Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 27, 1890

     5:10 P.M. Had a happy half-hour's talk with W., he being in very best humor.

     Morris has a notice of Woodbury's book in Bulletin in which he prints entire W.'s Post paragraph. W. examined the paper with some relish, exclaiming of Woodbury, "The lying whelp! I hope a copy of the paper in some way gets to him." Adding, "He probably had some slight foundation for his book: a few pages, perhaps, which, first, he attempted to enlarge to an article, then to a book. I have no doubt something of that sort is involved with the story. One of the curious features is, that it is very interesting—that a book written au fait—full of lies, glamour, has a taking quality which operates everywhere—where a book detailing the truth might be dull enough—nobody read it. But the whole thing is very fishy—Emerson himself was little apt to talk to a stranger. He was not given to talking 'views' even to his friends—certainly not making confidences." As to what Morris wrote about a life of Emerson, W. had to say,

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"There can be no life—there is no eventfulness to portray—all that is necessary has appeared in the articles—his diary. And we have the printed essays themselves—nothing finer in all history. The wonder is, that Emerson—so delicate—so simple—so fine—should have been heard at all. The significant things are quickly told—that he lived at all—that he worked, wrote—and the world listened. And I always feel of Emerson as I do of Christianity: the acceptance of Christianity was not a credit to Jesus, but to the human race, that it could see, and seeing, welcome; as now with Emerson, the tribute, testimony, not to him but to the modern man, that he can compass so much. I have always felt this of Christianity—from the very start: here it gets all its significance."

     Further, informed me he had had a note from Jim Scovel "last night or this morning"—explaining— "Jim said he had been dining or something or other with four or five literary fellows and (which is probably another lie) that they had agreed that, although they had seen 500 different interviews with me at different times, this one in Monday's paper had been the best—bore more nearly my stamp." He smiled— "Which we know it does, of course!"

     I asked W. if he had any curiosity to see Woodbury's book? I could get it from Morris. "No I can hardly say I have. But I might say with the woman who had a hemorrhage and to whom I offered whiskey—an answer I did not like—think graceful—do not repeat— 'Well, it may do me no harm.' So if you choose you might get the book someday, and I will take a look at it over night."

     Frank Williams in to see me today—gratified to learn W. had an idea of new volume. Said, speaking of Century refusal of W., that he had never liked W.'s willingness to contribute to the magazines, etc. W. said now with a laugh, "I don't like it myself—what's more, don't do it: for now I am literally closed out of all. O yes! I think it's the publishers: whatever the editors, I don't think the publishers like me. I don't know why I persisted

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so with Harper's Monthly: I sent full eight or ten pieces and had eight or ten pieces returned me."

     Said McKay had sent word over for 50 copies big book in sheets, and W. had sent 50 first folds (autographed) by Warren to Oldach, forgetting they had yet to be numbered. When I reminded him he thought I had best see to the matter at once tomorrow.

     Frank Williams much pleased with W.'s condition, of which W. said himself, "I certainly feel better than summer two years ago, which was sad and disastrous to me."

     Looking at a picture of Niagara Falls in Harper's Young People, he said, "It is finely done—vivid: yet we could say of it as of the eyes in a portrait—the form is there—almost expression—but where is life, movement?" I left Harper's Weekly with him. He returned me copies of Scribner's. Also gave me to mail letter for Kennedy, papers for Bucke and others.

     As to Frank Williams' joy that W. would print a new volume, W. said, "Well, it is not done—not promised—only in preparation."

     I had with me copy of Carus' "The Ethical Problem." He admired flexible back, type, print, etc., but as to the contents— "No, I never touch them—they do not interest me."


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