Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 314] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thursday, July 9, 1891

     Three letters of unusual interest this morning—one from Baker, another from Bush (New York), giving glimpses of Bucke's movements there. The following from Johnston surprises and delights me:
54 Manchester Road
Bolton, England
July 1. '91

My Dear Traubel

Just a line to acknowledge the receipt, an hour ago, of your kind letter of June 22nd, & to thank you for it & its good words.

Glad to hear such a cheering report of Walt's health. Judging from his postcards recd of late he seems to have been in distinctly better spirits, not that he ever really gives way to low spirits—& I sincerely trust that there will be no more of such hot spells as you have had to "pull him down like a pack of hounds" as he phrases it.

Glad too to hear that Mrs. Traubel & you are comfortably settled in Camden & long may you both be spared to cheer & help each other upon your earthly way!

I have got the July No. (Engl. Ed.) of Lippincott & am much disappointed to find that it does not contain any reference to the Whitman Birthday "spree." I presume the article will appear in the Aug No. but if it has appeared in the American Ed. of the July No. would you please kindly procure & send me a dozen copies & I will remit the "cash at once."

By the way there has been no mention by anyone of the joint letter which the friends here sent to you for W. W.'s birthday. Would you kindly say whether it was received. It was sent along with the birthday copy of my "Notes". Thank you for your good words anent that & glad to hear that it pleased the dear old man.

And now shall I whisper a secret which I am fairly itching to tell some of you?

Well it is quite within the bounds of probability that J. W. Wallace may pay a visit to Camden this summer!

Like yourself he is a poor man but some of his friends have resolved to testify their regard for him by giving him a testimonial in the shape

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 315] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
of a trip to America & back & already some steps have been taken to carry this proposal into execution.


But of course he is to know nothing of it yet & I must ask you & everyone on your side not to mention it in any of your or their letters to us until I give you leave to do so.

You can make what use you think fit of this confidence. Tell our dear old Master himself of course—asking him to say nothing. I think it will cheer him. I hope nothing unforeseen will come in our way. But I will let you know something more definite as soon as it is settled.

I had a slight accident the other day but am getting over it all right again.

Pardon this hurried scrawl.

Is your wife of Scotch descent? I have an uncle Montgomery. Thanks for copy of yr wedding announcement.

With kindest regards to your wife & yourself I remain

Yours sincerely

J. Johnston

Wallace.

P. S. A telegram from JWW just recd says Books & pictures just received. Thank Walt & Traubel for me. No letter.

I stopped at 509 Arch on my way down to ferry and enclosed J.'s letter in another of my own to W. (Tillie will deliver). Have at once written Johnston that Wallace must stay with me—this is to be told him immediately he knows he is to come—my part in the gift of travel.

     5:50 P.M. To W.'s. Writing a letter. Had patched to the Reeder picture this, written on a slip of white paper: "Beth: Walt Whitman's and parents' tomb Harleigh Cemetery Camden County NJ, US America".

No more punctuation than indicated.

      "You see," he said, "I have given it a name. Has it music, sense? Beth, you know, generically, means the unseen, the way up, mystery. And that fixes us a near-enough significance. And by the way, Reinhalter was here today—he says he would rather not have any conclusive photo taken for a few days yet. There

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 316] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
seem to be things to fix. I wish you would go on to see Eakins, those fellows—advise them to wait. I think they intend going out. O'Donovan was here this morning—before Reinhalter—else I would have told him. But you will find them in. And I want you to see the bust as it is at this stage, anyway—report to me upon it."
I suggested, "May we not go out for a carriage ride Saturday? How do you feel about it?" "Oh! Agreed! Why not? If nothing occurs between today and Saturday to make me worse than I am, I can easily go. Yes, I consent." So I arranged with Warrie to see about carriage—two seats.

     W. said, "I was gladdened today by a letter from Bucke—mailed or written seven o'clock yesterday morning, on the Britannic. Have I not showed it to you? No, I guess not—it came only today. I was thinking of something else. Well, he is well-started now—many miles gone—far out at sea. One thing he said was, that the Bolton fellows had cabled, they would either see or he would hear from them at Queenstown. They are royal in all they do." He had written Johnston—I had mailed the letter. Spoke of Tillie's being here—he had invited her up—read the letter, gave it back to her—told her, "Tillie, you ought to come to see me oftener."

     We had a long talk about the Lincoln controversy now going on—with respect to Lincoln's advocacy of Johnson rather than Hamlin (just dead now) for Vice-President: DID LINCOLN WANT HAMLIN?

What Colonel A. K. McClure Says of the Controversy.


The Times to-day will print the following from the pen of Colonel A. K. McClure, its editor, by whose courtesy the press is furnished with advance proofs of the editorial:
The ignorance exhibited by John G. Nicolay in his public telegram to the widow of ex-Vice President Hamlin is equalled only by his arrogance in assuming to speak for Abraham Lincoln in matters about which Nicolay was never consulted, and of which he had no more knowledge than any other routine clerk about the White House. I do not regret that Mr. Nicolay has rushed into a dispute that must lead to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 317] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
the clear establishment of the exact truth as to the defeat of Hamlin in 1864. It will surely greatly impair, if not destroy, Nicolay's hitherto generally accepted claim to accuracy as the biographer of Lincoln, but he can complain of no one but himself....


I now repeat that, in obedience to a telegraphic request from President Lincoln, I visited him at the White House the day before the meeting of the Baltimore Convention of 1864. At that interview Mr. Lincoln earnestly explained why the nomination of a well-known Southern man like Andrew Johnson—who had been Congressman, Governor and Senator by the favor of his State—would not only nationalise the Republican party and the Government, but would greatly lessen the grave peril of the recognition of the Confederacy by England and France. He believed that the election to the Vice-Presidency of a representative statesman from an insurgent State that had been restored to the Union would disarm the enemies of the republic abroad and remove the load of sectionalism from the Government that seemed to greatly hinder peace. No intimation, no trace, of prejudice against Mr. Hamlin was exhibited, and I well know that no such consideration would have influenced Mr. Lincoln in such an emergency....

W. declared, "I think Aleck McClure is right—what a forcible, simple, trenchant pen he carries! Nicolay is a dull, stupid fellow—amounts to very little, however you put it. In the duo—the writing of the Lincoln life—I do not hesitate to say that John Hay furnishes the brains, though brains are not plentiful even at that. But Hay is altogether superior to Nicolay—has a bigger eye. In Washington he was considered a handsome man—the handsomest man about headquarters. And when did a handsome man like that ever go a great way? Amount to great shakes? If I might apply an extreme term, I should say he was dapper—though I don't know that I would be wholly justified in that. I knew Hay—he was a good fellow throughout. Lincoln made him a Colonel (once or twice he ran off on important commissions). But none of those fellows had any real understanding of Lincoln—realized his many-sidedness—understood at any time how after and before and above and through all, Lincoln was bent upon saving the ship—upon bringing it into port—upon passing the storm unwrecked—slavery or no

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 318] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
slavery—all for that—all, Horace, all. Oh! The wonder of it! The calm of the man—the heart of him there steady always in its place! No word—no charge—no nothing to take him apart from his path—patient, persistent, pure! Out of all this came Johnson—out of this background, all that McClure tells there: I do not doubt it a moment. Lincoln had little or no personal feeling—took every man at his own measure—accepted—freed—kept the tugging factions each in place, to do its partial work. That was Lincoln—full of feeling, none more so—yet not swayed by feeling. Full of sympathy—using it all—yet the clearest-eyed man of them all! He knew what it meant to nominate Johnson. And Johnson was not the bad man he is depicted, either—had, it is true, certain coarse, low, brutal qualities, but along with them others, not great, not overpowering, but marked—important. See how little Greeley saw of Lincoln—read the Century piece! And Greeley, Phillips, Wade, Chase, all of that order: none of them took in the situation. Oh! the great seas sweeping upon us those war years! O'Connor, Gurowski—how we stormed, kept our parts, stood by Lincoln—would have him so, just as he was, whether or no. I can see O'Connor—his vehement vehemence! He took in Lincoln from the very entrance. And Gurowski was a stormy little man—would rage and speak at a great rate. Sometimes I think we overbore antagonism by mere weight. Eldridge was the only exception—he was abolitionist through and through—would have immediate freedom or nothing. The great Gurowski! A believer in cold baths—winter and summer—and one day at last killed for his convictions! Yes, he died there—caught pneumonia—that was the end! One of the singular giants I have met—truly a giant, never to be forgotten—little known in history—yet a historic figure by right, inherency."
And again, "To know Lincoln as we knew him—to see him as he was—to meet the far-seeingness—to follow him in the course of his reason—that explains McClure—that justifies what is there said. Lincoln was pilot of a ship—the storm raged, the stars were lost—horror, horror, horror! It was not a moment for abstract right and wrong—for

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 319] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ideal pros and cons—but to get the ship safe at home—to ride triumphantly into port. What could a man like Wade know of such a man? Wade: intellectually fat (honest, intending well)—never capable of a sharp move—a muttonhead—dogmatic, stubborn, muscle rather than brain!"

     I ordered the 20 copies of tomb photograph at McCollin's.


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.