Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, September 3, 1890

     5:20 P.M. Had a good half-hour's talk with W., who was in cheerful mood, better of his cold. Left Harper's Weekly with him. He was much interested in Professor Daniel Greenberg Thompson's statement (in New Ideal for September): "The reader of Walt Whitman's poems will find there described the type of man filled with expansiveness, initiativeness, creativeness, self-development in whom the spirit of individualism is dominant and aggressive." He thought that "very good" and "certainly in good feeling," and inquired more specifically after Thompson, of whom he knew little. Did not know if he had ever met Thompson, though he had met Cortland Palmer. I said I had received remittance this morning from Mark Twain. W. much touched, "O the good fellows!" And further, "I have met Clemens, met him many years ago, before he was rich and famous. Like all humorists he was very sober: inclined to talk of the latest things in politics, men, books, a man after old-fashioned models, slow to move, liking to stop and chat—the sort of fellow one is quietly drawn to. Yes, my experience with humorists is, that they are all of the more serious color. Clemens was in New York when I knew him."

     Some chance remark of mine started W. to very frank confessions of how he felt about Scovel, Col. Johnson and their defamations. "It is shocking enough—damnable: I can easily get myself excited, if reason would excite me, for there's plenty of it. But I have the hide of the rhinocerous, morally and in other ways—can stand almost anything. Having clearly known from the very start that if one would be—or had to be—a public man—defamations, lying, were things, among other things, which he

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had to expect."
But as to the frequent Johnson-Scovel reports and sneers of W.'s drunkenness: "There are some things which exceed the ordinary run of patience. I remember O'Connor told me once of one in Washington he met with. You know these stories are rife, or were, even then in those old days; it seemed the necessity with some to make me so—to make me what I was not, the better to defeat my work—but here I am. I was to say of O'Connor—that this man had much to report of me—as O'Connor grandly said—such things as would make innocence itself blush and be silent. O'Connor would say there were such accusations. And perhaps the thought fits here in this new case. Oh! I know Johnson—know, too, that I have laid myself open to their defamations. But Johnson is a venomous man—he has the snake in him—the adder: he is that peculiar nature which knows to sneak, to be mean, to use then abuse you. He traded for years on my name—on his resemblance to me—got drinks by the use of this resemblance. Finally, when it was said to him, not by me, but in a paper, without names, that this was unpleasant and worse—he got mad—there was a break. It is the old story of the man who dislikes to have the sauce he has so often passed around served up to him. How he can go on with no motive but to defame, lie, belittle—I hardly know just the term that will fit a man of his character." Then: "It is everything to meet the event, the man, face to face: this is where we may hope to be strong. I can understand poor Kennedy, meeting Jim Scovel that time he came here to Camden, having all Scovel's vile slanders poured into him. But he must long ago have got over all that." And W. said further: "We must not forget that there is another way to look at this, too. It is the Socrates story over again: there's the eligibility for all that in me. I am not beyond the danger, even the fact, of it. Yet these particular things savor of the venom, the snake-like quality, that some men possess. They explain to me some of the bitterness Tom Harned always shows when he speaks of Scovel. It is a villainous trait of mind to slander, to defame. I can think how William

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O'Connor would penetrate the fellows—by subtle questions—not too direct—suggestion, manner, speech—till the whole story was out. He had a marvellous capacity for that."

     I got the eleventh volume of Stedman's book for Morris to review in the American.

     W. has been eating some of Burroughs' grapes—speaking of them in high terms.

     Had laid out an envelope for me marked "scraps for Horace, for the N.E. Magazine article if wanted or usable."


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