Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 346] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Monday, July 20, 1891

     5:50 P.M. W. on bed—seeing me exclaimed, "The wanderer returned. Well, boy, how is it?"—and was not slow to get up and over to his chair. Then the flood of questions! As to his own condition, "I have had a couple of bad days—yesterday especially—horrible, wretched. And today bad enough, too. I do not seem to amount to much, anyway."

      "How is Nellie? Well? And you left Anne there with her? Good! And what of yourself? Did you see anything of the city?" Said, "Yes, Eldridge was here—I suppose ten days ago. Didn't I tell you? I meant to say he had been. He probably is out west now. As I understood it, he went to Boston to urge on Houghton the publication of William's book. I understood him to say he would stop at Washington again, but he must have had new reasons not. And what does Nellie hear about the stories, anyway? Is there no definite understanding yet?" I repeated what Mrs. O'Connor had said to me about this—that Houghton Mifflin & Co. proposed to use three—"The Brazen Android," "The Carpenter,""The Ghost." W. lamented—asked the full number of stories (seven). "And what decision has she come to? What has she told him?" But no answer had yet gone.

     He remarked to me, "I had a letter from Wallace this morning. He had just received and read the dinner piece—said Johnston had sent it over—given him three hours to read it. He is full of praise of it—extravagant in praise of it—thinks it goes way out and beyond ordinary things—sees me in it clear as a new day. Wallace seems eligible to be extravagated by 'Leaves of Grass' and all that concerns it. Why should he not, to be sure, if he feels it! But I don't know! I don't know. Anyway, that is the state of the case. So you sent Johnston a copy—a set of the sheets? So did I. And probably one or the other is not yet there: they speak as if they could have but the one copy. And that reminds me, Horace: just when you went away, or before, a letter came from Bolton, saying they had discovered there that Sarrazin had suffered a relapse and gone back to Paris, where he is

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 347] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
now, improved. Yes, take his address—I can give it out of the book here"
—taking up the big memo book—finding the name—indicating its red-ink change.

     Then back to O'Connor, of whom W. said, "William had a mighty penetration—now and then a brilliant intellectuality, which troubled me. Yet he was a first-classer, too. And heroic for everybody, too—a large, vast, inclusive man. As if he had a great mantle and threw it about everybody—as if it would cover all—and he gemmed it—and there it was, sign by which he conquered!" Told him I had got a couple of new Whitman anecdotes. "Are they good ones?" he asked—and laughed heartily when I told him one of them. As to Mrs. O'Connor and death, "Nellie always was of a spiritual turn—very spiritual. But I think that a sign of disease—a great way off from a good healthy satisfaction with life as it is—with what life gives, yields." She had said, "Walt told me the last time I met him that Dr. Bucke and I always strengthened his faith in personal immortality." W.: "I do not remember saying that, but it sounds like. I probably said it." Said of Quinn, "He was a mean Irishman. I do not intend by that to reflect on Irishmen in general—to say that Irishmen are mean—but rather to indicate that Irishmen are so rarely mean that when you meet one of the real stripe, he seems to make up for all the rest!"

      "And so the house is all built up opposite! When I was there it was open—we had a noble outlook." Of the Capitol, "I never went so far as to say much in praise of it. I never felt the absolute beauty of the building. I well remember Sumner's opinion—that he had traveled much abroad—seen everything there—churches, cathedrals, theatres, everything—that the Capitol exceeded them all." I said, "Without reference to architecture or anything of that kind it looms up there, on its height, seen from all quarters, in sun and under the stars, and impresses by the mere fact of mass and position." W. then, "From that standpoint I agree with you: you are undoubtedly right." Again, "In my days the Washington monument was not yet completed—had not put its cap on. It is only an obelisk—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 348] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
nothing else can be expected of it. Yes, the view from the top floor of the Treasury Building is very comprehensive. But to really see the Potomac, you must go to Arlington Heights."
Doyle no longer in Washington. "He has not been here for some years. He is a bird of passage—always on the wing. He has not been to see me as often as I like. I would not know how to reach him now."

      "And you found Kimball a good deal of a democrat? You must have got on pretty good terms if he asked you to stay with him your next visit. Indeed, yes—I often stopped in on William there: they were great days."

     Had been reading Critic, "but it comes to so little, a fellow is surprised to look at it all." Asked me if I "did not realize Washington to be a beautiful city?" Again, "Your best discovery was probably Walker. I have no doubt from your description that I would like him."

     A long touch at Ingersoll and Shakespeare. "I received a Washington paper—the Post—today or yesterday. It contains a column and more from George Bacon anent the Colonel's fling at the Baconians in his Shakespeare lecture. I have read George's piece—shall read it again, then give it you to keep. I know George—he is a Massachusetts fellow—educated—not stupid. He has written this article—it is not bad—I can easily see its genesis. George is a Swedenborgian. I remember, O'Shaughnessey there, in his piece, says, one place—some men, often very ordinary men, penetrate, reach something, an end, a purpose, by the mere subtlety of their intellect—not might or spiritual gift leading the way. O'Shaughnessey says Swedenborg was such a man. I should say it of George Bacon, he, too, was such a man—a good-natured fellow, no great light—but culture—sharp eyes. Makes in this case a readable article. As for me, no, I am not satisfied that Bacon wrote the plays—though long ago satisfied Shakespeare had not. Nor could I hardly say I thought a cluster had done them. Somehow I find myself mystificated as time and thought go. Even now, as I read the plays, or more now than ever, something indefinable, greatest

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 349] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
of all, appears, leads me on, eludes me. I feel that there are notes struck beneath the notes heard by the ear—seas beneath seas, soils beneath soils—mighty, permanent, unperceivable. What is it? I do not know—I can never make it clear to myself—never make it clear to others. I feel, too, that even Donnelly, cutting some capers as he does, has a needed word—is on the track of something. William perhaps more cutely than any so far, any land, took in, absorbed, the whole situation."
Then, "I want you to have the Post, to keep, as would be said—but first I want to take another whack at it."

     Spoke to W. about the manuscript I had at home—Mrs. O'Connor's—called by her "Sequel to Good Grey Poet"—found among O'Connor's papers. Bucke thought the matter mainly or wholly embodied in the '83 letter. I argue, "If it is differently said, would it not still have great value?" W.: "Certainly, certainly—it should be used, somewhere. After all, William was the top bough—the nearest heaven! What a world of chivalry, knowingness, he breathed! The two letters in Bucke's book—" I interrupted, "I have heard it said, they are the book." W.: "So they are—so they are! I was going to say, those two letters should remain intact forever—should be kept where they are. Bucke and I differ about them. He says all that Victor Hugo matter—the literary excursions—are extraneous matter—could perhaps be dropped. I argue—not a word dropped—not a word dropped—not a word extraneous—not a syllable too much or out of place! No, not one!" I said, "They are extraneous as minor streams to the trunk current!" "Exactly—and no more! I have charged Bucke—I charge you now, you will not forget it?—that the letters be kept as they are—that no hand touch them—that they be left sacred as a shrine. Further, the whole book: let it be—let it remain as it is—unchanged. I like it well, in its present form—it has a rough, simple majesty of power and defense. Bucke, I know, proposes to add to it—to supplement it—to give it new pages. But I insist, add what you will, but do it supplement it—don't let it break up the form of the old book." As to the Tobey manuscript, "I forgot about it—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 350] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
'To-bey or not To-bey'? How witty that is! He does not include the Arthur anecdote in it?"
What was that? "Oh! Did I never tell it you? President Arthur was at a reception afterwards in Boston—was introduced to Tobey—turned then and asked, 'Is that the damned fool who stopped Whitman's book?' I asked William, 'Is that authentic?' and he said, 'Yes, I had it from a man who was there and heard it.' The two stories should go together." Of course that story not in O'Connor's manuscript, which was written at the time of the event. W. said, "Yes, I remember the fine touch about the Colonel. William was an ardent lover of Ingersoll's, always—thought everything of him." Again, "And their styles are not unlike—in fact, they are much like. I have often told myself."

     When I went to McCollin's today, found they had printed 19 of the 20 pictures; but the 19 were of no more value to me to take to the printers than one—so I left till tomorrow. W. said, "That seems very funny," and laughed merrily over it. As to Wallace's nervous debility, "Yes, it seems out of place in so young a man—probably one of the hereditaments! I don't know but in most cases that."

     Wallace writes me—date 10th. We have our regrets that he seems determined not to come to America.


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.