Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, August 29, 1890

     5:10 P.M. W. in his room reading the Long Islander. Dinner just done: had eaten rather sparingly.

     I returned him the three letters of yesterday. When I spoke of Wallace's as "fraternal" he said, "That is just the word for it: it is fraternal throughout. I am sure I respond to it—I even hope it is all true." And he added, "The chirography of the letter would itself be a charm, if there was nothing else to it, as there is."

     Gave me a letter for Kennedy to mail on my way home. I said, "It is fat"—and he responded— "That is one of the results of being permitted to send an oeuvre for two cents! No, I never write on the reverse of a sheet: I have no good reason, except that the old printer instinct rules me—will not be shaken off. Kennedy tells me he is quite inclined to write you the Dutch piece, only that for the moment he does not feel inspired. He

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asked me quite vehemently to nudge him on, so I do it in that note. Give him a few points. I do not think Kennedy needs much prodding. He has a sensitive cuticle, which is quick to respond to the right irritations."

     Returned me Current Literature. Could not remember to whom he had written about the "Annex" that it would have six or eight pages. "I suppose I have told forty people I was going to print an annex, but that six-page 'aside' rather astonishes me: it would not describe our intentions."

     Said he had not "particularly" read Grace Channing's poem in Scribner's. It is a characteristic comment on the poetry of magazines.

     I gave W. the letter I received last evening from Baxter, as follows:


Boston, Aug. 27, 1890

Dear Mr. Traubel:

Pardon my long delay. How the time flies! I hardly know what to suggest as to the best means to squelch Hartmann. Perhaps to write him a brief and gentle note and tell him that Whitman, having been informed of the character of his interview strongly disapproves its publication. I think the New York press must have "got onto him" by this time and not look kindly on his efforts.

Love to Walt. Enclosed would apply well to him, too.

Most sincerely yours,

Sylvester Baxter




DESCRIPTION FOR A MEMORIAL BUST OF FIELDING

He looked on naked Nature unashamed,
And saw the Sphinx, now bestial, now Divine,
In change and rechange; he nor praised nor blamed,
But drew her as he saw with fearless line.
Did he good service? God must judge, not we;
Manly he was, and generous, and sincere,

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English in all, of genius blithely free:
Who loves a Man may see his image here.
—James Russell Lowell in the Atlantic Monthly

     He read it through—gave the poem even a second reading—before he spoke. "That is a noble poem, to be sure—good for Lowell, good for men and women, good for us all. But what has it to do with Fielding? How does it apply to him? Perhaps I ask this—have this doubt—because I know nothing about Fielding. If I knew more, I might not ask so many questions. Certainly this is not the man I have known as Fielding. He is not worthy of it. I do not consider him at all as nearly to be ranked with Walter Scott, for instance. I read all his stories, of course, long ago—and they have their value. I am sure that the 'Vicar of Wakefield' is vastly greater—stronger, saner—than anything Fielding ever wrote."

     Then on another bent: "As to what he says of Hartmann, I am very well disposed to having you write—I heard from Hartmann today—he sent me this sheet," handing me an envelope in which was a sheet, printed on one side only— "Poems by C. Sadakichi Hartmann"—seven of them. W. laughingly said, "They are prose-poems"—and again— "But he is not a fool—the trouble with it, the devil of it all is—that he is not. These fellows with a piece of genius are often the most dangerous—capable of the greatest mischief." I asked, "Then you are willing for me to write and say you find it unpleasant to be so misrepresented, or reported at all." He replied, "Yes, that and more—you may make it much more emphatic than that—may say your strongest say, so he may understand—it is more than unpleasant to me: that the mischief-making flings he puts in my mouth are not mine—are wrongs done me, done the fellows they hit. Tell him that the merest trifles spoken en passant—elaborated to such length and falsity—which are about all he would ever have had from me—could do no man justice, least of all me. For if there's anything I pride myself on, it's my toleration, hospitality. Bob puts it well, 'intellectual hospitality.'

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I take in all the fellows—omit no one—as I take in all religions—seeing that they are all necessary to the scheme—all 'divine facts' as Frederic would have called them—not to be sneezed away. That is perhaps the only difference there is between Bob and me. I am quite as radical as he is, quite as set against the conventional, quite as determined to oppose the horrible phantasmagoria of creeds, religions (so-called)—yet not to quarrel with them—rake them too hard—from always having in mind their necessity."
But was Bob not active and W. passive agent of evolution, both with the same end in view? "Oh! I must not be mistaken—I shall always contend for the necessity of Bob's work—that no work done in our time arose more out of conditions irresistible, or will issue in higher results—no! I fully recognize that—only, I am here noting the difference of individuality, where one may be as necessary and valuable as the other. It is mainly to indicate my attitude towards the literary clan—that I see how it is grown, how to continue, what are its necessities. My feelings never hard, though frank and clear, I hope, at all times. Hartmann ought to be told this; but do it gently boy—do not draw a sword to it, Horace: make it positive, full, but with spare weapons. I suppose it eight or ten years now since I first knew Hartmann. When I first knew him he was in school—I liked him—but the past three years have made all the change—made him the reprobate he is—lowered his sense of responsibility. I could almost say, I like him still—though that may be too strong a word—I guess it is." He said Hartmann's poems might be sent to Bucke when I was done with them. "Bucke would keep them—he collects everything—the rascal he is!"

     To an expression of mine, that Shakespeare was great, but that half his greatness was in the play of writer and reader—take the reader away and where was Shakespeare?—W. assented. "That has a profound significance: it is a thought one should never lose from sight."

     W. thought Carlyle had never been able to do justice to

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Voltaire. "I think he never understood him. That has always been my impression."

     He referred to the Holmes' Atlantic Monthly piece. Had read it. "As a nigger would say in the South, it ain't worth shucks! I can see easily, however, why Holmes should take the position he does. There is quite a determination that the 'Mr.' this and that—or Lord or Esq.—or what-not, has social reasons, and reasons of formal dignity, for being retained: that we ought to stickle, insist upon, them, as a part of our civilization. And I fully recognize that there are things to be said for that view. In Emerson himself there would be some base for it. They do not seem necessary to us, however the world may determine it." Further: "I know some of our own men who would make a plea for this case."

     I wrote Bush last night that I would mail his book today, which I did. W. "pleased." "Perhaps you might have expressed it," he said, "though it makes no difference except in cost. I always mail books when they go any distance: that is cheaper. But when books are ordered, I mainly express them, allowing payment at the other end, which I notice the express companies prefer—whether because it gives them opportunity to add to the charges I do not know."

     I also numbered McKay sheets last night and took them to Philadelphia this morning. I noticed W. put in two extra sheets, for copies possibly bad, but it was not business-like, and McKay's man did not wish them—so I returned them to W. It appears the copies are to go abroad. W. said, "I am curious to know who gets them." And he asked: "I sent over my leather book as a model for the binder: the chief thing being for the plates to get into the right place. If you will, you may get that book. It is important to me—contains many marginal notes."


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