was not convinced and he laughed at my "stubbornness"—pleasantly saying, however, that he did "not blame" me.

     Returned me the Murger manuscripts for Morris. Had he read them? "Very little—very little." Was the manuscript too bad? "No—not that: I tried several times—they did not touch me. I have therefore left them alone."

     I was on my way to Thomas concert tonight. Campanini to sing. I told W. of old experiences with Campanini—how much more the male voice was to me than the female—for expression of power and breadth of beauty. He interrupted, "You never heard Alboni: you would not say that if you had heard her." But I had heard Patti a number of times and did not like her: she was cold perfection. He laughed, "I see what you mean—another Jenny Lind." I rather demurred, "I imagined Jenny Lind had magnetsim." W. then— "She was not all intellect—but was much intellect, too. The perfection of a singer to the average is in trills, flutes, pirouettings, intellect, perfect poise—

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utter, invariable. But no—no—no!—that's not it, I am sure: it's something subtler, deeper, not so perfect!"

     Mrs. Davis thinks W. has distinctly failed in past fortnight. She is calm about it—but fears, unless he picks up markedly again and soon.

     Old letter—marked with W.'s strong line—from J. B. Gilder—dated 2nd. Evaded questions cursorily. Had he answered? What would I answer?

     Showed him letter from Bush—written with type-writer:


39 West 20th., New York
Dec. 17th., '90

Dear Traubel;

It hardly seems possible that it's ten days since your letter was written at midnight of the 7th. I realize how you feel about your postponed pleasures but time will surely come for them again. You did a great deal in the way of duty and had duties, doubtless, to call you home. I am sorry you told me you had written to Mr. Baker as I have therefore put off going to see him. I can safely promise that I will see him now in a day or two, as I am over my big rush. I shall try and catch him tomorrow.

I have had time evenings to study the Ingersoll testimonial and find that I can heartily approve it. It is loyal, generous, correct, and true, and doesn't labor to prove that "My Captain" is the best of Whitman because it rhymes. It is not damning with faint and untrue praise that Whitman's work needs. If it does not inspire love and loyalty, it does nothing. Ingersoll is large in both his capacity for loving and understanding and has perhaps given us the best that any man could give. Isn't Burroughs more of a Burns to Whitman's Shakespeare than Ingersoll? Or is not either one of them more than a Burns, for whom did Burns ever give testimony for?

The last page, or the last column is wonderful. The picture of the joys through which one walks with Whitman is vivid and inspiring. I read it again and again. The hope of something beyond is beautifully expressed. Was that inserted for W. W. or does Bob believe it? Or rather having demolished the old dogmatic beliefs is he willing to place at least a hope in their stead?


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There are no new developments in the matter of our near future. I have been too rushed to write Dr. Bucke but can now do so. In these times I am afraid few cable or other roads will be built except those that have their money all raised like these here in New York. I suppose the Broadway road makes a profit of at least 2000 dollars per day so that they can afford to most anything especially in view of the fact that the substitution of cable for horses will double their profits. So if I cannot make enough money for the cable company so that the treasury can disgorge a good salary for me I must meantime earn bread and butter in the bridge business until times are better. This I think can always do but it is for the wife not to be settled in a home.

I seem to be writing a long letter but you see it is a novelty for me to practice on the type-writer.

Will say good-night now with love for W. and yourself from us both.

Sincerely

H. D. Bush


     W. read easily—cried out, "Noble fellow—you should keep it." Then as to type-writer— "I wonder how they go? But of course I am too old—too old!" And again, "Besides—I really have not much writing to do—and what I do tends to keep me out of mischief."


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