Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, June 17, 1891

     5:35 P.M. W. in his room much as yesterday, though now he speaks of having spent a bad day "pursued by the devils of heat and exhaustion." His sleeves rolled up (how much thinner his arm!)—fan in hand. Greeted me very cordially, "I am glad for your regular visits again—they have become a part of me." No books yet from McKay. Had made up the pictures for Wallace (I took them along) which I shall pack with the books and send abroad. (W. wrote Wallace a postal about this yesterday.) Inquiries today from someone in Cranford who wants to buy books. W. sends circular. Said to me, "In your new piece" I have commenced another like the New England Magazine piece), "I think I will get you to set out at greater length—more definitively—my political, religious, radical notions—so there may be no mistake." Why shouldn't he give me rough notes, so to secure accuracy, etc.? "I think I will—I think that perhaps would be the best idea. And I will do it at once. It is a thing which ought to be plainly said—which my books do not make naked, plain—which perhaps I would not care to go into myself—but which I must not die, being mistaken about."

     Referring to Liberty in which I had read some note about a new magazine to be started by J. M. Stoddart, W. said, "I will look up the paper—it is here in the dust and confusion somewhere. As a rule, as you know, I don't read these special papers. These fellows, I know, are a cute lot—strong—I have thorough admiration for them—their work—but their paper has a good deal more interest for the fellows in the swim of affairs, philosophies." What did he think of Brinton's idea that public opinion—not church and state—is the great moral conservator and lever? "It is very striking—true, too, I admit it: it sets out a big

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lay of premises—establishes them, too. Then I would say, there is more, too—the bottom fact of all—the inherent good nature, integrity, sanity of man—residing below, underneath all venoms, poisons, evil wills. Especially as existing in our democratic land, age—in America. I think I have often enough expressed myself on this in my books—and that the disease of our time is its smartness, cleverness—that hellish New England hunger to know something—to store up a big fund of bookishness—to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate, ad infinitum. Thank God! The people as a whole—knowing enough for the present—are not spoiled and ruined by the ambition of culture! They can wait for what will come—for growth—the up-going of their stronger, healthfuller nature. I see signs everywhere of larger purposes, not literary—human—and these will urge, urge, urge, urge—urge again, irresistibly—the conviction of the masses. And so to me, Brinton is right—well right—proved—and well for the race that it is so—that the average good heart of a time takes care of the individual. I know there is more to be said than this, but this gives the one side."

     W. asked, "So Clifford will leave Germantown? Where will he go?" All doubtful. W. then, "He ought to be brought to Camden if that were possible—this town needs just such a man to stir it up—to dig after vitals. If someone don't assume the task, it will die—what with its Sundays, its Methodisms, Presbyterianisms and the like."

     W. wonderfully describes his condition, "I am taking in all the outworks—like a besieged city. If I would have life at all, on any terms, I must husband, concentrate, cluster my powers at vantage-points—make a stand. I have felt the forces retreating from me—have drawn closer and closer to what power I have left—brain—to write a little, to read, to see the fellows, chat—all I contain centered upon these claims. Ah! Horace, there is no choice, no gain—for a while I may fight off the end—for a little space I may hold the city: but the enemy is strong and valiant—is sure of victory—my only hope, to keep comfortable as I can and do what I may as long as I may, going down at last

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without disgrace."
He told this once to Bucke (substantially) in my presence. This time voice, all, strong, pictorial, eloquent.

     I told W. it was my mother's birthday. "Oh! Are you going straight up to the house? Yes? Well, let me see." Leaned over the basket under the window, rammed his hand far in—fished out an envelope containing several silk handkerchiefs—taking one out. "Take this to her—will you?" Searched the table, brought forth cologne bottle. "The Donaldson girl sent me this—often does"—poured it copiously on the handkerchief—then enclosed it in an envelope on which he wrote that it was sent to Kate Traubel by Walt Whitman, with his love and congratulations and respects. "It is a trifle," he said, "but trifles are indicative: tell her that my heart goes with it."


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