Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, July 29, 1890

     5:20 P.M. W's chair out of doors when I came, but he did not start off till I left. In his room—complained of "an infernal inertia" which "binds me to my chair."

     The Morning Journal (N.Y.) wrote him this morning for a piece, which he sent off. Described it as "a little six-dollar bit."

     W. gave me letter received from Bucke in which Bucke asks about the Symonds letter again (the last). I remembered quite well, after reading and returning it to him, that his first intention of sending it at once to Bucke was changed because he had the thought to get it printed for his own use. He now said, "I remember it clearly enough, too, but days passed. I made no use of it, and it got lost here in affairs at large," looking with amused glances at the mass on the floor. Then spoke of Symonds' new volumes: "I find that the books—that what he says in these later essays, is very much colder than his letters—damnably cold. They do not display the force and acumen which we would seem to have a right to expect from such a man, knowing his resources, the day in which he lives, this 19th century, with its matchless discoveries in science. 'Democratic Art'! I do not like the title itself—there is no such thing—and as for making a thing and calling it that—no, it will scarcely pass. No! No! Mr. Symonds! None of your 'democratic art' for me! Perhaps after a few hundred years, with trial and trial, addition and addition, something may be said of this—I to be then counted in among other influences. But in the meanwhile we must be utterly at sea. Who can account for all the currents, counter-currents, failures, now, as they pass? Or bring them to a union and call them 'democratic art'?" And he further said as to its "coldness": "I suppose we may account for this by saying that the essay is on democratic art, not on me—has not my name as end and aim. But there must be many things that enter. I have noticed in some of my friends that after a period of enthusiasm they are like to retrace their steps—to think the enthusiasm not quite the

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thing. There was Robert Louis Stevenson for one. But I think the truth with Symonds to be that these are chestnuts raked out of the fire—not new matters. There seems to me all along—I have looked through many of the essays—to be the fingermarks of age. They do not seem to reflect the Symonds of this present day, but of a day past. Not the Symonds with his greatest resources, but his lesser. Even his letter seemed to hint of new matter—which cannot have been put into these volumes."
He thought I ought to take and read it. As to purchasing, "They are costly—are not his best work. Are hardly worth such effort."

     He referred to the Leslie's Monthly matter again: "The reason I wanted you to look it up was that I have thought of writing—am writing, in fact; have already begun—an article seeming to be upon the same subject. I want to see how far, if at all, I touch the same tones."

     I wrote somewhat on New England Magazine matter last night. Wrote Mead this morning about it. I asked W. about his paragraphs promised upon religion. "I am afraid that my response to that would be as with the Diplomatic Secret—that there is no secret!" I told him I hesitated to urge, but he asserted, "It might be best to urge—to drive me out of this insensibly growing inertia. I find my habits growing lazier and lazier."


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