Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, October 2, 1890

     Baker came in at Bank to see me about noon, to say he had looked about for hall and found in the end that Horticultural was the only available. Would telegraph Ingersoll to that effect, asking him to direct reply at once to me at Bank. In about an hour such an answer came, and shortly Baker came in again. Ingersoll merely messaged—would decide tomorrow morning on seeing Baker. Baker's look fell when he read this— "What can have occurred to cause this?" he asked. Said he had expected a simple affirmative. However had no idea but it would be all right. Later in the afternoon we met Morris at the Coal and Iron office—there talked plans over generally: methods of advirtising, how to work it up in the papers, Ingersoll's subject, etc. As to the last, possibly "Art and Morality," or something akin, would be chosen. It would not be biographical. Baker would telegraph me in the morning on result of talk with Ingersoll, if result were reached. Morris would in meantime see that Horticultural Hall was reserved for us. Baker felt that on a conservative effort we would be able to clear $1000 to $1200. Debated the form of a poster; would it be something like this:


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Testimonial to
WALT WHITMAN
Address by
Robert G. Ingersoll
etc., etc.

     This seemed to hit the common notion and probably the same for the newspapers. Baker will come over again later on. Gave us an account of his own life. Seems he edited the Sunday School Times here, had a striggle with himself on the doctrine of torment; gave up paper and went with Wanamaker at Grand Depot. Wanamaker violating contract (verbal) eventually and Baker going to Washington where he met Ingersoll.

     B. thought Ingersoll "not rich"—that though he made a good deal of money, it cost him much to live, and he gave everything away— "He has no idea or care what money is: hands it out right and left." Ingersoll paying $6500 rent for his house, $2500 for his office, etc. Baker indefatigable in his work. All he says of Ingersoll is of a markedly affectionate nature, which impresses W. as of "supreme significance." Said Ingersoll as a rule is averse to dinners and might object even to the informal one we proposed here after the address. But advised us to say nothing of that now—to let him spring it on Ingersoll in a week or so. Baker goes off by an early train in the morning. Told me that several times in the summer, Ingersoll tried to dictate the dinner remarks to Baker, then gave it up. "It was undoubtedly impromptu," Baker said. "He may have arranged the heads, but the rest came of itself. I know it well. There are times when I take down his speeches—when he arranges his lectures in that way." Baker said he participated in all Ingersoll's work of a literary kind of late years. Described Ingersoll's wife, the daughters.

     7:20 P.M. W. would have me explain all above to him, and more—interested and frank. He was lying on bed when I came in. Said, "I am not feeling anyways well these days. These are poor days with me." His cold evidently somewhat worse and

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affects particularly his hearing. I remarked this. "Yes," he said. "It is very bad and growing worse—whether only temporarily or not I could not say, but it is sufficiently uncomfortable as it stands."

     He said, "I am on the qui vive to learn how Ingersoll will treat the subject. I know he will do it magnificently—that it will all be fine, strong—but my curiosity is for this: what direction will he take? It is a great thing to look forward to." I had asked Baker today, "Why does Ingersoll no longer take part in politics?," etc. "Because politics is now only a scramble for spoils: if any big issue comes up, you would find him on the platform again. But just now he prefers to keep his silence." W. said to me, "And I do not wonder. I could hardly imagine Ingersoll taking any interest whatever in Harrisonian issues—in anything that it stands for." He exclaimed at hearing that Ingersoll paid $6500 a year house rent. "Why that ought to buy mansions, enough for any man." Then asked, "Did you find out about the 'Colonel'? Does Baker address him as 'Colonel'?" And to my affirmative he responded, "I have wished to know: it is always a curious point to me. There was 'General' Jackson—we never speak of him as anything else—and 'General' Grant, and often the men themselves have decided preferences. My own preference is for the 'Walt Whitman' in full." When he met the "M. Whitman," as he had in the French, he was disposed to laugh "at its simple odd appearance."

     Referring to the matter spoken of yesterday, he said he would send the Colonel three books: the complete Whitman, Bucke and Burroughs. Baker had told me he did not know of any copy now in Ingersoll's possession except the morocco book.

     I asked him which was the old table referred to in the memorandum given me the other day. He pointed to the square table on the east side. "That's the table, and I should guess that it is fully 100 years old and more, and solid, too: would seem to be like some of the old Roman roads—as strong

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apparently today as the day they were constructed."
This caused mention of Carlyle's reproach that our generation was too restive—even in domestic relations, the restless movings to and fro, the short occupancies of homes, where in olden times they lived from generation to generation on the same spot. "The reply to that," said W., "is, that we are a nomadic generation, and that here in America we have that tendency multiplied by three."

     Gilchrist may possibly be in this week with his brother. W. did not know of it, but Morris has word. But W. said he had "read of the great pow-wow of engineers in New York" and knew Gilchrist 's brother was an engineer and "could very naturally have been there." He "would much enjoy them both," he had no doubt.

     Gave me extract as furnishing further hints of his personality.


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