Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 319] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Friday, July 10, 1891

     8:05 P.M. Warrie went up with me (playing cards with Harry in the kitchen)—W. on the bed. I closed blinds—Warrie lighted gas—W., who was on bed, got up and was helped across to his chair. What was new? Bush had stopped in to see me (now en route for Baltimore—goes tonight). We had gone to Eakins' studio together. There for well upon an hour. Found O'Donovan had been in Camden again today. W. had delivered his own message from Reinhalter. The fellows will go out in about ten days to photo tomb. O'D. said he had talked with W.—got his consent to be photoed in front of tomb. I fought the idea—it was a stalking horse business—not like W., etc. But O'D. firm. Now, when I refer to W., he says, "You are right—O'Donovan is wrong: I did not consent—I was simply silent. He thought silence breathes consent! On the contrary I am opposed—bitterly opposed—would not do it—it is impossible, impossible—out of keeping, utterly. I shall have to tell O'Donovan so—make him understand—though gently, too. I feel I owe a good deal to the goodness of those fellows." What about bust? Better, but not broadly treated—not equal in treatment to the Eakins or Morse interpretations. W. said, "It would have to be out of the commonly grand, even, to beat Sidney's—or even reach it. And by the way, Horace, you wanted one of them, didn't you—one of Sidney's—for your house? And a Cleveland? Well, take them—take them any time." No photo of the bust yet (O'D.'s), but I would get Reeder to photo the Whitman when I got it up to the house.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 320] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     Eakins thinks Tom Harned has a good deal of feeling about Bucke's getting the Whitman, but sees Tom had all the chances in the world, through years, to get it himself. I explained all to Eakins in a way to satisfy him. W. says, "Tom is high-spirited: he is one of the terriblest fellows I know to be beaten—hates to be beaten—won't be." And yet to be mollified—amenable to that? "Yes, very mollifiable—that's the other side of him. He will finally understand about this." Eakins said, "I hate to see the picture go out of the country: it ought to be here." "But Bucke contemplates coming here before many years himself." "Oh! does he? In that case it is all right." W. says, "I am glad you told him that—it is well for him to know." Eakins has a portrait of Tom laid out in strong color and lineaments. I think it will be a success. He told me he thought their dinner night a great opportunity for O'Donovan, who had not before, and probably would never again, see W. in that mood and pose. O'D. goes to W. and studies with wax. He asked me, "What value has Bucke's book? Any at all?" I responded, "In all its biographical features—in all explicit, implicit things—it is authoritative—it came out under Whitman's own eye." "But what of Bucke's judgment? I don't think I would like him. Is he a man whose judgment is safe?" "That part given up to his spiritual estimate of W. you must take or not as you choose. I accept and oppose Bucke, as I do any other man." W. now says to me, "What the devil has a man's judgment to do with whether you like him or not? You were right to take the ground you did. These fellows, none of them—few of them—can take in a man like Bucke, without varnish, veneer or any of the show-parts. And now I want to ask you something, Horace, which this brings up. You remember in the dinner talk, how, at one place, I put in almost unqualified endorsement of Dr. Bucke's book—then turn round and say, but as to his explication—no, no, no—that I do not accept—for 'Leaves of Grass' baffles me, its author, at all points of its meaning—so that things perhaps plain to Doctor are not so plain to my mind. You remember, that was what I in effect said. I have been reading it over lately, and it occurs to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 321] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
me that I might have been raspy—raspy—in the assertion of my independence. How did it affect you?"
I had had no such impression—nor had Doctor. "I did not think Doctor had—he would not see it that way, even if it was raspy—the good man. But how would it appear to others—how even now, to read it?" And then, "You see how it is: 'Leaves of Grass' is a mystery to me—I do not pretend myself to have solved it—not at all. Doctor starts off with great vehemence to assert—'Leaves of Grass' means this and this and this and this and this—oh! stamps it down with the hammer of Thor! But even he, much as he really does know about it, has never caught this—that 'Leaves of Grass' never started out to do anything—has no purpose—has no definite beginning, middle, end. It is reflection, it is statement, it is to see and tell, it is to keep clear of judgments, lessons, school-ways—to be a world, with all the mystery of that, all its movement, all its life. From this standpoint I, myself, often stand in astonishment before the book—am defeated by it—lost in its curious revolutions, its whimsies, its overpowering momentum—lost as if a stranger, even as I am a stranger on this earth—driving about with it, knowing nothing of why or result." Again, "This way, you see I am spectator, too. And here alone do I fall short of endorsement of Doctor's book. I wanted to make that plain—yet not to set it down hard and fast—not to drive a sharp sword."

     Reinhalter in today. W. gave him a check for a thousand dollars on account. Said he, "The bill staggered me. I had expected a matter of a couple of thousand dollars, but this is literally a stunner. But," after a pause, "the job pleases me—it is done as I wanted it done, and that is about all I can ask." Left with him Reeder's own blueprint from tomb negative—better, more luminous—and wrote McCollin a postal, as I sat there, to make them lighter—print them so. W. at once admitted, "It has more atmosphere—is less monotonous—goes farther."

     Would he take the ride tomorrow? "Yes, unless I have an upset before: I never can tell from day to day how things will turn." Arranged with Warren for three tomorrow afternoon.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 322] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     Mrs. O'Connor urges me to come to Washington at once. Showed her two letters to W.: "It does my heart good to see her hand again." And, "You should go: it may open the way to many things for her, for you."


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.