Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, July 7, 1891

     5:40 P.M. W. in thoroughly good mood—talking well—acting easily as if not oppressed. Warrie got off this morning all

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right. W. said, "I have had several visitors here today—one of them causing one of the funniest things in my experience. Dave sends a man over here with a letter of introduction—a Doctor Scott." I interrupted and asked, "Who is he?" "That's the point—who is he? I don't know. At any rate I did not see him—sent my excuses down by Mary. It seems there was a boy with him—a strange handsome boy—and Mary tells me he said down there, 'I want to see Mr. Whitman, too!' She thereupon telling him, 'Well, you may come up with me a minute.' And excusing himself to the man, 'Mr. Whitman sees children—always has a word for the children, however sick he may be.' The boy came along with her—and then happened the oddest incident. He came straight over here to where I sat—my hands extended—shook hands with me, looked about the room quickly, took it all in, scanned me and it—then without a word turned, went quickly and deliberately out. Not a word! And he did not seem satisfied with these quarters (I do not blame him!)—a devil-may-care-ness everywhere. He was a very small boy—I would call him handsome, too. A strange, almost wild, yet not timid look about him. I felt it altogether the oddest occurrence in many days."

     Morning papers full of marriage of Princess Louise—Victoria, Emperor William present. Evening papers full of electrocution of four murderers at Sing Sing. W. says, "I don't know which is most interesting—I have read both with curious, unusual interest—the wedding, I suppose, because it is such a good story in the hands of the reporters. This execution business is not supposed to be divulged—we are all bound to secrecy—yet, though it is a criminal offense, the papers are full of it—editors making up what they do not honestly find. I have wondered today why people should so object to electrical execution. If there must be execution, this is very clean! Anyway, there is a look to it which asserts, signals—which we must consider." Ending in this vague way, leaving me to infer by his manner that the death of the men had saddened him.


















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     Reeder is having pictures of the tomb printed—W. inquiring closely after them. Johnston has reproduced the O'Donovan photos and sent copies to W.

     W. returned me Scribner's. Has been reading Nineteenth Century today. I took his Critic to send to Bucke.

     9:50 P.M. Dropt in to see if Warrie had returned. Just in—train half an hour late—had a good trip (in room, now, with W.). Bush and Bucke much together in New York and the two to stay at Johnston's tonight. Warrie's account interesting to both. W. advised, "Go downstairs, Warrie, get your coffee—then come back to me. I need you." Going then, by Warrie's lead, to the bed and commencing at once to undress. "I am tired now, and for the last hour or so very impatient. I ought to sleep well." And so I bid him good night as he sat on the edge of the bed. Warren went in to see Johnston; did not catch Bush; met Bucke on Britannic at five.

     Two letters, from Johnston and Wallace, May 5th and 6th. [Wallace writes:]
Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England
5 May 1891

My dear Traubel,

Johnston called on me yesterday afternoon to shew me your kind letter of April 23rd. Now for a few lines in reply.

I note the postponement of your marriage & its cause. No doubt it is now happily over & I wish you joy.

But I devoutly hope that you succeeded in getting a house in Camden near Walt. It would be a real calamity if you were not able to do so. But I trust that the gods have been propitious.

All honour & blessing to you for your devotion to him! And all success to you in your further ministrations!

I infer from a passage in your letter that you, too, are a "poor" man as I am myself. Let that serve as another bond between us!

I know its drawbacks from painful experience. Perhaps in broken health one realizes them most—in the need of leisure & the means of recovery.


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But (in its ordinary sense) it is only a very secondary matter after all. The true riches are quite independent of material good, and it is no mere paradox when Emerson speaks of "the rich poverty which men hate." Think of the long roll of illustrious names of those who—wise & powerful & richly dowered—have enriched the world, yet have been in life poor and obscure. And—even more—think of the countless myriads of common men in every land, all times, who have lived hard lives of toil & poverty & ignorance, yet have lived serenely & cheerfully, & happily too, in love & hope & faith.

"If happiness have not her seat
And centre in the breast,
We may be rich, or wise, or great,
But never can be blest."

And has not our dear old friend ennobled poverty & the common "average" life for ever? He has deliberately chosen that life & made it his own, that he might make it illustrious—that he might show it eligible to the highest—in happiness, in dignity, in ideal aims, in daily practice, in rich & many sided culture (true culture), in all-encompassing charity, in far-reaching influence, & in everything that deepens & enriches personality & makes life joyful & serene.


In old days it used to be considered an honourable ambition to be "a poor gentleman & scholar." Perhaps in our day the need for such a class is greater than ever.

And, anyhow, if it be our appointed lot we may accept it with equanimity & in illustrious company!

Let us pray only, as old Socrates did (according to Plato) "Grant that we may become beautiful in soul, & that all that we have of outward things may be at peace with those within."

Love to you & all good wishes! May God bless all your services to Walt, all your activities, & crown your life, & that of your wife, with ever-deepening & spreading love, true happiness, & serene & lofty faith!

Yours affectionately,

J. W. Wallace


     When I asked Brinton for his dinner speech, he replied:

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Media, Pa.
June 14/91

Dear Mr. Traubel,

First, my congratulations on your marriage. May it bring with it the enduring happiness which ought ever to attend that closest of all friendships, and which in your case is to some extent insured by your just estimate of the importance of the bond.

I was away for a day or two & could not send you in time any notes of what I said at the Whitman dinner. In fact, I had no notes, & made no preparation, & do not remember what I did say. Let it go with the usual reference to "appropriate remarks".

The bill for the "banquet" is enclosed, $124.50, which is according to contract. I paid it a day or two afterwards, & what you can collect before the 21st, you can remit me. We sail next week for Southampton, which will explain why I cannot come on one of your "Tuesdays".

With my compliments & best wishes to Mrs. Traubel I remain

Cordially yours

D. G. Brinton


Yet he was very warm, eloquent, fluent—even his voice, not naturally music, ringing out a melody and feeling rich and high. Many thought it the best speech of the evening.

     Bonsall sent his speech and with it this good strong note:
Office, June 18. '91

Friend Traubel:

Your note of yesterday relieves me. I had to leave dinner to catch a train. Tom Harned and Buckwalter neither could tell me to whom I was indebted, and I couldn't get at you. Find enclosed $5.

In reply to Canada note, find also short transcript of my sentiment in as nearly exact words as I can recollect.

I think some things said at supper had better have been left unsaid. I do not wish to set myself up as the interpreter of Walt Whitman, but my little talk seemed called for and was given in self-defence and in defence of yourself and all others who think they know what they are talking about.

Truly

H. L. Bonsall


Too late to use in Lippincott's—but can use in book.


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