Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, January 16, 1891

     7:55 P.M. Stopped in on my way to Unitarian Church, where Law was to lecture on Alexander Wilson. W. said, "That is a worthy topic: Wilson was quite a fellow—one of nature's men—and it does not hurt to keep calling attention to him." Brought him final batch unmounted pictures. We put them under a mass of books under the table to flatten them. W. asked me about the Shillaber piece of which Kennedy had spoken. Then said of Shillaber, "I think he was a good man—possessing some strong

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qualities—was emotional, democratic, frank, genuine: a fair sample of our better average professional man."
Shillaber had spoken to me of Emerson's "constant idiotic smile." W. retorted, "That shows the man's limitations: it is as if you spoke of 'this idiotic fine day.'" I had found him reading Kennedy's Dutch piece. "Stoddart brought it over to me yesterday. It is very good—has some tip-top features." Perhaps it might be published in Conservator. He would write Kennedy about it. Thought I might furnish him slips if he wished it. "I should want quite a number."

     Had laid out for me, rolled in cord—no paper around it—Lippincott's manuscript: "Some Personal Memoranda." "You seem to value that: so I am willing you should take it—glad if it pleases you." Wrote my name on its face. "This may have an especial value—on several accounts. That slip in there of the Emerson letter is an original, printed at the time, when it was first used; it has an interest, even to me. And the list of English names—that I have never written before that I remember." Afterwards, reflectively, "I meant to make plain there, as never before, the sense of the debt I feel for my English rescuers in the dark years of my Camden sojourn. You mention it in your piece—I go into it with more detail. No one can know as I know the depth of the need, the nobility of the response. It was veritably a plucking from the fire, as I describe it. No one, not my best friends—know what it means to me. It was life or ruin—to this side continuance, to that wreck—and these men saved me—and with true sacrificing zeal, espousal. I know that London is full of cads, flunkeys, fools, evil-doers—all that—but here, too, were several hundred as generous, devoted souls as men could know. I have no mind to forget them—even though Gilder and some of the fellows here declare there's nothing to it." I referred to the Emerson letter. "The original is here still," he said. "I think I can lay my hand on it. Why, do you want it? You shall have it, without a question from me: if you want it, it is yours." But when I touched upon its spiritual value in

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connection with what must be the future of 'Leaves of Grass,' W. replied, "It is well not to be quick on that point: who can know the certainty among all these uncertainties? It is a hard word to say—the sure word. Who can say it?" Arthur Stedman when here had told Morris a curious story about Johnston. Someone in New England wrote Johnston to intercede with Stedman for a manuscript copy of some one of Stedman's poems. Johnston did so—got the poems, then wrote the applicant to know how much he would give for it—the latter then writing an account of the incident to Stedman. W. rather "pained" by the story, but said, "The charitable view to take is, that he was going to get what money he could and give it to Stedman." Still W. "realized" there was a "canny" side to human nature which it was hard to explain and that "this might be an incident proper to it."

     Gave me letter from Bucke, also one from Francis Wilson—said of latter, "It came with the bottle there, which I have not opened yet. How good, thoughtful, all these fellows are!"

     I told him I still had four dollars of Mrs. Fairchid's money. What did he need? Finally suggested "a couple of hardy, strong undershirts—wool. Can you do that?" So Mrs. Davis is to look the goods out somewhere and I will pay the bill.

     W. said he "craved only one thing more from Bob." What was it? "A good talk sometime about Shakespeare!"

     Urged me strongly to take New York trip, which I have in mind for next week.


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