Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 071] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, August 22, 1890

     4:40 P.M. W. had just finished his dinner, and talked well during the 20 minutes of my stay. "Yes," he said to my inquiries, "I woke well this morning—pass along reasonably well. There's that in the weft of me smoothes off the pain of this solitariness I am condemned to. Yes, the summer has been a severe one—but the profuse sweatingness, so to call it, has been in my case favorable."

     Told him of a discussion as to the "patriotism" of "Leaves of Grass." I had concluded that it was more than patriotic in that

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 072] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
it was human—taught solidarity. W. said, "'Leaves of Grass' has its patriotism too, but patriotism of the common kind is a narrow principle at the best—a sort of boost me and I'll boost you; take care of me, I'll take care of you; our interests, our purses, to hell with the rest of the world! 'Leaves of Grass' has nothing to give to that principle—nothing. I think patriotism—our patriotism—has never been better defined than by Paine—he hit it off in several places. For instance, where he says—the world is my country, to do good is my religion. That is the whole gospel of politics, life. Then he had another saying too, which I cannot recall now." And he quoted, "For Justice, all places temples, all seasons summer"—and asked— "That was Paine, too, wasn't it? Or was it Shakespeare? I am not clear. However, 'Leaves of Grass' includes all this, is based on no less than the world, man in ensemble—not his parts, not special races, religions." And he asked very specifically in his usual way, "What did the others say to you especially? What could they say?"

     Called my attention to brief editorial in the Boston Herald. "It is about the last piece—the Critic piece: I guess is something Baxter has taken it on hiimself to say." As to Poet-Lore— "I have not heard from them yet. Oh! it was not much—a mere word or two—a few words. Trumbull failed to nail me at the most significant point in my judgment of Shakespeare, and I wished to say so. I had no other motive."

     Every once in a while he reached over, put his fingers into the box of calamus sugar-plums, took one and put it in his mouth. When Ingram was about to go yesterday, he gave him some.

     Attracted to this in Liberty, from Tucker:

One of the world's greatest hearts is gone in the death of John Boyle O'Reilly. He had the stuff in him, too, for one of the world's greatest heroes. And that is what he would have been if Success and Superstition had not had their fatal grip upon him. He always commanded my admiration, but I could never thoroughly understand his character and shall not attempt to judge it. The chief lesson of his life to me is the disastrous effect of religion upon one who by

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 073] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
nature and training was unable to cast it off and yet was conscious that it terribly impeded him in his efforts to further that cause which every drop of blood in his veins was burning to serve,—the cause of human liberty.


      "No, that is a mistake—I am not worried at all about Boyle's Catholicism—it was not a vital, so much as a technical thing with him—one of the technicalities. Along with the bottom frankness, candor, spontaneity of the man—his saving special, grander forces—was a Jesuitism, too—a mild conservatism. Then it is impossible to know him except as shown in the background of his penal servitude—imprisonment—the horrible cruelty of that year's injustice—the manner of his treatment—the incident, for one, of his respectful protest to the commandant, who slapped him passionately in the mouth forthwith." W. indicated with the back of his hand. "Out of that blossomed in Boyle his hate of tyranny in all its forms—perhaps exaggerated hate, if such a thing can be, which I doubt—hate of overbearingness, ill treatment, hate of formal superiority, sympathy for the masses. Oh! it was a noble composition! That picture in Harper's Weekly is a caricature. To get Boyle, is to take our Harry downstairs, his round, strong, often flashing eye—mellow him, broaden him—and you have your man. Boyle had no gimlet, wall-piercing eye. He was a fine sample of mature youth—that is the way he always impressed me. That vivid flash of experience—the mouth-slap—resentment—lights the whole pathway: it made him forever free—a friend of freedom."

     W. said again, "The people who debate whether the Cardinal—a Catholic—should be buried at Westminster seem to forget all about origins, formations—how many Catholics already repose there."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.