Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, December 26, 1890

     7:50 P.M. W. very comfortable in his room tonight. Fire crackling and flaming—fumes of wood strong and not troublesome. Warren had put wedges in windows to prevent rattling in the strong winds. W. reading papers. Complacent over his condition. "Not as well as I might be—but well: for me—especially considering the weather." And then inquired after things out of doors. "I had quite a big order today for books—four of the six-dollar books—and all the way from Australia, too. Yes, from O'Dowd—the good fellow who advocates me there. I am much puzzled how to send them—by express, or how?" And then launched forth into detail of how little so many of the expressmen knew about such matters—not sparing a side-mention of the present postmaster's staff—yes, "of Browning himself"—Browning postmaster. I told W. Browning was a Sunday School teacher, which made him laugh and exclaim: "That explains it! Now it is all clear to me"—adding— "Dear brother Jeff was a mild enough man—careful, never over-stepping the caution of speech. Something happened there in St. Louis—somebody had wronged him or some other person. Jeff could not account for it. But by and by he heard that the fellow was deacon of a church, and that satisfied him—'That is enough—you need tell

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me no more,' he said."
Was Jeff radical? "Yes, very—but radical after a quiet, not aggressive, fashion. Not that he would hide his thought, hypocritize, no, that would have been impossible. But you will notice with the best engineers, scientists, that whatever their un-orthodoxy, they make no parade of it—are quiet, not assertive—though very firm. Of course in men of their kind—the whole class—there is no lingering with the old ideas. They quickly discover their falsity—dismiss them." And further: "I have had a paper from the West—some organization of Engineers has met over Jeff—a man named Holman delivering an address. I enjoy what Holman said—it was so good, so to the point. He tells an anecdote of my brother which is thought characteristic." Then proceeded to repeat—a group of engineers to select a site somewhere in the South for water-works—Jeff's wonderful foresight and wisdom in scenting a spot which no other had thought of—which was selected—which time confirmed. W. concluded: "To make a long story short—to end this rigamarole, which Holman tells so well in a dozen lines—Jeff was a power with them, and they knew it." I said, "Ben Starr gives of your brother a likely report—that in conferences of engineers, he was last to speak and was then always listened to with respect." W. laughed, "That is very Granty—that is Grant, out and out: he liked to hear all the counsel they could give him." I asked, "But was it not characteristic of Jeff, too?" "Yes, thoroughly: and though Ben is always to be taken with grains of allowance—as Scovel too, and others we know—this has something that smacks of the truth." Again— "Dear Jeff! He loved a long walk—always enjoyed an hour's stroll: was self-contained, quiet, radical, without display in any way." Bush had thought he stood high among engineers. W.: "Yes, he has made his own high place."

     Told him about Jarvis portrait of Paine in Johnston's store. Well interested— "I would like to see it, first of all for what it gives of Paine—then on Jarvis' account. Jarvis was a celebre in his day." I had medallions (bas-reliefs) of George Eliot and

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Browning from Morse today. Spoke of Morse's broad treatment, which W. said had always given him reputation in W.'s eyes. Weather too inclement for me to bring them down.

     Morris met Horace Howard Furness last night—had a long talk with him—Furness speaking many kind words of Walt. W. said, "I take that for what it means—for its full signifcance. Furness is like Symonds—speaks out of the deeps of literary convention. That may be thought little to say of them—may be thought much. I mean it much. They are literary men of a high type—yet in a sense belong to us, too."

     I described Gilder's cold shoulder to Johnston when he first carried to Gilder project of the Ingersoll lecture. W. said, "We must not wonder: we must take it as matter of course. There are some of our friends who object to having our fortunes in any way mixed with Bob's—and it is their natural privilege—necessity. But for my own part I want it clearly understood that I do not in the least share such a notion: not only have no fear, but on the contrary am glad, proud, to have his advocacy, his criticism, his noble generosity and beauty. Ingersoll is a great character—with the greatest, our day, land. But, to be sure, Carlyle could not understand Voltaire—yet Voltaire was in that last truest sense ours—came to us out of what would be supposed the worst traditions, conditions—out of priestly training. It indicates what culturism may in exceptional cases do." And so, too, with Hugo? "Yes, but Hugo was ours emotionally—Voltaire, after the intellectual sinuosities, deep down, down, to bottom truths, was triumphantly on our side. A wonderful force—his anger persistent, mighty—as when after some priesthood, how he clutched, swore, persisted, indignation deepening in him down to the very joints of his toes. There is a sense in which he is ours, a sense in which we would after all say he was not: but, as I have said, get past the intellectual sinuosities: then your way is clear."

      "I never appreciate—though I always understand—the feeling toward Bob: it shows want of perception—of that finer ear

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and eye which detects the eternal in character. To me his reality is so eminent—so patent—it ought to be plain at once. And so of Voltaire, who gave us, of his kind (and the highest kind, at that) the very best, any age, any clime. The stars differeth in glory—yet all are glorious, even the least. And all respond to their position in the heavens. How he took up his case, pleaded it, demanded it—was for freedom, light—this will always glorify him. Yes—and it is curious, too, that he was in the main exempt from danger—though it is true he was bastilled, banished—but worse might have been, for many a man has been burned for less offense than his. But he was very cute—had his knowledge of men—steered a wise course. See how always, through the most wonderful windings, screwings, of his mental mountains, he came at last, surely, to the heart. It is a lesson—culturism never did as much before—probably never will again."

     Told him of the check from Mrs. Fairchild—not, however, yet mentioning her name. Proposed to get him a new grey hat. At once acquiesced—seemed pleased—thought it would cost six or seven dollars, anyhow, etc. I am to send a man over from Parry's (Philadelphia, 10th and Market)—where Bucke gets all his hats. W. laughed about Bucke's "long-distance orders" as he called them—but added: "I don't believe he could get a hat like that anywhere in Canada." As to his own: "If the man comes here, I can tell him what I want—make it positive—so there can be no mistake." It was "damnable" to be "tailorized" or "hatted" after a "mode."

     Paid tribute to the letter carrier on his route—Kelley Brown, who lives within a few doors of him. "He is very frank, truthful, obliging—knows more than all the rest of the force. The postmaster, being a typical Sunday School man, as you say, could not be expected to amount to much—so we must not blame him. Lee was good, Bailey was good, James was good: now the estate has fallen into bad hands."

     Sent "love" over to "boys" in Philadelphia. Seemed in particular happy mood.


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     Referred at one point to "the common Christianism of the day," which "all level-headed people quickly outgrow: especially the scientific or those who know what science—that is, civilization—stands for."


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