Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, February 10, 1891

     5:50 P.M. W. in his room. Complained again, yet "enjoyed the fine northern sky." Just finished dinner. Twilight. A good strong voice. Said very quickly: "I had a letter from Doctor today—it is intensely interesting. He tells me of a political fight in

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Canada—that their Dominion legislature—or whatever (I suppose it corresponds to our Congress) has been dissolved—making a sort of general election necessary. As I understood Doctor, involving the whole question of reciprocity—yes, even more—the question of annexation. I was greatly fascinated—it holds out a glorious prospect. Of course all our fellows believe in it—human solidarity—destruction of border-lines, but I doubt if anybody in the States here knows or cares anything about it—perhaps some people along the borders—Detroit, Chicago, the Lakes, Maine—but beyond these, down our way, South, who cares? It might almost be an agitation on another planet."

     I had with me W.'s 100 copies of the Dutch piece. Gave dollar to pressmen. They were greatly moved. W. admired printing. "It is perfectly satisfactory—I am sure it is the best could be done by anybody." Spoke of circulation he wished to give it. I was in today to see Stoddart. S. would give us 100 copies of the magazine instead of the sheets: thought he was entitled to the benefit of our circulation. Even asked for a list from us, so he could send them out for us at pound rates. What did W. think? I told Stoddart: "W. will acquiesce even if he would prefer the other." W. now: "Yes—you are right—but I will own up—I do prefer the other way—I had another design: I wanted to send Kennedy's piece along with each copy." I promised to use same list as Lippincott's to send out my papers so all would go to the same individuals. Appeared to satisfy him. Still contended: "I am not sure but it would do them as much good the way we wanted it—but no matter." Stoddart was very favorable to W. Said he would be over in a few days to see W. Introduced me to proof-reader who made sundry criticisms of W.'s style, mainly punctuation, telling me he had much enjoyed my piece— "its enthusiasm: it exhilarated me," though— "I didn't agree to the argument," etc. W. said, "I wrote in the proof what was my preference, but told them they should pursue their own pleasure—as I know they mainly do, whether you tell 'em or not." I said, "But Stoddart let you have your own way, even in cases

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where your own spelling is not uniform."
W. then, "But that was too literal: I, too, insist upon uniformity, and if there are breaks in that, it is because I overlooked, not because I wanted it." And further, "I have no desire to dictate to them: having my ideas, I stated them—if the other fellows have others, they are equally right. Of course, this is a case in which we must defer to them." But he "realizes" Stoddart's "kindness" and would list the names I mentioned. "Indeed, I feel both about this matter and the Dutch piece that I am given the whole high road, that I am treated handsomely."

     W. signed a copy of the Kennedy Dutch piece with my name. Also gave me several copies "Old Age Echoes"—the Lippincott's poems—not autographed. I picked this off the floor—did he verify it? "In the main"—his own ink endorsement. The pencil mark his also.

With his brawny neck swept by his silver beard open clear to his breast, Walt Whitman, the poet of the Delaware, was sitting on the sunny side of one of the Camden ferry boats, taking his daily two or three trips across the river before dinner. His blue-grey eyes looked bright and cheery and with a blue pencil he was noting impressions in a little pass-book he always carries.

"Mr. Whitman, what is the sublimest poetry in existence?" he was asked.

"The Bible, Shakespeare, and Homer. They contain the most vital livingest poetry we know."

"And what American poets will posterity rate the highest?"

"One star differeth from another star in glory, but they are all stars nevertheless. Emerson, I suppose, takes the highest place. In the judgment of posterity Bryant, I think, will take the second place. They both stand brighter than they did. Ticknor and Bancroft in our literature will rank with them among the first. Of Longfellow, noble as he is, I am not so sure."

"What about Swinburne?"

"A great poet. His latest work in sonnet form, written anent Tennyson's elevation to the peerage I suppose, electrified me in the reading. I picked up the magazine at one of the newsstands, which is the way

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and as the boat reached the slip the tall, grey-clad poet nodded adieu, turning for a moment to watch a crazy flock of sparrows that came swooping down to pick up crumbs that the engineer had emptied on the deck from out his dinner pail.


[Inscribed by W.: "From the Philadelphia Daily Times, May 1, 1884." The words "A great poet" apparently crossed out by W.]


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