Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, January 5, 1891

     8 P.M. To W.'s with Agnes and Morris. Upstairs alone first, but as W. was perfectly willing to have the others, summoned them directly from the parlor. Spent 15 to 20 minutes there. Very good-humored and bright—joking a good deal with us and especially with Aggie—though never in a trifling way. Showed him a letter from McCollin explaining that printing from the one negative was a slow process, that they had made others—that we could now expect pictures more readily. W. laughed, "That is about the tenth explanation why we haven't our pictures, but I guess these fellows are like the others I deal with—I'm as good as any other for that purpose. But of course I'm not in the least worried. I can well get along without the pictures for some time yet."

     Had read Mrs. Fairchild's letter, which he called "pathetic," and of which he said, "It has a melancholy hue—a sad, penetrating note, but it is thoroughly noble—thoroughly that woman."


Dec. 31, 1890

My dear Mr. Traubel,

I am sorry to have been so forgetful about acknowledging the photographs which arrived safely—precious freight!—a couple of

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days after your letter announcing them, as is the way with larger parcels by post. I have been very much absorbed by the sudden death of a friend, and life's interests all seemed to stop for a while at his coffin.


It is good to be brought now and then face to face with the eternal realities which the dust of our daily routine hides usually from our eyes. When it is swept away for a moment, and we discern the great truths which forever attend us, how clear they shine! how akin we see ourselves to them and not to the ignoble mirk of our own raising.

I loved this young man very dearly—he was almost like a son in the household, and it is only two months since his wedding day. I have been much in thought with his poor young wife. Of course youth cannot feel as age does, and I cannot ever ask her to let the personality go as I can. As one grows older one only feels the separation of the flesh: the bond is somewhere else. And by the side of my dead friend, I could only think how much greater was our actual isolation while we each lived.

Tomorrow is the new year & I send our dear friend Whitman with the warmest wishes. I wish it might bring me the pleasure of meeting him. I want to shake his hand once more. The photographs are most reverently cherished; the receiver of one is a young musician & artist with such a love for the beautiful as one rarely sees,—and the other is an heirloom to the children here!

With many wishes for the new year to yourself, I am very truly yrs,

Elisabeth Fairchild


     Had also a short letter from Bucke. "And I have its counterpart," said W. after he had read it.


2 Jan 1891

My dear Horace

All well and quiet. Your note of 29th to hand yesterday. Do not worry about me I am O.K. Am sitting here in office working away as usual, had good rest the last two nights—this dislocation is not going to be half as bad as the bruise and sprain of right arm three months ago—is not going to cause half the pain or half the disability.


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Rained all yeserday & last night—sleighing of course gone but wheeling good—I am getting out in buggy again as usual.

Love to you

RM Bucke


     Reference to Gosse's recent article in Forum in which was some long or short passage about W., who now said, "I saw it in the Record—some sentence quoted: I have not seen the piece entire. I think it is only a passing hit. I liked one of his phrases. He speaks of 'Leaves of Grass' as 'barbarous jargon.' That was quite good." Here W. paused and laughed. "No, that's not just the phrase: 'bastard jargon'—that's it; and very good—I was going to say, almost gave sign that he had been reading 'Leaves of Grass,' which" (humorously) "would show his best sense, to be sure!" Thought I had better look into Forum and if he went into the question of "Leaves of Grass" in any continuous way, to get him a copy. Then to us all, "It is curious, how that word bastard has undergone change. Four or five hundred years ago it was given quite different uses from any recorded now." Touched its legal use, its use by Shakespeare and Middle-Ages writers, etc. Had seen in papers that Emma Abbott was dead. Expressed tender condolences. I had delivered pocket edition—gave him five dollars for it. He exclaimed, "That is a substantial return—that is the water to keep the ship afloat," and put on bed under a table knife which he had been using as a paper cutter. Inquired of the others about Mt. Pleasant. "All the country up that way is beautiful," he affirmed. "I have been all through it—know what it is." Would he come out? "It is not impossible," etc. Referring to pictures again, said, "I am the one to be postponed every time." I interjected, "But you will have no real postponement—they are all yielding ground!" This made him laugh. "That's true. They try to leave me out in the cold but"—motioning toward the fire— "I am in comfort here, anyway; they can't freeze me out of this," etc.


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     Said that so far as he had seen Gosse's piece, it had "pleased" him because it "amused" him. "He thinks there is to be a poetry of the future, but that mine is not to give it: no such bastard jargon," etc. And W. himself repeated, "Who knows? It is a hard nut to crack." Agnes had a message from Dr. Schneiderman, who had come with Thomas to work with W.'s eyes. W. then: "The new glasses help me a good deal. When I first put them on—the first hours, days—they stung me: I laid them aside—used the old ones. But a day or two after the old ones disappeared and I was forced to the new, when they seemed to work all right." Had he found the others again? "Yes, they turned up. I have a strange way of losing things in the confusion here, but an equally strange way of turning them up again." W. had "unique, naive," Christmas-New Year's note from Kennedy. Pleased him. "It came with the candies."


Belmont Mass
Dec 28, '90

Merry Christmas dear Friend, & a happy New Year!—from frau and me.

She is sending Xmas presents, & receiving 'em. I send you a little box of confections by Adams exp. with my love. Besides her, you are the only one I have remembered. Sent mine home 2 months ago. Feel pretty poor this winter; we are scrimping & pinching to try to save a little. Expenses are so great. Tell me what you had for Xmas. I got an umbrella $3. Nice one. People in Boston were wild over Xmas. Never saw the streets so full of happy folks. Our huge snowstorm has congealed into crust & ice this morning. I have been down with a pertinacious cold (bronchial) for 3 weeks. It's too bad you have so many troubles (with the "old shack"). I wish I could share some of yr pain. I wd. gladly do it.

Do you suppose a thousand years fr. now people will be celebrating the birth of Walt Whitman as they are now the birth of Christ? If they don't—the more fools they. But—I hope they won't mythologize you & idiotize themselves as they do over the poor Christ. Why the glorious mystic & genius would have cut his throat if he had known

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what idiots people were to be over him. However he has been an enormous influence for good.


"Peace on earth good will to men."

By the way have you noticed the curious wing-bone-like things the only real angels we know of are wearing on their shoulders? What fragments the average man & the average woman are! The complete homo wd combine them both in perfect musical harmony.

I see in Critic (Nov 29 I think) accounts of yr forthcoming book. It pleases me much.

Affec.

W. S. Kennedy


     I had word from Mead today of arrival of manuscript. But glass negative "smashed to smithers." W. "glad" things began to "assume shape." Now looked "to see piece in print."


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