Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, July 14, 1890

     5:30 P.M. Quite a good talk with W. upstairs in his own room. Weather warmer; seemed to me to have immediate effect on him.

     Expressed disappointment with message on a postal he handed me. "Kennedy won't be here after all," he said, "and we won't have any of the talks we planned. He writes from St. Paul—says he must go direct home." This was about the substance of the note.

     Spoke of death of Frémont, announced in papers today. "It was quite sudden—not, however, startling. He was a noble man. I knew him—a little: not intimately—but I often saw him, have talked with him. He was a romantic figure. Yes, in his intercourse with Lincoln, his service under Lincoln, he had his failings. He was too devious in some things. Lincoln had to tell him, I am running this machine—those were his very words. Ah, yes! Frémont was like many of the fellows—most of them, at that time—it was not till late, late, late, very late, that they sized Lincoln for what he was: saw the eminent fitness of the man to cope with all the circumstances of the time; Lincoln equal to all situations. Lincoln substantially said to Frémont: 'I love you, but you cannot serve under me.'" W. laughed, "Yes, that was actually Lincoln's attitude."

     Gave me Critic to mail to Bucke, and said, "There is a pretty malicious spot on the front page—the first review," of William Henry Hurlbert's book, "France and the Republic," and further, "It was vinegary—oh! sour and malicious!"

     Showed him extract from Athenaeum that Morris had brought in for me today. W. put on glasses and read.

A correspondent sends us what is probably the latest news of Walt Whitman, who, writing from Camden, New Jersey, on the 22nd of May, says:

"I am feeling pretty well at present, but have had a bad winter—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 010] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - have had the grip and a second attack—was out yesterday four or five miles, to the bay shore and linger'd some time by the water side—eat and sleep middling well—in good spirits...shall probably get out this fine afternoon in wheel chair—have kind attention."


The veteran "poet of democracy" sends through our correspondent a characteristic message to those in this country who are interested in his welfare: "Love to you, and best wishes and remembrances to British friends."

      "That is stupid—'bay shore'—I never could have written that. It is absurd." But suddenly: "Hold on! Perhaps I am too quick. I may have written it 'Pea Shore'—it may have been one of the days I rode out to Pea Shore and the printer thought that wrong, would make it right. It is characteristic of the fraternity to have things look well: a man's parlor chair, handsome to look upon, but not to be used—O no! on any account!" And then, "There are touches here which I do not recognize as mine, yet I guess we should thank God it is as good as it is, after going through copying in the first place, then printing." He thought he may have written it to Rhys, but I thought it probably the message he had sent Forman, which F. said he would send to the Athenaeum. But W. appeared to have no certainty. "It is surprising, what a damned conceit and bore the literary clan is anyhow. I never meet with it but to fight it."

     Speaking of printing he expressed anew his disappointment over pocket edition. "We hoped to do extra well there, yet failed utterly. The Englishmen have a way of printing their books, handsome, up to the last point of excellence, yet so naturally and easily, a cursory observer would not know how really noble it was."

     W. said, going back to Lincoln, "He was like Hicks, who said, 'As you grow tough, as you can more surely master it, I'll give you tough meat: there is no degree I cannot respond to, but I will not give it all at once.'"

     He avoided "Leaves of Grass" commentators—commended

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me when I said I hoped to be asked to expound it. "It is a new wonder to me, day by day," he said, "how much is put into 'Leaves of Grass' that I never intended to be there. I am discovered in all sorts of impossible guises. We must submit, there is no defense against that!"


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