Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, July 19, 1891

     My brother comes round early—saw him resting on the fence out front of the house. At once out and to the network of public buildings—thus for two hours and more (from 6:15 to 8:45). He has not been in Washington long but had gathered together a

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good deal of information about the town—its history and buildings. Surprised—I had not known such a tendency or faculty in him. Breakfast—delightful, simple: Mrs. O'Connor full of reminiscence, much of it now pathetic—with William and the children dead and so much past, so little ahead. Yet she says she is cheerful—longs for "the other world"—says she has had this drift from childhood—no fears any way intermingled. O'Connor a lover of cats. The negro who serves in the kitchen proud of her service to O'Connor in latter months of his life— "I brought him his last meal." Mrs. O'Connor had kept for me his little leather-metal inkstand—the last he used—a favorite. How I prize it! Also parted with manuscript of "To-bey or not To-bey"—beautiful in sight and sound. Walker came in about ten. We went to work on the books at once—Walker pointing out O'Connor's descriptions—I noting, memorandizing. But I found I had guessed most. One single piece in one year which I picked out proved to be (we subsequently asked Kimball) the only piece of the report written by O'Connor that year.

     After finishing this work we went together to the Treasury building where we found Kimball with one of his men (Piper). We talked—Kimball told some college stories. They showed me O'Connor's room and desk. I found they appreciated O'Connor's greatness. Kimball promised to write me a few lines about their relations together to go in the book. Also had me promise to stay with him next trip, either in fall or winter. He admitted he had been a little twitted by my letter (the first), but I readily made that easy. Full of incident. Had met W.—described how W. would come past his house of a morning—pick up his little boy, bury him in his great beard, walk him a square, then set him down again and tell him to run home, the boy never fearing. "I shall never forget it. It all seemed done spontaneously—without a word." Said to me, "You must not mistake: I admit that every good thing in the reports belonged to O'Connor." Very hearty, easy, nonchalant, smart—with some play of wit and considerable good sense. Presented me with copy of a volume on the life service (romance) written by a minister: Rand's

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"Fighting the Sea." Amounts to little. Kimball will send me 1889 report, just out, containing his notice of O'Connor. Walker simple as a child—unsophisticated. We parted on the street, I going to Mrs. O'Connor's for dinner, reaching about three. Little further time, having to come up at 5:40. Anne decided to stay (stayed till Wednesday). Mrs. O'Connor says Houghton proposes to print three of the stories (out of seven)—"Brazen Android," "Carpenter," "The Ghost"—thinking these will make a book sufficiently large. Mrs. O'Connor rather staggered. Asked advices as to accession and title. So much in a title—a future or failure. Showed me the new (never completed) draft of "Android," which had originally moved O'Connor to withdraw story from Atlantic though part of it was already in type. O'Connor left no full stories in manuscript. Mrs. O'Connor says she finds scraps, pages, but no finished consecutive piece. But her search has not yet been entire.

     Gave me quite circumstantial account of the break between O'Connor and Whitman—its causes—lights thrown boldly here and there, indicating nature and style of their discussions. W.'s coolness under criticism of "Leaves of Grass." O'Connor would say to his wife, "I wish Walt would get mad! But the worst we say simply rolls off him, like water off a duck."Imperturbe! His own sign. Good story of Eldridge, who meets W. one slushy horrible winter morning—leisurely going along Pennsylvania Ave.—hands in jacket pockets, gazing aloft. E. urges, "Let's hurry—let's get out of this." But W. insists, "No, you go ahead if you wish. I wish to enjoy the morning." And then out with W. walking (beyond Washington), it commencing to rain—but nothing would drive or persuade W. to quicken his pace.

     Interesting to hear of the Rice manuscript—O'Connor's piece on Poe—sent to Miss Rice for use at Poe memorial—she refusing to print because of its kindly references to Walt Whitman, which O'Connor would not cut out. But the manuscript was never returned, never printed anywhere. O'Connor had no copy of it. Eldridge advises Mrs. O'Connor to move at once to secure

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it—so do I. It is the summing-up of long studies of Poe by O'Connor. Much reading, information collected—a vast mine delivered. The theft—keeping—outrageous.

     Mrs. O'Connor says William took in "Leaves of Grass" from first look, though not with the whole mass of the after-enthusiasm. Her own first copy came by an odd way—from William Henry Channing, Boston, when she lived there, before marriage—he bringing it in as a book which must have some strength, for Emerson had spoken highly of it, etc. etc. Leaving it on table—Mrs. O'Connor when he was gone examining—striking the "Children of Adam" poems and remarking merrily that Channing would not have left it had he known, etc.—he being prudish and particular on all sexual statements and problems. But Mrs. O'Connor had recognized power at once. One of Mrs. O'C.'s happy points, that she is not deceived as to W.'s personality—neither exaggerates nor miniatures his virtues and failings. (W. says, "That is right: that fixes me right in my average personality.") She thinks of writing up some matters pertaining to her intercourse with W. I advised it—to do it herself, or let me do it, at once. She gave me bound copy of O'Connor's "Sketch of the U. S. Life Saving Service"—reprint from "Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia," 1878. And the little leather and brass inkstand—closed with a spring—a traveller from which all his later writing was done. How precious these to me! Every turn simple and attractive. Mrs. O'Connor and Anne went with me to station. The cheer with which she sustains her work remarkable—lessoning. Her reverence for O'Connor exalted and exalting—so, too, her love for W. Unmistakable, too, the courage of the woman—her ability to grapple with occasion, sorrow or death. She regrets as Burroughs that no record whatever exists of the famous Washington talks. I hoped to be able to see Dr. Reed, too—another of O'Connor's associates—but the time failed me. Love to this woman! And my trip profited, with respect to the task I am to set about and a better acquaintanceship with her.


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