Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, September 27, 1890

     5:10 P.M. At W.'s till about six. Found John Burroughs sitting there. Talk pretty free, especially between Burroughs and me. W., however, participating from time to time. W. took from me and examined the Critic—noteworthily his own piece, wondering

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if they had quoted all and finding they had. Made several remarks about contents of paper. Gave Burroughs a copy of the O'Connor piece saying, "I mailed one to you yesterday, together with the Shakespeare piece, which you could not have got yet." Explaining then, "That is in no sense a preface to the stories: simply a reminiscence, so to speak. A hint of my own private affection, of indebtedness to O'Connor." He did "not know just what would be included in the book," whether "more than the stories" or not. Remembered at Burroughs' reminder "The Bull Whipping," in which O'C. had done some of his notable work. Burroughs remarked that he had been glad to come in and find W. eating a hearty meal. Had brought along a basket of grapes, of which before I left W. insisted I should take several bunches.

     I left W. Current Literature. Not done with Scribner's yet. Showed him proof of my matter for Poet-Lore. "You will leave it till morning? Yes, do. I can then read it at my ease." Also gave him copies of the Conservator he asked for yesterday.

     W. explained somewhat the drift of O'Connor's "Brazen Android." Much talk of O'Connor himself, Burroughs asking many questions as to his last sickness, etc.

     W. asked if I had "any news," and I handed him this note received from Johnston today, he reading and returning to me.


New York, Sept. 26 1890

Dear Traubel;

I have not seen Ingersoll for a week but am sure to see him tomorrow morning and will write you of our talk.

I am more and more satisfied that it is right to have the lecture in Phil.—and if it turns out a good success we will be prepared with a nice memento of some kind to give Ingersoll—Album with a dozen of Walt's photos and one of each of us few admirers and lovers—or something of that kind—and after the lecture, the night we will make of it will be memorable.

On the quiet we must have a couple of good short hand writers who will make a note of our whole night on the quiet.


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Yesterday I came into posession of something you would like to see.

The only painting of Thomas Paine from life, by the elder Jarvis while they were boarding with Mrs. Bonneville.

It is a life size bust—and the quality of work as a painting is superb.

If it was a stranger and a pilgrim unknown I should be glad to own it.

Very sincerely yours

JH Johnston


     Burroughs came away and took tea with me, intending to put up with Harned during his stay. But he was with me till 10:30. Is in very good trim: presents a marked contrast to the Burroughs of two years ago. His eye is better, his color fine, and he says he sleeps well, "every night from nine to five." His whole manner easier, more towards abandon. He has delightful ways with children. At our table he and my father (from off the Rhine) discussed grape-farming—both out of a tremendous interest.

     B. says this is his seventeenth trip to Camden to see W. He always comes in the fall. There were years in which he came twice, but of late he has had his fall trip and no other. Expresses joy in W.'s condition. Notices only two changes, he says, in W. in the past year: an added lameness and an evident increased difficulty in hearing. But color and voice satisfy him. He feels that W. retains all his faculties, can see in mental fields as clearly as ever, and is as good a critic. He greatly enjoyed my father's big crayon of W., saying of W.'s head, "It is the grandest that has so far appeared in America. It is so simple, too—Greek!" Burroughs himself looks wonderfully like Sidney Morse and even has his manners. Enjoyed Morse's Emerson, which he felt was "good and true."

     We talked of many things, mainly things that clustered about W. and his work. B. had not read "The Kreutzer Sonata," but now that W. was in such a mood about it, would do so. I think

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his feelings towards Ingersoll have softened, though he still says he holds the Star Route defense against him. But he thinks Ingersoll "generous and warm-hearted" and had no adverse word to say. Discussed somewhat W.'s strength—whether "Leaves of Grass" had in that respect declined. B. thought the earlier poems most abundantly gifted—that especially the later poems of marked lesser calibre. "I do not mean, however, to say they are weak; he could not be weak; but they lack in poetic possession," and so on. We talked over Emerson too, Burroughs having known him and being ready with reminiscences. Emerson "had a divine face, the most serene I have ever known in a living man." His whole being "most full of peace."

     Burroughs thinks "O'Connor will appear again," that "really great quality is never lost and buried, and O'Connor was great." And he said, "I wish I had the time, or some good man, who knew O'Connor and his work, to collect all the pieces together, even the poems, and make a volume of them. In fact, I would like to get all his letters, too." Spoke of O'Connor's enthusiasms. B. said his own view of Hugo "is undoubtedly in great part a reaction from O'Connor's attempt to ram Hugo down my throat whether or no." Yet, "Hugo is a giant, too—a genius: I should not deny it."

     Burroughs has a copy of Cox's picture, the one W. calls "The Laughing Philosopher" and says he "tires" of it a little now. Had seen the Gutekunst (August '89) picture, the copy Johnston was taking to Wallace, and had taken to it, observing no defect but in one of the shoulders, which he ascribed to the curvature of the glass in the camera. He "wondered" if W. had more and would give him one? I told him I would mention it to W.

     Harned came in while we sat about the table and talked. Had just arranged to have W. to dinner at five tomorrow (Burroughs of course attending), and would telegraph Clifford of B.'s arrival and to come over.


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     Burroughs has not seen Stedman recently. Says after he was here last year he explained the Hartmann matter to Stedman who was quite satisfied, saying it made no difference, evidently from having outgrown the immediate feeling which undoubtedly existed.

     Burroughs said O'Connor's "Bull" piece was written at one sitting, one night, O'C. sitting up all night, at a time Mrs. O'C. was away from Washington and O'Connor was boarding with B.

     Our talk went into politics. Also touched upon O'Connor's lack of ambition. Burroughs tells of the time O'C. went before a Congressional committee with a fiery speech and had the salaries of clerks raised. B. decidedly thought O'C. lacked ambition.

     Burroughs was curious to know about author's copies sent to W., whether the "poets" sent their work, etc.

     Late in the evening I went up to Harned's with B.

     W. told Burroughs to come down between half past ten and eleven in the forenoon.


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