Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, August 8, 1890

     5:05 P.M. A rather chill and stormy day, W. therefore confined. Had just finished dinner: sat by window in his own room.

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Had a delightful talk—nearly three-quarters of an hour. W. apparently very vigorous.

     Asked me what the time was. Proved his watch to be exact. He said, "I had no idea I could guess so near the point." Reference to Bucke's gift for time, Gurd's absolute opacity—W. then laughing— "That is one of Burroughs' peculiarities. He would disdain to carry a watch. He goes without it as a matter of course."

     Morning Journal paper here today. Acknowledged them and payment (six dollars).

     Said he had a letter from Kennedy. Gave to me. "I have already written an answer," he said—pointing to a bulky envelope on table, addressed, which he afterwards gave to me to mail.


Office Transcript Boston,
Boston, Aug 6, '90

Dear WW,

It seems so pleasant that dear Walt Whitman is so (comparatively) well & getting out into the open. Thank you for remembering me in so good a letter. I shall see Symonds' book as soon as possible. Shall watch for it in Athenaeum. Having given up general literary contributions myself, too, I have ordered the Critic, Open Court, Camb. Tribune etc. stopped. Must look up Critic every week, though. Dr. B. & I will bring out my book on you sometime, perhaps sooner than we any of us know. I wrote from London Canada to Frederick Wilson peremptorily ordering him to return my ms to me.

Do write as often as you can. I have myself absolutely no leisure to speak of & have acquired a curious distaste for writing—at present.

Affec'y

W.S. Kennedy


      "Did you know anything about that project?" he asked. "It is news to me. As to the bibliography, which is the point Kennedy deems most important—I can see no unmitigated—yes, I may use that word—no unmitigated necessity. After I

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have kicked the bucket there may be more decisive reason for the thing, but while I am about and kicking myself"
—he laughed heartily— "I can see no call." And then— "I see more value in the matter you are piling together in your little article—personal memorabilia, traits of character, incidents, habits—the pulse and throb of the critter himself. Oh! how I have looked for just that matter in connection with great men, some of whom I have met, some not, yet it is the thing we get least of—is really a desideratum." I told him, "The real life of a man can often be written on the scraps the formal biographer refuses." W. then: "That is striking—it is what I am trying to say—why Kennedy's book fails to excite my enthusiasms."

     Working again today on "Annex."

      "A thing Sarrazin takes up boldly is the egotism: and as I grow older, I dare more in that respect myself—am less afraid of accusation—am less afraid to be egotist—to let the horses go, so to speak. It arises out of more positive if not new convictions. I know no one who has so heroically accepted that phase."

     Exclaimed at one moment: "O the grand old fellow! Thomas Carlyle! I wonder how his proof-sheets looked—what his methods were—it would curiously interest me! Could George Childs have any of his manuscript, do you think?" To him, "the fingermarks of proof-sheets, manuscripts, are conclusive evidences—are final exhibitions: I always measure by them." I told him Morris was back from the country. Expressed gladness, asked after him: "Give him my love. Then tell him for me I am not far off from that point of printing the Sarrazin piece. Tell him I have it at heart day by day—the grandeur of the man—tell him his own kindness is not forgotten." I asked, "Then you do not beat retreat as you come into closer contact with the essay?" "Not a bit—on the contrary, the closer contact enlarges my appreciation. I know no such other eminent estimation of us—it stands at the top: it is the highest peak yet. It is true,

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O'Connor is a power—vast—too vast to know except by degrees—and Bucke too—and both are all that affection, faith, brotherliness, fraternity, love, courage, acceptivity could make of them. Oh! there's that I know to make eternal rock of these—but beyond all that, one thing in Sarrazin is the grandeur—the sweep—think of it!—try to measure it—then you will see how large it is. I was out here yesterday—in the evening—for a long time—out by the city hall—and I watched the clouds drifting there—the vast, trailing tresses—sweeping, surging, sighing—I could almost hear the song, the sigh—across the sky"
—he threw his head back—cast out his arms—was a picture himself of fire, power, grand human personality. "It was a sublime spectacle—a summons to elemental dramas. And this man has that in him. And the damned daring of the man is a property! He takes up that clearest fact to me—the evil of the world—the cosmic circle—and see the courage—how he grapples it, throws it! with damndest assurance, too, putting it in a background of the religious—god-intoxication!" I interposed— "The best thing in Sarrazin is, that he takes that point up as any other, and just as naturally considers it, as if not doing anything extraordinary." W.: "That is just the point—that is a splendid statement—where the best of the others is shy, he is perfectly frank, natural, flowing." At another moment he said, "There is a certain light airy touch—oh! delicate beyond description—belonging to the French: no nation has it but the French." We discussed getting the essay in print. W.'s idea was even to get it into electros. As to Morris' version— "I like it—its literalness pleases me: there may be something lost by it—on the other hand it has a side of distinct gain—and this gain a great deal more than offsets the loss. Tell Morris I will let him have proof." "So much is in the lay of a thing—how matter shows in the types. Think of Symonds' books here—the new ones: what a grand page they present!" Will probably have Ferguson print.


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