Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, July 28, 1891

     Received first word from Bucke—morning's mail:
Bolton, Lancashire
18 July '91

My dear Horace

All here, Johnston & Wallace especially, send loving greetings to you—and Johnston says: "Say to Traubel that the photographs came safely to hand."

I have written Walt giving account of my reception here; you will see that letter and I need not repeat. I may say however that if nothing comes of my trip but what has already come of it here I shall consider the journey a success. We had many little speeches and much talk and I was very greatly gratified to find that they realize the magnitude of this Whitman business just as fully as we do—nothing that I said of the meaning and probable future of Whitmanism (and I spoke out pretty plainly) staggered them at all—they had thought it all before; and I tell you, Horace, I am more than ever (if that is possible) convinced that we are right at the centre of the largest thing of these late centuries. It is a great privilege and will be ages from now a great glory to us. For my part when I stop and think of it I am fairly dazed—the strangest thing, to me, about it all is that I have had premonitions of this spiritual upheaval and of my (small) part in it since I was eight or ten years old—and now it has come—a solid fact—and come to stay—and we will stay with it.

Love to Anne and love to you

R. M. Bucke

The boys here are afraid you are working too hard—pray be careful of yourself and be sure to take a good rest (not less than 8 hours) every night—do not work so late as to prevent this.

Immediately wrote him and Johnston.


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     5:30 P.M. To W.'s, where I found him reading papers. "Why should you come to me, a hermit, for the news?" he asked. "It seems queer—a man in the swim, as you are—right out bravely in baffling currents—should feel to ask me a word," etc.—laughing meanwhile. Yet said to me instantly, further, "Yet I have some news, too—Bucke is at last heard from. Warrie"—Warrie was in the room— "do you go down and bring Doctor's letter up for Horace." When it was brought, W. adding, "The Doctor's reception appears to have been the most extraordinary. It seems to ensure a true final basis of things there. No, take the letter with you—it is a long one. You will want to examine it carefully."
Bolton, Lancashire
18 July '91

I am really at a loss how to begin this letter or how to write it. My reception here has been such that I am absolutely dumbfounded. I got here about noon yesterday (I ought to say that I had a telegram at Queen's Town from Johnston to say that Wallace and he would meet me at L.pool if I wd. let them know the time of my arrival, but I did not think it well to give them that trouble & came through alone)—Johnston & Wallace met me at the Station. It was a fine day and I went around the town with Dr. J. while he made his daily visits. Sat in the carriage while he went in the houses. We went to a hotel to dinner—then 8 of us went for a 20 mile drive through as picturesque a country as I have seen any where—had tea 8 miles from here with another Whitman friend (Rev. Thompson) then he came to Bolton with us. By this time it was after 8 o'clock and on reaching Johnston's house we found half a room full of men waiting for us—from then to midnight was constant talk, songs, recitations, supper, and good fellowship generally. You are right to say that the Bolton friends are true and tender—they are that and if there are any stronger words you may use them! Most of the evening I laughed and the rest of it I could have cried, their warmhearted friendship for you and for me was so manifest and so touching. I enclose a song which they had composed & set to music and which the whole room sang together in the middle of the evening—of course I made a speech of thanks and

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two other quite long speeches in the course of the evening—and I really spoke quite decently! A wonderful thing for me. You will of course, dear Walt, show this letter to Horace as there is no use my writing it over again to him. I trust you are no worse than usual—and that I shall find you to the fore when I return in September. Nothing to tell about the meter yet.


Wallace slept here last night, he and Johnston desired me to say that they might not have time to write you today and wished me to give you their love and assure you of their devotion to you and the cause—and indeed, Walt, it looks as if the thing had come here to stay. I was to say, too, to you and Warry that the canary had come safe—not even the glass cracked! And that it was warmly appreciated. And I want you to tell Mrs. Davis that they all know her here and feel very friendly towards her.

I think I have said all I can say at the present moment. Will soon write again.

I send you my love, dear Walt, and sign myself yours till death

R. M. Bucke

P. S. I read the message from you to the boys here (in your letter of early July) yesterday evening—the boys were much affected by it—they have taken the letter from me to facsimile that part of it so that they may each have a copy. If it were ever possible for you to come to England the fellows would go clean crazy about you.


The College Welcome to Dr. Bucke
(Sung to the "March of the Men of Harlech," Welsh National air)
17 July 1891

Comrade-stranger, glad we greet you
One and all are pleased to meet you,
Cordial friendship here shall treat you,
Whilst with us you stay.

Friend of Walt! Be that the token,
That enough our hearts to open,
Though no other word be spoken
Friends are we alway.

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Friendship let us treasure,
Love to greatest measure,
Comrades true our journey through:
Life's thus made a pleasure.

Hail! to Whitman, lovers' poet!
Here his portrait. All well know it
To the world we gladly shew it
Proud his friends to be.

Doctor Bucke, Walt's brave defender,
Thanks to you we gladly tender
Noble service did you render
To our hero's fame.

You, his chosen "explicator,"
"Leaves of Grass's" indicator,
You, his life's great vindicator
Honoured be your name.

Health to Walt and glory!
Long live the poet hoary!
Noble life through peace and strife
Immortal be his story!

Let us cherish his example,
Kind, heroic, broad and ample,
Be our lives of his a sample,
Worthy friends prove we.



After pause, "All those goings-on—feasting, talking, thinking—the rides—everything—go far to excite my fears. The question is whether there is not danger that the fellows there will not overdo the matter—overstep the mark?" I remarked, "I do not think it will hurt, even if it be extravagant." W. then, "But I do—I do decidedly. Sitting here today, chewing on Bucke's letter, it came to me that especially Wallace and Johnston stood right on the brink. I find they say too much about me as a man—are too extravagant—give me all the virtues and more—insist upon everything for me. But that is wrong—wrong. I am no saint—no one knows this so well as I do. I am

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full of things which these fellows do not even seem to suspect. And Bucke is just as dead-set—makes the same mistake—gets mad as the devil if I am impeached at any point. Yes, you are right: in earlier ages, Wallace would have made a follower of Jesus—a saint—a disciple! Noble fellow, anyway! But Johnston—I guess Johnston is saved partly by reason that he is a doctor. A doctor has too much to do with guts, lungs, excrement, urine, blood, wounds, disease, death, corruption—physical corruption—to go the whole story. He is saved from his ideal, saved from dreams, saved to earth and sense—a real man among real men! Yes, Horace, I am stubborn—I more and more feel the mistake—a pull in from extravagance—reserve—not to claim too much—not to claim anything—just to go on with the work—that is my method, has been, must be."
Called my attention to a postal he had written Johnston (I mailed it on my way up).

     Referred to O'Donovan. "Good fellow, O'Donovan! But I am afraid for the bust. He tends to make it too smoothified—to finish it"—smoothing his cheeks, to indicate. "He is too particular—does not grasp the generals. Think of Morse's bust, how it was made—yes, in less than two hours—dashed off—an inspiration—done there in the back yard. I can see Sidney yet—every now and then he would run in, lift up his head, take a look, touch me, maybe, here or there, to get a point, a protuberance, then rush out again—his hand full of clay—his eye alive—on his lips a smile. The memory of that is wonder, as well as happiness, to me. Yes, you touch the heart of it." I had said, "I told Eakins, 'Walt Whitman, who himself treats everything broadly, has to be treated broadly in turn.'" "Now, that's the fact to tie to—O'Donovan has not got it—or has not kept it—determinedly in mind. Yet it is the determining point of the problem." But again, "As you say, let us wait—we owe O'Donovan the best chance—he may come in a splendid first at the end."

     After a while W. spoke again of Bucke. I said, "The most interesting incident will be Bucke's descent on Tennyson." "Descent you call it?" —laughing— "Well, I, too, feel that the most

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significantly. Will he reach the old man? The great thing will be, to reach him. As to drawing him out any, I don't know. Tennyson is reserved—has hauteur, too. Yet I am persuaded he is plain, loves plain things—farmers, laborers, mechanics, boys, old women, characters—simplicity, simplicity."
And there was "the problem of Bucke himself," Bucke not "taken to, understood" at first touch. "I am quite aware of the difficulties that crowd and thrust people off from a complete early understanding of Bucke. He has his points—is not to be taken in by nonchalance, first day, second, third even. I see quite clearly why it is he should not go in on waves of popularity. Yet people come round to him, too, in the end." Morris always negative. I said the other day, "Wait till Bucke comes on in September. I will have you meet and really talk with him. You don't know him." W. at this, "That is good, Horace—insist upon that—have them meet."

     Bush writes that he and wife may be in next week. Gave W. receipts for bills yesterday. Put them (pinned together) in his memo book. Longaker and Reeder to my house late in evening—photoed Morse bust by flash light. Longaker said, "I have just come from the old man—from the pleasantest talk I have ever had with him. He looked so gentle and fine under the gaslight there."


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