Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 388] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, January 2, 1891

     7:55 P.M. W. in his room—not even reading. Called out "Horace" with great cordiality—took and held my hand—said, "I had wondered what had become of you: was going to send up to ask tomorrow." And I explained my absence—he assenting, "I know—it was all right—I am not disposed to question it. But we missed you," etc. How as to his own health? It had been "the same," perhaps "even a little improved." I described letter I had from Bucke today.

     W. saying, "Yes, it is to the same purpose as one I received. Well, that is a point to be counted for good. If we were mistaken so much the better." Said he had no word from Talcott Williams yet anent Reisser colloquy— "my type-written copy" he called it. Would I call in someday to ask him about it? In my pocket a copy of [Harper's] Young People—beautiful double-page engraving by Baude of "The Divine Shepherd" by Murillo. W. took it and looked at it the longest time, speaking of its "beauty" and "power," then of its "softness, freedom," adding, "I don't

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 390] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
think I have ever seen anything finer than this of its kind—was it French or American?"
"I should have guessed it was Murillo—it has that color." Then got up from chair and went across the room to the sofa. "Here is a picture came from Johnston the jeweler—was sent over yesterday through Ingram. I don't know who brought it—probably a boy—I did not see him." It was a copy of Galti's picture, such as I received the other day. W. had admired it greatly. "I was a little puzzled how it was made. You call it a photo-gravure? The signs of ink—printer's ink—puzzled me some—but I concluded finally an etching."

      "It represents one of Milton's youthful Italian journeys—must be historic. I have looked at it long and long and long. How much these things move a fellow. See this head"—pointing to the Murillo, still in his hand— "it is crowded with suggestion." Alluded to Kenyon Cox and St.-Gaudens portraits in the Century. Had read Cox articles: "I enjoyed the portraits." His own portrait never in Century, but once in Scribner's. "It went in along with Stedman's article. I was told Stedman had a high time of it with Holland. Holland was editor then—did not want Walt Whitman on any terms. And Stedman rode a very high horse—told him if this decision was inexorable, then their contract should cease. Yes, Stedman has pluck—and this time it was Holland who gave in." Afterwards, "The article as it appears in the book is different from the article in the magazine, where there had been some even scurrilous remarks." Between the publication of the two, Stedman had probably experienced a "change of heart." W. laughing, "I think William O'Connor had a good deal to do with that, a good deal, though Stedman is not a man to be forced into applause either. He is well able to take care of himself." I put in, "But I didn't think O'Connor believed him a great man." "No, I am sure he did not—nor do we—he is valuable, more from the emotional side—from the side of his honesty, good nature, love. But he is glib, too, well able to hold his ground up to a certain point, not certainly as William would. William had the same

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 391] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
determination plus a certain native genius—just as determined guns, though with larger bore—capable of firing a more deadly shot. William had an immense virile conviction which it was hard to oppose."
He supposed no other would have equalled him except Ingersoll. "The Colonel is another example. Yet these men have their marked differences, too. If it can be said, Ingersoll is the more intellectual. Though that is hardly the word either. O'Connor is distinguished first of all by an abysmic flavor—an Irish bardic ardor centered in him out of six generations of patriotism, national aspirations. It made a vast heart. But William had no such intellectual power as we see in Bob—though he was not a fool, either: had it in all necessary measure when the time came. In Bob it is the fruit of his long law experience, based, at last, savingly, in an almost unparalleled spontaneity—a calmness, too—and certainty, suavity." Of coure the world did not like these men. "The quality which to us is their greatness: to others is a rock of offense. But that undying childhood in both—that is illimitably important." How could the formal-cut men in literature comprehend "Leaves of Grass"? They did not—they could not: "They like portions, beauties, what they would call 'gems'—do not see more." But it took more than that to compass "Leaves of Grass." The thread connecting all was never penetrated by such men. Then, "It is a plume for us, that someone abroad should have bought 100 sets of sheets of the big book. Did you ever find out from Dave who they were for? Do so—ask him some day. It is a part for us to know." I laughed and said, "Dave has paid you $300 for them? I passed the check today." McKay's account is with us. I often see Dave's father and talk with him. W. asked what would be a good name for such a man as guarded and sold books—was there a name. I knew none but suggested "bookster," which seemed to amuse him. "Capital! Capital!" he exclaimed, "a first-class coinage," and proceeded, "This brings back another matter: 'Presidentiad.' When you get in town, somewhere within handling of a copy of the Century

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 392] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dictionary, look up my word, see if it is there."
I had already done so, at Harned's the other night: the word not included nor, so far as I could see, any reference to "Leaves of Grass." W. announced, "So far as that one word is concerned, if they can afford to drop it, or not take it up," and this was his firmest conviction. "I am not sure but the Century people have had new revelations on Walt Whitman—revelations not as favorable as of old." Referring to Ingersoll again: "He bubbles up like the Long Island springs I so enjoyed and the memory of which I enjoy still: I could not help it." "It was the free heart of the earth, giving its love," I said, to which W.: "Yes, that is beautifully said—and it belongs to the Colonel." When I mentioned the pleasure they could have if they lived adjacent, W. nodded, "Yes," but said after: "We must however remember the old story—I hold but a pint—hold but a pint: no more!"

     Speaking of the scientific spirit of the time—its high level of belief, W. said: "It is indeed great—I think the greatest: there is nothing to top it!" And then, "You can't expect the little fellows to take this in—to believe—to see William, Bob, science, for the rare children they are. How could Allibone, Bok, Dick Stoddard, others, take them in? They could not hold them!" And then: "'Leaves of Grass' means that or nothing. I can never assert it too often, yet so few understand!"


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.