Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 168] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, October 3, 1890

     7:50 P.M. W. in his room reading papers. Had been out. The day stormy but evening clear. W. apparently in good condition. Complains of deafness. Indeed, I do not require to be told: he requests me to repeat nearly every other remark I make. Warren thinks some part of this change permanent.

     W. showed me inkstand brought him by Mrs. Davis from the West, composed of crystalline formations—various specimens, out of the Rockies—as he said. I asked if it was not rather too ornamental for him. "No, I shall use it—it has its place. I shall use it for ink—or as paperweight, anyhow."

     I remarked the odor of varnish, he saying to it, "Yes, they have been using it; it does not affect me, does it you? I am happy to say it is an odor that does not displease me. It is a curious problem, this of odors: the odd ways in which odors affect different people. I remember when I went into the hospitals, first, there was a smell that I took for cadavers—it was a

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 169] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
terrific odor, extremely disagreeable to me—made me sick in fact. But by and by it developed that the smell was not cadaver at all but a solution of carbolic acid—used as a disinfectant—of which the doctors brought great quantities—reasonably. After that, there was no more 'cadaver'. So that the imagination has a good deal to do with our actions and belief."
I instanced the story of Mulberry's settlers—not heat, but the appearance of heat was the necessity, etc. W. laughed out an answer to this heartily, "The hospitals, with their festering sores, putrid wounds, were enough to fix certain odors forever."

     Showed him the following telegram which I received from Baker this afternoon: "Colonel not in town can not see him til tomorrow hold the hall and date as long as you can. Will wire you decision tomorrow." He read and said, "You will probably hear from him tomorrow." Then, as to the $1000 or $1200 clear profit house, "I have learned to abate on all sanguine expectations. That seems very much like predicting what kind of weather we will have week after next. But still, I may say, 'God, prosper them in all their good intents.'" And added, "I sent the books off today—the big book, Bucke's and Burroughs'—and by express, so the Colonel will probably get them tomorrow."

     Then reported, "I have had word from Mrs. O'Connor—she has moved"—insisting, when I asked, where to, in getting up and writing it off from his memo book for me. "She has moved to 112 M Street NW—still in Washington. It seems she has a two months' appointment in the pension bureau—a temporary position—and she goes to work at once." Then when I said she seemed to have a piety not known to William, W. said, "Yes, she has it—it is a bite of the New England poison. William had nothing of it—was free, great, expansive in all deeps, paths. As I always say he was catholic; catholicity was his feature, and he gave all his life to literature—literature absorbed him. What a memory it is to know, as I know, his great impartiality, his defense of literature, of the fellows, at all hazards, how he would

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 170] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
not hear to aspersion—no, aspersion not of me—but would brush all argument aside, driving to his main point, defending the whole guild. He loved books in that way which saved him all his personality—enriched it, if anything. Mrs. O'Connor has a not so copious intelligence."
Burroughs had said, "O'Connor lacked ambition," but W. shook his head. "No, I should not say that—could not grant it." Burroughs thought Mrs. O'Connor "inclined towards spiritualism," W. assenting when I explained. "Yes, I think so too, but she must not on that account be counted a spiritualist: there is a distinction. Too many fellows are falsely dragged under labels in this way. I do not think there are by far as many spiritualists as we suppose." Burroughs remarked Sunday that the only thing about W.'s "Preface" for O'Connor that he regretted was its brevity. W. heard this now and smiled. "That's good to hear: good! But it could not have been exhaustive. I could not make it so. My main impulse was to authoritatively clap it down forever that this was my love for William and by this record of it I hoped to be held and be known. It was not a criticism of the stories, nor was it, properly speaking, a preface for the book. For in fact I do not know what is to go into the book—and a great part of it, probably, is entire new matter to me. I remember 'The Carpenter' and several others. 'The Brazen Android' I have never seen, though William made the notes for it before he knew me." To Burroughs' notion that O'Connor would yet be the great figure he was built to be—that no such genius as his was ever lost—W. said, "That is significant: coming from John it has weight, has a singular force, and no one could enter into the spirit of it more than Walt Whitman." But to my impression that Burroughs seemed to shrink from both Ingersoll's and O'Connor's "violence" of statement, W. said, "There I do not agree with him: it seems to me that that is the glory of both, as it is the glory of Tolstoi, in that great book—a huge boulder, a vast, formidable fact, struck direct from the universal treasury."

     Then suddenly: "There's another thing I want to tell you—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 171] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I had a note from the North American Review fellows today, inviting me to write them something. The letter is signed W. H. Rideing."
Burroughs had spoken of Rideing Sunday but W. forgot. W. continued: "I was glad—because I have something to say—shall send them something. I think the recent pieces in the Critic and Poet-Lore have had something to do with this new currency."

     Rescued another piece from the waste-basket today. He always jokes about that. A manuscript early draft of "The Unexpress'd"—so far, I think, unprinted.



The Unexpress'd

How dare one say it? yet
After the cycles, poems, singers, plays,
Vaunted Ionia's, India's—Homer, Shaks-
pere—all times, dotted roads, areas,
The retrospective clusters and the Milky Ways of Stars
Rhythm—rhythm's Nature's pulses, reap'd,
All retrospective passions, heros, war, love, adoration
All the age's plummets sent down dropt
down to their utmost depths,
All human lives, throats, brains, hopes—all experiences
?risen rising to utterance
But something yet unsung, not never yet told put out unexpress'd
And yet ye yet left? Perhaps print
Maybe the best yet now unsung left undone
and lacking unexpress'd?
All the good songs, or long or short, all tongues
all lands
But something yet unsung,—not put
yet in voice or print—something lacking?

      "Kennedy," he said again, "or somebody in the Transcript office—oh! no doubt Kennedy is responsible for it—has printed a little paragraph about the O'Connor piece, with extracts. It is kindly done."

     Would make me list of newspaper men with whom it might be well for me to correspond about the Ingersoll address.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 172] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     As to Burroughs remark about O'Connor's "extreme" manner, W. said again, "That's the New York of it—very characteristic—but we do not follow such a lead."

     Gould lectures on "Trees" at Unity Church. I would go there on leaving W. He laughingly asked, "And is there to be nothing to drink?" Referring afterwards to the "felicity" of some of the vulgar phrases—for instance, the one "a long time between drinks." Another, used now often to break up serious discussions, to infuse good nature, "And the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South Carolina, now boys, let's all go and take a drink," excited W.'s laughter. "But it is nobly good," he said, "nobly—has a direct force for its own average end." He believed in such expressions, not because of their innate beauty, but because of their strength. Our civilization would seem to need strength even at the risk of having some coarseness attendant— "anything to rescue it from its hum-drum of elegance." Said he loved Ingersoll's aversion to clubs—and when I told him a story where on a late-night streetcar a young fellow had invited the car out to take a drink and 15 or more followed him in ridiculous procession, he enjoyed it, declaring "That is an incident right out of life—I can feel it—of a kind I can share and appreciate."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.