Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 407] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sunday, January 11, 1891

     4:30 P.M. W. had finished dinner. The tray, with its remains, still on table. Warren came in shortly to take away, bringing some mail with him. W. in best humor. Talked well. The comforter again pinned about his neck. Showed him letter from Arthur Stedman. "Yes," he said, "let him come—bring him over, but tell him, I am not well—must not be kept too long—long anyway. I want to see him, for his father's sake—for his own. Good boy!" An envelope—big—with mail—from North American Review. W., not opening, said, "It is probably the proofs of 'Our National Literature,'" adding, "I am seriously at a loss about that—it does not satisfy me—it does not say the things I want to say in the way I want to say them. I am not satisfied with it as the final utterance—even a full utterance—on that subject. However, it must be swallowed—it is what it is—the question is like the weather: it brings in currents from all quarters." Further: "With the Lippincott's piece, with the New England Magazine—we have a sort of irritant with which to go along for some time. Life is like the stomach—it needs for things now and then not with reference to digestion—stimulation—but for the purpose only to flush, to cleanse. Doctors tell me that and it works its own confirmation." Do not think he ever takes Mitchell's pills any more. Warren says not. W. says to me, "Dr. Mitchell doctors me as if I was all bladder, whereas I am (I hope) a hundred other things." Very mild though stormy. Not out yesterday, "Yet I was told I should have gone—that it

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 408] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
was warm enough—Mary came to tell me."
Yet was downstairs; the first time for weeks today. Said it did him good.

     I had bill for hat from Parry, but the hat is not yet delivered. Shall write to Parry that I will pay for it as soon as W. is satisfied. This "quite satisfactory" to W.

     Knew nothing of Moulton, now giving his lectures on Shakespeare at the University. No word from Stoddart yet. "You will send your piece in the morning. I did not expect anything from him till he had your piece with the others there." Warren says that Musgrove was here one day recently and that W. questioned him closely about the use of a catheter. Referred affectionately to Kelley Brown, letter-carrier, "He is the best yet: a jewel of a man—the best of the lot. The present are a lot of Sunday School men. I have told you of Jeff. There was a fellow in St. Louis who acted so damned hoggish Jeff could not explain it till he heard he was at the head of Sunday School. Then he said, 'Yes, now I know.'" W. spoke of letter-carriers abroad, then of foreign policemen, then of our own, thinking ours "distinctly more brutal—less caring—the New York fellows long ago were good—I knew many of them—but most have been steadily getting worse."

     Asked me how our folks found the Camden water. Good. "Yes," he said, "and so do I: that is, reasonably. The Brooklyn water, however, is the best in the world," describing beautifully the springs which feed it. "What feeds the springs nobody knows. It is some body of water far off—perhaps in the Canadas or our great West. They gush out not by ones or hundreds even, but by thousands—thousands! Few people appreciate the marvellous hydrography of Long Island. At these springs much peat has accumulated—the pack of many, many years. But if it is removed, it reveals the most beautiful gravel bottom you know. I have seen nothing like it, for color, purity—it has delighted me to look at it for hours. The springs break forth like the table there—like my head—like my leg—like my arm—all sizes and forms. It is this land which Brooklyn buys and uses,"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 409] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
etc. How about Croton water? "I suppose it is good—it is reputed good, but I can't take it, which people say is my fault not the fault of the water."

     Again he repeats, "I always think the real philosophy of pain is to regard it as nature's effort at readjustment. There is no deeper word to be said than that—once we are ready to follow all its meanings."

     Referring to New York policemen again, W. remarked, "If you would draw their attention to the matter they would say, 'We have to do it, there's no other way to manage.' But there's a great doubt whether that's true. Still, I remember a gang of workmen on a road. They were tracking the road. I knew the boss well—very well—and one day remonstrated with him. 'How is it you speak to these men in such a way—is it at all effective: does it accomplish its purpose?—wouldn't the kindlier word be the better one?' But he shook his head. 'No,' he answered me, 'I can only manage these men by doing as I do. No other method would accomplish my purpose.'" I asked W., "Do you think he was right?" W. hesitated. "I don't think he was right—I don't think he was wrong. I should hesitate to give a decided opinion. I could understand his explanation—its foundation—how much it meant—then I could see something more—a good deal." After a moment's quiet, proceeding, "I could tell you of a man—youngish man—upon John Burroughs' estate on the Hudson. I used to watch him plow across a field of stubble—the damndest stuff you ever saw, hitting a snag at every move. Yet never swearing a word, neither at horses, self nor land—quiet, patient, philosophic, hour after hour. No doubt a Quaker spirit—if not Quaker blood—in him. You have seen his name: I have immortalized"—W. laughed— "celebrated him in 'Specimen Days.' He was the man who performed the heroisms on a wreck—was gold-medalled—that."

     W. was sipping something from a cup, from time to time. "It is some of Ingram's tea," he explained. "He sent it as a New Year's present—Mary has been boiling some for me—it is very

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 410] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
good. She hit the medium: tea is only good at one consistency—stronger or weaker than that, either way it is damnable."


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.