Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 216] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, May 22, 1891

     8:00 P.M. Though W. was on his bed, he was not asleep—got up instantly on my entrance, and after he had shaken hands with me—going laboriously around the bed to his chair. The day, or evening, very hot. He referred to it, wondering if it was

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 217] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
close. How had he been? "Continuing the bad time—the bad," he said. And then, "I suppose the best word for me would be simply, prostrated: I am prostrated past the power of relief." Then he felt no gain of strength? "None whatever—not a grain." After he had taken his seat he at once beat out into freest conversation. "I read the Colonel's spirituality piece again. It is very fine—a great swath—swift but direct from the shoulder. He takes me back to 'The Maid of Perth.' You remember it? Scott's? A great, sturdy splendid fellow there—Harry of the Wind—cutting a straight way—parting them right and left—by the mere grand sweep of his momentum. So the Colonel—they go this way, they go that, unstayable, cast off with the magnificent momentum of the man. Who can stand against it?" And as to Ingersoll's great audiences in the West, "Yes, I see—they will follow him—vast assemblages—listening, learning, spurred. It is a grand thing to think."

     He said further on, "I am sorry—was sorry—I did not see you last night—though I was not then altogether decided on it. But this morning I sent a note over to Ferguson's—I suppose about ten o'clock—saying that if the paper had not been bought and 'November Boughs' not commenced, they should cancel that order for the present. They sent back a very vague answer—that they would see to it at once—which in a sense leaves me where I was. I am not absolute on it either way—I do not care very much or much at all—for we lose little if we have them on our hands. Still, you may go in tomorrow and see what's to be seen about it." I had brought him one copy of frontispiece (now on press at Billstein's). He examined it closely and declared himself satisfied with it. "I still think the word for it is 'audacity.' It has the abandon of nature herself. How the foreign fellows will gloat over it! Surely they will see that even they have something to learn from America—some new audacious types." And further, "Yes, the light and shade—they are superb. And the mystery, too, as you put it—that is probably the best of it anyhow." He said that in writing Ferguson he had "taken occasion to commend the printing of the book."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 218] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     We wondered if the Penn Club would give us a room for 31st and this grandfatherly note was replied:
Penn Club.
720 Locust Street, Philadelphia.
May 22d 1891
Harrison S. Morris Esq.

Dear Sir:

Your request conveyed through Mr. Hayllar, for use of the Club Rooms on the evening of Sunday, May 31st inst. to celebrate the anniversary of Walt Whitman's birth, has received the careful consideration of a majority of the Directors of the Club, who conclude it would be undesirable to start a precedent in this case by opening the rooms of the Club for the purpose desired. We would respectfully suggest that the celebrations be observed on Saturday or Monday evening as is done in the case of Washington's birthday when falling on Sunday is observed on the day preceding or following.

Regretting that we cannot oblige you in this matter,

I am very respectfully yours

Wm. B. Hanna, Sec.


W. said, "Damn the Penn Club! That's enough—we don't want anything more of them! And this is a land of liberty—when a few fellows don't dare meet together, conviviate, without someone's consent! The Colonel is right! We have a big fight yet ahead of us!"

     W. remarked, "I think all the fellows will like the book—they all say high words for it. Bucke and Kennedy are enthusiastic. Read their letters." (W. handed me several letters—a batch: from Forman, Brown, Johnston, two from Bucke, Kennedy, a couple from Phillips.) The Good-bye sheets rec'd, & read through this eve. & notice written. What pretty typography! I enjoyed all think the Sunset Breeze the best of all.

W. S. K[ennedy]

I wrote Idyl of the Lilac other day Tues [illeg.]



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 219] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

20 May 1891

All quiet here. The lilacs are not out in the grounds here yet but they will be in a few more days. "Good-Bye" which was mailed a week ago reached me noon today—have spent an hour looking through it since—it is a most charming little vol.—has not (of course) the power of the early books (either in verse or prose) but has a charm of its own which will make it equal, in attractiveness, to any of your books. But I have not half examined it yet and must put off for another letter my dicta upon it.

I am well but not strong and keep very lame so much so that I have grave doubts about getting East 31st much as I want to go (but I may improve between now and then).

We shall see, meanwhile best love

R. M. Bucke


I heard from Forman as follows:
46 Marlborough Hill
St. Johns Wood
London N. W.
11 May 1891

Dear Traubel

Have been awfully rushed for weeks past getting ready for the Vienna Postal Congress & trying to clear up other matters. Had Walt all the time in mind & I wrote him a letter on the 7th (Browning's birthday, & Cenci day). I hope it will not fail to reach him duly before his birthday: it does not go with this, but separately.

No! I never got that Ingersoll pamphlet—which "grieves me sore."

Enclosed is a copy of "Leaves of Grass Imprints." Please ask Walt to write his name & mine on it & send it back to me safely. If you have no copy yourself I can give you one when I get back from Vienna.

Afterthought. To save risk & postage I take off the front piece of the booklet & send that alone. You can reenclose it to me without folding it. I write in haste in the train. Pardon!

Yours ever

H. Buxton Forman


And W. volunteered his Forman note, which had to do with the dinner, and was in reply to my request.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 220] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     He looks on Brown as "one of the generous souls who offset for us so many antagonisms."

     As to Bucke's doubt of his visit, "That has a bad look—it tells us that Doctor has not been as well as his spirit made us to believe." And then, "But there are ten days yet: we may indulge ten days of hope." W. smiles as to Phillips' invitation to him to go into the country. "Just now it is my main labor simply to hold my head up. As for moving? No! No!"

     I showed him Bucke's letter to me in which he says the book took a week to reach him. W. said, "That is one of the specimens of our efficient tariff, restrictiveness, tyranny—a damnable, prevalent spirit—does much harm, no good. But I have a curious example—worse than this—in the case of a book I sent to Australia, to our young Irish friend there. It seems they made a kick—would not pass it through customs—because it had not the name of a publisher—said, no, we cannot do it, it violates law and precedent. O'Dowd—yes, it was O'Dowd—was hot, wrathful—he must be a William O'Connorish sort of a fellow—protested every way—finally hit upon Ferguson's name as the printer—made his fight on this line passionately—and won. It was a farce—oh! ridiculous the worst way—but rascally, too—an arrogation of all a man's freedom. We have a long road to travel yet."

     I met Williams and Morris in afternoon. Brinton could not come—wrote me. Decided upon a plain meal in W.'s house. No better way. No hotel or room possible in Philadelphia—besides doubt as to whether W. could get there. Risks less in Camden.


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.