Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, September 17, 1890

     7:25 P.M. To W.'s after I had been at Post Office. W. in parlor, windows closed, he with hat and coat on. Remarked the great fall in temperature. Was in very hearty mood, inclined to be strangely demonstrative of his cordiality.


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     I gave W. the following extract from letter from Stedman to Morris: "Do give my reverential love to Whitman when you see him. America is proud of him, though he won't believe it!" (September 15, 1890.) W. saying, "With all deference to Stedman, I must be allowed to say I do not think what he says is true—true for him of course, but not true for America. Stedman's primary quality is warmth." I put in, "His whole nature sits at this fire." W. then: "Good! and it tells Ned's story, too. His disposition towards me is true and noble. But America's? I cannot see it. That I am read, received, accepted, in the sense for instance of the acceptance of Whittier—no, that is not to be credited. I remember Standish O'Grady's piece—it turned up for me today again: 'Walt Whitman the Poet of Joy,' I think. I want you to read it. It is worth while if you have not done so. O'Grady is foreign—Irish—though he writes under the name of Arthur Clive. One of his great points is that Walt Whitman, though the poet of democracy, is received, can be received, only by the cultured few, an inner circle: that the masses can never be expected to compass him. But I know, I see better than that the measure, capacity (if it has any at all) of 'Leaves of Grass.' O'Grady brings back to me Stedman's great point years ago, that I had snubbed the collegiate, the universitarian, the cultured influences, whatever, in profession for the etat major: had put him—it—them—into unjust background. But he has not urged that now for some years. It occurs to me, to ask if he has abandoned it?" Did he think a literary man, say of the distinctive character of Stedman, could see the fullness of "Leaves of Grass"? "No, I do not. Stedman is himself the college man—by his post, his surroundings, we might almost say his tendencies. But Stedman is one of the beautiful happy specimens, too: an open, enthusiastic, responsive nature first and last. But Stedman is like all the rest: he pounces upon a trope—a line, some measure, the method and habit of a verse—makes too much of that as, indeed, do nearly all the fellows. Perhaps Bucke is the only one of the whole body who does not give the

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least deference to that. It is a significant fact in all that clusters about our attitude."
And he further said, "No, Stedman is wrong about America, though there are Americans whose affection and loyalty are vehement, fiery, almost savage. And that will be a truth to know with other truths." I quoted to W. Bucke's remark that he had suspected sometimes that Gilchrist's admiration of W. was "only skin deep." W. said, "I don't agree with the Doctor. I would not place the matter in that shape at all. So far as appears to me, Herbert's affection, sympathy, adherence, is a quality that lasts out of honest genuineness." Then after a pause, "And that brings me again to the danger existing in misunderstood words, thoughts, persons: the infinite stretch of misjudgment—often falsehood—the wide reach and distance between people who ought to know, to love, one another." I went over and sat on a chair near him; he put his hand on the edge of his chair, indexing me. "I can illustrate it. There is an engineer in Camden here named Pine. Warrie knows him; met him the other night, again. It seems Pine knows me—I do not know him. Warrie said something to him about me, whereat Pine laughed, by and by saying, that now Warrie had said what he had and he (Pine) had laughed, the laugh ought perhaps to be explained. He explained, 'I suppose you think it queer that I laughed?' And Warrie replied, 'Yes, damned queer!' Pine going afterward into particulars, to say that whenever anyone spoke of Walt Whitman and his conveyance it made him laugh to remember what his dear mother"—oh! the tenderness W. put into that phrase, as he repeated it— "Yes! What his dear mother had told him: that every time she saw Walt Whitman wheeled past in his chair she had an almost irresistible impulse to rush out of the house and pitch him, chair, man and nurse, into the street, as a humbug—one of the greatest humbugs on earth. Now Horace, what do you think was at the bottom of all this? Nothing but a lie, a damned lying lie, but a damned uncomfortable lie, too, a lie like this: that I had said to someone Mrs. Pine knew, 'Women? What are women anyway? Are they anything

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more than a lot of old cows?' Think of it: think of that as a reflection of my work, of my life, of my own dear, dear mother! Yet this good woman hears it, has the proud womanly motherly resentfulness of its hate, its injustice! I loved it in the dear woman, but hated the damned irresponsible lie! And that shows the imminence of this spirit of lies: how, often, we seem surrounded by it, made its victims, how, often, we seem beyond having protection in our innocence."
There was Scovel and Col. Johnson. "I dare not think of them. I must not give way to the excitement of it." And still in the same line: "There are liars by inclination—born liars—and I seem to have had my share of them." I put in, "Yes, and the liar if he happens to be a preacher will lie you into his church, or to keep a brothel into that." W.: "Yes, that is very good. There's no better way to say it."

     I had met McKay today and said to him among much else, "Hartmann was recently in here and instead of kicking him out, as some of us would, I have every reason to suppose that Walt in his charity received him affably." McKay replying, "If I had him by the nape of the neck for a minute or two in my office, there wouldn't be much affability wasted," etc. W. laughed at this most enjoyably. "That sounds like Dave—and good, too. He took Dave in, as he no doubt took in others, too. God knows how many." And W. said further, "In spite of all I do feel a little implicated, too. Hartmann is another one of the liars, if no worse, who disturb our path." Referred then kindly to Dave— "I think Dave square. I am glad if he took our apology about the dinner as you tell me: with good humor, comprehension. We owed it to him. I was saying, I thought him square: he seems to grow, is to me as good as any, as honest—if that is to say much. I have grown more and more to believe this of Dave." McKay told me the 50 books went to London. W. "wondered," he said, "who to," etc.—admitted he was curious about it. Did not "think" himself "in such demand."

     As explanation of the slander and lies current about him, I said, "You have been so frank and hospitable to all, you laid

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yourself open to it."
He concurring sufficiently to say, "I have no doubt, I have laid myself open to it." I told him I always thought he had kept admirably clear of the Rhys-Kennedy antipathies. "Yes, why not? I had no reason to share them on either side. I never took Rhys up with any warmth, to be sure, but always trusted, respected him. For Kennedy I have gradually realized an affection, a real, deep, enduring affection, as I have never felt for Rhys."

     I asked about the dinner. W. said, "I still think New York is the place, though I am not disposed to take an obstinate stand for that." He admitted that if it was "indispensible" for him to be present, the chances were better with the address in Philadelphia than with it in New York. "I can do as politicians do: when asked for my views, simply say, 'I have none: the views of the party are mine.'" I put in, "Yes, to say: I am in the hands of my friends." He laughed with merriment and nodded: "That's a good other way to put it. I shall trust you fellows to do it, my part being, as before, to stand off, to let things in your hands take their course. I can easily see that my presence might not be necessary, but if you think it is, I will do what I can to enter into the scheme." I asked him, "You do not fear the association with Ingersoll?" He laughed, "No indeed; on the contrary I am proud of it." I explained, "There are some of your friends who shrink from him." W. then, "Yes, I know, but I do not sympathize with them: I stand free enough of all that. In the points wherein we differ I think my work makes our difference plain and sets me up in my own individuality: while I feel that in the main, in most all things, we are in essential agreement. We accept Ingersoll for his genius, his vitality, his contact with natural sources. The little differences we have are almost not worth mentioning—certainly not to draw a line between us." I gave W. substance of the note I had written Johnston and he expressed himself satisfied.

     I had talk with Harned this day, for this plan: to hold meeting

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in the Academy, W. and a group of friends on platform with Ingersoll; dinner with Intersoll at a later hour, etc. This I wrote to Johnston. The fellows agree that Philadelphia is the place when the necessity of having W. with them is considered.

     W. said tonight, "I find I must not think too much of these liars who surround me: it excites and worries my head."

     Of Tolstoi and the book: "I am a little sorry I have been so enthusiastic. It may take some of the edge off the book for you." Then remarked, "I think the dialogues superb: crisp, to great end, always holding well together."

     He told me, "I expected you this afternoon: Warren and I have just been discussing you."


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