Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, February 26, 1891

     5:30 P.M. Was with W. till after six. Though the day was stormy, he felt and talked "in the up-bent," as he said, though

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"I am poorly enough—am in a bad way—what with the bladder and the constant indigestion." Returned me proof and copy with this message written in margin of former: "These two all right—but don't make up the poems in pages until I have the whole proofs complete in galleys—I shall want the make-up to follow my special directions." Had altered "this late-years palsied old bodily shellfish condition" substituting "shorn and" for "bodily." Handed me the following note from Knortz without comment, except, "You know him, and ought to have this."
540 East 155th St. New York.

My dear Sir:

Dr. Bucke, of Canada, who yesterday spent an hour at my house and whom I had a very pleasant conversation with left with me the Rolleston translation of your poems with the request to find a publisher for this book. As Dr. Bucke informed me the translations had been revised by a competent German scholar I wrote immediately after Dr. Bucke left me, to my publisher Schabelitz, of Zurich, Switzerland, and offered the MS. to him. In the evening I commenced to examine the MS. and found out that it could not be printed in the present shape and that it wants a very careful revision first. One acquainted with the German language perceives at the first glance that the translations are written by a man who thought in English and afterwards tried to write in German. In its present shape no publisher will accept the MS. for publication.

What is to be done? I am, at present, too busy to revise the MS., otherwise I would do it with the greatest pleasure. After three or four months I, perhaps, shall have some weeks to spare and then I could undertake this task. But the question is, will Mr. Rolleston accept my assistance and wait so long. Shall I write to him, or will you do it?

How many hours does it take from New York to Camden? I should like very much to spend a few hours with you, and if you have no objection I shall make a trip to your city at my earliest convenience. Or do you intend to spend a few days at New York in the course of this winter?

Yours truly

Karl Knortz




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We spoke of Review of Reviews, I not liking its scrappiness. W. then, "Nor do I. Stead seems to have an insane notion that everything, to be appetizing, must be chopped into little bits—as if a cook should cut the meat into small pieces before putting it on the table. It has all the character of detail, division, a tiresome shift from thing to thing."

     Treating of Donnelly and Bacon controversy: "I am not so sure of the Bacon argument—I could never go that—but I have an idea that a century hence there will be a consensus about Shakespeare—some general doubt or even knowledge nearer the truth of the matter. As for Shakespeare—oh! there's more than him to be accounted for there!"

     Ferguson virtually promised me today that he would see we had our wish in all the matter of the proof of poems. W. remarked, "Good! Good! I thought it would all come around right!"

     Then as to Chadwick's fling at Paine: "Oh! He is undoubtedly wrong—he is on the wrong track, and a poor track at that! This word spiritual is claimed now by theologians, preachers—but God knows! W. don't belong to them. I am confident that in course of time it will be put to grandest uses—the largest of all—much as I faintly, dimly, suspicion it in 'Leaves of Grass.'" Had he read Paine's poem, "The Castle of Fancy"? "Yes, that and several others—songs, rather—and very good, true, they are, too. There is one thing lost sight of by these echoists of the original defamers—that in the early years of this century, by most men worth much, he was regarded as the very apostle of democracy, freedom, free-thought, liberty. I can remember it all as a boy—Paine died in 1812, seven years before I was born, but as a youngster I heard many, many, many a fight over him—warmest espousals, hottest denunciations—denunciations by preachers whose words got hot in the mouth. What Ingersoll so wonderfully describes as the literary situation in 1855 was the religious situation in 1825 or thereabouts. I have often told you about Colonel Fellows—that ardent and adored friend of my early years—he was bosom friend of Paine—to know this was itself to have a vast respect for Paine, if there was no more.

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Fellows was a nobleman in the best sense—in some respects the noblest person I have ever met—grand to look at, a grand old man—grand to be with, grand to remember. It is not surprising the old ideas of Paine are not gone. Yet it is right to know how they arose."

     Gave me three postals to mail—to Johnston (England), Bucke and Kennedy.

     Had received article from Hartmann for Conservator. Left for W. this forenoon, along with the 20 extra copies of paper he wished. Had he read it? It transpired, "No, I was not moved." Further, the manuscript had been lost on the floor and we had an absurd hunt for it, and at last a find! I told W. I should not use it—I did not wish negotiations with Hartmann—and while he laughed and "didn't wonder" he would add no outright criticism, and I was glad he did not.

     Frank Williams in to see me today—left some 12 dollars to the fund. W. said, "God bless Frank! Noble fellow!"

     Clifford saw my father's picture of W. for the first time at my sister's Sunday—thought it the best he had met. W. remarked when I told him, "I am not astonished—it impressed me, impressed me deeply—it is a splendid piece of work." As to the criticism of artists that Eakins was brutal, cruel, bloody, etc.: "They could not be expected to accept him—he inhabits another world."

     Speculated about sending some money over to the printers. "My dear daddy used to advise me—my boy always keep on good terms with the cook."

     Told me title of book should be "Good-Bye My Fancy"—no exclamation point—quite emphatically saying he hoped "the newspapers" would "mend their ways" and "report" him right.


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