Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 13, 1890

     5:20 P.M. With W. till six—whistles just screaming as I left the door. Was tying up "Annex" manuscripts in their covers as I entered. I alluded to his busy habits—to which he said with a smile, "I am not busy—I do very little indeed—very little but dawdle, drowse, sleep: now and then fingering a book, writing a little—but doing no more. Anyone happening in and finding me doing something may think I am much occupied, but that would be a mistake." I asked after the "Annex" and he said it was "going on"—he having worked some on it today.

     Had not written anything about O'Reilly, he said, either for me or for the Pilot.

     Had no mail to send up: not a letter written yet, though he hoped to get at a postal or so before going out.

     Tore portrait of Edward Everett Hale from book announcements of Webster & Co.—asked me to show to my father. The engraving had impressed him. Said of Hale: "He is a thread of a man"—adding after a slight laugh— "He has his place—has done good work, but he is a very respectable Unitarian, too

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timid to be all a man—afraid to let himself be entangled with things that are not eminently respectable."

     Under the stove—an edge suspicioning itself out—was one of the Fredericks (N.Y.) portraits of which—W. seeing it in my hand—he said, "You had better take it along with you if you want it—you can make your claim to it—if you had not found it, it probably would have been lost anyhow." And he explained, "The picture must be 12 or 15 years old—yes, taken after my sickness, on one of my trips to New York." Signed picture for me. Led to talk as to whether he had lost weight. Told him I thought he had. But he averred— "I am not convinced. I do not think there is sign of it. I think I have kept a pretty uniform weight these later years; of course I was much fatter 30 years ago, for instance, as shown in the portrait Johnston has, which shows me at my best. You will like it. I think Bucke looks on it as the best of all—or among the best, surely, though some of my friends complain of the rosiness of the complexion—its floridity: which, however, is no objection to me. I think you must go to New York and to Johnston—you ought to see him, the picture, the family."

     W. spoke again of Newman's great age and of the living Dr. Furness as another example (88 years) "of fullness of life. It is a marvel to contemplate—a lesson—a gospel in itself!"

     Again, of his own habits: "I suppose I do nothing practically but dawdle—wait—let things happen. But that is as much as the rock does to fulfill its part—growing best in keeping to its place!" And so "I sit here, let the elements play about me—see what they will bring about."

     Asked him about sentence in the notes he had given me yesterday, quoting Drinkard as to the naturalness of his habits. He said: "Yes—they are his actual written words: not words out of memory, but written down. I have the document here somewhere." I said, "It would be a curious and interesting one to keep." He then: "You may keep it, it will turn up someday again and I will put it aside for you—it is here—everything is

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here,"
laughing and throwing his hands out towards the mass of paper at his feet. "Yes, everything is here, to come up from time to time—at wrong times, mostly!" Went detailedly then into description of Drinkard. "He was not a young man, yet a youngish one, too. He started out as an oculist—spent a dozen years or so in Paris—then determined to widen his scope, to take up a larger field. I suppose it was in '72 he first attended me in Washington—he had been there then several years. He was of Southern education and proclivities—a free, generous, broad fellow, grand in those things which measure largest for a man." W. dwelt upon surgeons and doctors in general. I had spoken of two classes—the professional and the scientific. W. said, "I agree that the scientific is the best—the only in true sense—but whether I have been fortunate in my men or the class is itself big, I don't know—but I can say those I have known, approached, affiliated with, have been men of superior stamp. The young surgeons of the army—such a power!—and so philosophic, too!—with minds so open and free—with hands fit for any emergency! They would not resent advice, even from me. They would be apt to say—well, that is new, and it will not hurt to try. I think of one case—I probably have told it you before—a young fellow down with a bad case of diptheria—we all liked him—his case very serious; critical, too. I suggested one day a copious mixture of chloroform and sweet oil—to form a plaster, and this to be set close on the swollen neck. I remember the young surgeon who had him in charge (I can see the surgeon's face now—remember it well—though his name is forgotten), he looked at me, seemed to think it over—finally said, 'I never heard of that before—but it can do no harm, if it does no good—and has the sound of being radical, to say the least,' so it was tried—and saved the fellow's life." Very specifically described the treatment: "It has its danger to the skin—will create severe blisters—but is drastic, the necessity of critical decision." I said, "Yes, like Bucke's treatment that Sunday in

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'88 when we thought you would die."
He smiled, "Yes, that was radical, too!"—adding— "I have heard! I have heard!"

     Looked at copies of Harper's Weekly and [Harper's] Young People I had with me. So attracted to Harper's that he said, "For certain reasons, I want to keep this copy." I said, "You are welcome," and to his offer to pay—refused—saying, "You have just given me a picture: suppose I offered to pay for it?" He laughed. "Your logic is severe, but I would prefer to pay," and when he saw I would not touch the coin—laughed, "My father used to say to me in his funny way, 'Always pay your small debts, whatever you do with your large!" Then of the papers themselves: "They seem to be going higher and higher—they acknowledge no end!" Dissenting to Linton's fear that engraving was retrograde: "I think it has never been as fine as just today." Enjoyed process engravings of some of Gibson's delicate work—but mainly Baude's engraving of Danty's picture "The Winner of the Prize." "It is a marvellous piece of work." Another page struck him—a "Street Scene in Paris—The Liquorice-Water Seller," drawn by Jean Geoffroy. "I like the daring of the man—by that I mean his lights—how he has dared to set them in." Regarded it long. "It is the best yet. It is striking, the amount of good story, put together in such a sheet." He thought the Weekly "answered some of our necessities," the other— "profoundly affects us"; the first was "to have," the last, "to look at."


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