Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, June 23, 1891

     5:40 P.M. W. in very good humor and in good condition. "Didn't you meet Longaker? He must just have turned the corner." And, "The Doctor seems encouraged by the way I stand the heat. What do you think?" And I rallied him—he saying then further, "I am a little surprised myself." A gracious talk of half an hour! How good (sweet) and affectioned his voice! "Word from Doctor!" he exclaimed. "He will sail on the 8th—he has his word of summons at last!" And, "Take his letter—I have laid it out for you." I also received a letter to the same effect. "I am sorry he can't stop here on his way out," says W. Bucke writes on 19th about Stoddart amusingly:

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19 June, 1891

My dear Horace

Your letter of 16th (ev'g) just to hand this A.M. Much obliged to S. for wanting to cut out my speech (!) & to you for saving it. These editors are bad men to deal with—the Lord preserve me from them for ever & ever, amen. Nothing new here in Asylum or meter affairs—nothing further f'm Eng., could not well be yet. I wish we could get started in the States but do not see how it is to be done unless Dave gets better & comes up to the scratch. Nesbit will do nothing—d[itt]o W. J. Gurd—Dave it seems cannot—how can I move? that is the question.

R. M. Bucke


W. called attention to a couple of old notes from Johnston and Wallace— "specimens of simple notable criticism and lovingness." This note, today from Ingersoll, took W.'s eye:
New York, June 21. 91

My dear Traubel

Countless congratulations to you and Mrs. Traubel—To me love and marriage are sacred beyond expression. Love alone redeeming the coarse and brutal world. And so I wish you all the joy that true hearts can give and hold.

I should have written you all a letter on Whitman's birthday—but that day was the anniversary of a great sorrow—the death-day of my dear brother—and to tell you truth the birthday was forgotten. I hope that Whitman will live for many, many happy years—live until he is fully appreciated at his worth. You must give him my very best regards with a "good luck" to boot.

For you and your wife I ask for the best, and say to you both, good luck, long life, and love enough to last you through.

Yours always

R. G. Ingersoll

I have been absent from New York for weeks.

"It is a grand noble hand—a sweep, ease, style, natural, giantesque. It is good air to breathe."


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     Clifford sends me this: (From London Quarterly Journal, April '91.) In early portion of a critique(?) of Ibsen:

"We experience a pleasant piquancy in literatures that were only born yesterday;... work that is relatively crude and immature is estimated out of all proportion to its real value. There may be something of this feeling at the bottom of the admiration for Ibsen, as it undoubtedly accounts for the unstinted praise often given to Walt Whitman."(!!!)

My dear Traubel:

Wherever this precious bit finds you and Anne, I hope you are safe from the Philistines, and that the odium of the crude W. W. does not prove more than you can bear.

Love to you both,

Ever,

J. H. C.


W. read with amusement. "That is sharp and nice for Clifford—the quote itself stupid, without point. It struck me in several papers—the same thing—is one of innumerable paragraphs floating fugitively about—lost—not caught up. Most of them smart and no more."

     Gave me a curious chart which had been sent him. "I get the greatest mass of truck, queer things, oddities—everybody with a peculiar philosophy has to send me a taste of it—and I don't taste, anyway. The last few weeks have been autograph weeks—the worst spread of the disease I have known." Had he sent the Chicago man his autograph? "Yes, wrote my name and two or three lines. It is horribly tiresome business." W. thinks Forman "loyal and true." I showed him a letter [from Forman]. "We are to be congratulated in our friends, whatever may be said of our enemies!" —laughing. But he was excessively aroused when I showed him the following from Joe Gilder:

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The Critic
52 & 54 Lafayette Place, New York
June 22, 1891

Dear Sir:

I find in this morning's Tribune a poem entitled "The Midnight Visitor," & comprising six stanzas of rhyming verse. It is signed "Walt Whitman." May I ask whether the authorship is correctly given? & if so where & when the poem first appeared? I have been abroad for some weeks, & am a little behind with current literary events at home.

Very truly yours,

Joseph B. Gilder

My kindest regards—& those of my sister—to W. Whitman.

Laid it down, took off his glasses, "Well, that poem threatens to have a history. And with that history you are about as familiar as I am. I am a little amazed to think Gilder is taken in by it. Almost comical when the literary fellows are gulled, anyhow—editors of literary papers! Though Joe suspects a rat, too. The sum and substance of that story is, as you remember, that I knew a Frenchman—we used to sit over our wine together—in an inn, anywhere—and in that familiar way he would give, I would take, off-hand, great things from the French—off-hand, rendered in prose—almost literally. This poem of Murger's I got that way—from that fellow. And the verse rendering, though partly mine, is mainly someone else's. And if credit goes anywhere, it should go to that someone else. I struggled with it myself, too, to give it a good setting. And the version I give came by that means, no other—corrections mine, perhaps an ending or two. The poem was always a great favorite—one time I had it printed in a little slip. I must have some of the slips now—one might be sent Joe." But he could not find it, he finally saying, "You know all about it: write him a sentence your own way—he wants something authoritative."

     Had I got his "dummy" from Oldach? "No? The scoundrel! Next time we'll get a quicker man!" But he never will: he always

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excuses our men in the end. Has received the additional 15 copies of "Good-Bye" from Dave and sent receipt. That leaves W. at Oldach's: 175 copies "Good-Bye," 400 copies "November Boughs"—beside sheets of the big book.

     The Ledger quoted "The Midnight Visitor" the other day over its "Walt Whitman" signature. W. says, laughing, "It never would have been quoted if it had not been a rhyme. That's the Ledger, out and out!"


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