Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, July 14, 1891

     8:00 P.M. W. as usual on bed—Warrie closed blinds and made a low light. W. very cordial to me—extending hand, "And how are you?" I said, "Just the same—no change: that is the one point on which the Catholic Church and I agree—semper idem." W.: "Always the same! Good! Yet damn semper and the Catholic Church with it! Nothing, for them, is more untrue than that

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motto—instead of being always the same, it is always shifting—always accommodating itself age after age to new forces—never till it has to, but always then—to come sneaking up at the rear and claim leadership! One of the curious things is to see the new pope coming in line with democracy—or pretending to; trying to make himself, his church, consist with the fact of America. Can they hope for anything here? I don't think so: the stars in their courses are against them—the wisdom of America—its spinal thought, deed—says no to Catholicism, the priests—casts them back, back, back into the past, into dead history—not willing longer to have their stupid superstitions, slavery. Oh! Horace, you will live to see new battles fought out. I am now pretty near the end of my own history, but mark what I have said—it is the gospel of our democracy—the necessity of our future!"

     I received this letter from Johnston and Wallace today:
Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England
3 July 1891

My dear Traubel,

Your extremely kind & fraternal letter of June 22nd to hand yesterday morning. The 6 "Good Byes" & portraits recd the previous evening but too late, for the mail from here.

I must content myself at present with the briefest acknowledgement of these but will write again for next mail.

Lifelong & ever increasing & deepening love & joy to you & your wife. Surely you must have felt that a marriage solemnised so, in the loving presence & with the heartfelt blessing of Walt himself, received the visible benison of the Highest. God bless you always.

With love to you & all good wishes to you both.

Yours affectionately

J. W. Wallace

PS by J. Johnston

We have told Wallace of the proposal mentioned in my last letter to you but he says No to it!

I have also told Walt about it & asked him to say a word. Would you do the same please.


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Everything has been done in the way of making his passage clear we only want his consent & the only reason he urges against it is his fear of the excitement upon him. He is troubled with nervous debility—or rather a lack of nerve energy & any excitement prostrates him afterwards. But I think the long sea voyage there & back would more than counteract that & I think it wd be a joy for the old man to see him & a lifelong memory for J.W.W.

We must wait & try again.

With love to Mrs. Traubel & self

Yours in haste,

Johnston


Anne and I both wrote at once, urging the trip. W. received word to same effect. Said he, "It is curious how these English fellows give way to their imagination—let fly without restraint. Johnston, like the rest, is clever enough—full of loyal love, too—yet comes here, sees very little of us, stays a few days, is decently treated—nothing extra any way put out for him—and goes off, doubling, at least, on everything—making it out that he met with the most splendid hospitality in history. Should Wallace come in the face of that, it might not be altogether fortunate. And there is the physical reason, too—I am not sure but the decision not to come would be the best. I can see his condition—the nerve-centers unusually sensitive—the need of calm. And would he get that here? Perhaps I would even advise against—it may do him such harm." I argued, "You can't tell—Johnston thinks the sea-trip will do him good. Besides, everybody says, don't urge Walt Whitman—give him no dinner—yet you are better after every dinner." W. laughed very heartily, "There does seem something of that sort. I acknowledge the doubt. It is a thing, perhaps, not to be known till tried. And anyhow, whether or no, he will come—this is the first flush, the early negative—he will get over that—they will make a fresh onset—he will risk the worst." I still urged, "He has the one best reason which does not appear to you as to him—the need to see you—the exhilaration of meeting and knowing you as a healthy, living body." W.: "I can realize that abstractly without

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connecting it with my own person. Yes, I see it."
"And further," I said, "he may find peace here. I never come to your room but I leave all care at the door—you always give me content, ease, quiet, elevation." W.: "That's Pearsall Smith, too, he used to say that. Is it so? Can it be so? And that reminds me, Horace, I feel lately that the Smiths—Mary, Alys, Logan, Pearsall—all have gone back on me—let me alone—got offended at something said or not said—moved off. Time was, I got a couple of letters every week from one of them—now for three months I have had no word at all!" "Dr. Bucke," I interposed, "says that Mary Costelloe is killing herself." "What? What's that?" "Killing herself." "What does he mean?" "By too much deadset-ness for reform and all that." "I have had a suspicion of the same thing myself! It is duty—the damnable sense of duty—it runs away with some people—takes everything from them—ruins them at last. Poor Mary!" Repeated to W. something Ingersoll once said to me in a talk, "Traubel, I don't worry myself about doing things—doing philanthropies, good deeds, as people call them. My business is to be—the rest will come as a matter of course, a necessary incident!" W. exclaimed, "How grand that is! How it goes to the marrow! How quick, subtle! After that, nothing remains to be said." I quoted likewise Emerson's "What right have you to your one reform," etc. W. again, "Yes, that is the old man! How often he gives us such superb dashes!"

     Stoddart writes for me to come to see him about pay for the article. W. says of him, "He has been a genuine friend—the one tree in the field after the tempest of recent years! Ah! Horace, you can know, I know, how important his work—the past work, the dinner—other things, too; with them, what Stead feels to do in Review of Reviews! It is a lift—a passage over dark days. Your New England piece is liked because it betrays the critter himself. I can fully enter into its influence." Further, "All these items enter into the force we have set at work. The future, the future—that is the thing!"


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     Saw McCollin about picture today—they will do as we wish. W. has been reading Current Literature—which I left with him Sunday. Referring to his own condition, "I have got round the cape—several dangerous voyages—on Stevens Street—here—part by good luck, part by other reasons. But what of the new dangers? There'll come voyage—storm—wreck—now before long!"

     W. continued on the bed throughout my stay.


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