Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, February 27, 1891

     5:30 P.M. W. just finishing dinner. He reported himself "a trifle better but pretty bad," adding, "I have eaten too much," explaining, "This indigestion is terrible—it wracks and strains

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me past words."
It developed, he had written a letter to Brown (druggist) inquiring after the old prescription I had taken for Bucke on the critical day 1888. "I was going to ask Warren to take it up—but now you are here and Warren is away, perhaps you will take it? A good druggist files away all prescriptions. I wonder if Brown has this?" etc. I repeated to W. talk I had with Myrick today—anent poems—and he was "satisfied." Myrick promised to do all that was possible for us.

     W. speaks again of Ingersoll's characterization of Burns as "a child of nature of whom his mother was both ashamed and proud." "It is one of the best things I know—sublime, profound." What of Knortz? Did he feel I should regret? "No, you are about right in it, anyway. Knortz was one of the men, but Rolleston was the man, there's no other way to put it. Of course you could someday more explicitly state it, though it was not necessary here, where no elaborate writing was attempted." I quoted W. letter I had today from Stoddart, as follows:
Philadelphia, Feb. 26th, 1891.

Dear Mr. Traubel:

Enclosed please find check for $35.00 in payment for your article on 'Walt Whitman.' Hoping this will meet you in time to meet your desires, I am,

Truly yours,

JM Stoddart

P.S. I think the articles make a good show in the Magazine.

W. then, "Well, then, two men are suited—two—and," tapping his shoulder, "here sits one of them." "Are you satisfied?" W: "Yes, aren't you?" I laughed and said, "With your part of it!" He, more seriously, "And why not with your own?" I made no answer coherent; he went on, "It seems to me you have done a splendid piece of work there—I value it more as I see more of it. I do not know what you could have done to make it more rich in

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suggestions. It hit the mark—hit it clear and sharp—with a music its own, too."
And still more, "I confess I have experienced a good deal of satisfaction in it all, and I read a real success in Stoddart's conservative comment."

     I related incident in university extension course at Morristown—Prof. R.E. Thompson—literary lecturer—speaking of W. substantially as "anarchic" and "without form and void." Jake Lychenheim getting on his feet with some positive questions for W. This touched W. 's imagination. "I like that—it is a picture—I wish I had all the details. It recalls the Georgetown boy—in the academy, university, college there—asking the priest some knotty questions about, in favor of, Walt Whitman. O the young man! the young man! What would the world do reft of him!" At one point I said, "Let the Professor say his say. The more sure I am in my faith the less I feel such antagonism—as my faith grows, my irritability wanes." W.: "That is splendid—it has the sententiousness of an aphorism. Stick to it boy! Let it grow!" And then, "The Professors have the ear of the world—then for something more! They are great, everything, for erudition: as for the rest?" And he left the question there, only adding, "We will give them all the past, much of the present—we will take the future!" When I tell W. of the value I think belongs with "Good-Bye My Fancy"—that it has music and power—he says, "I am incredulous, yet I know you talk out of important backgrounds, too," and will question me very closely as to precise places and features. We discussed somewhat the use of word 'Fancy' in the title: how was 'Imagination' adapted for use? W. said, "I know 'Fancy' has come to express a more or less circumscribed idea—that imagination covers larger areas—is the new statement. Yet 'Fancy' has generic warrant—I using it because I am confident readers will so comprehend it. As mere glider over surfaces—shallow, if not unreal—it does not belong with 'Leaves of Grass.' I think Coleridge was the first man to give 'Imagination' an efficient application the new way. I have no objection to the word—on the contrary I like it—it attracts me, is grand, clusters a world of meanings."


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     Told W. I had returned Hartmann's piece—he smiled but gave no counsel.

     Anne sent off Conservators to W.'s American list today. W. asked, "You did not forget the blue work?"—and was satisfied. Promised to make me out the foreign list tonight.

     Took some papers to Post Office for him. Then went to Brown's, who left his supper and searched for prescription. Took down one immense file, loaded. I asked, would the date help you? "Yes—much." I gave him June 10th, 1888—and sure enough it proved to be that and he soon had it! It was Bucke's—written that critical night—and Brown had marked it as for W. Lucky find! Mixed powders at once—W. to take one before going to bed, and a purgative in the morning. (He takes Friedrichsthal.)

     7:30 P.M. To W.'s with the powders. He was delighted I had found it. "I own, I did not expect any such luck!" Found him with the memorandum book on his lap, making out foreign list—a yellow paper on floor which he picked up now and then to add a name. Where was I going? Explained—to Dental College commencement—Academy of Music—Dr. Peirce to speak on Evolution. W. remarked, "I was almost about to say chestnut—but I know evolution deserves no disdains—would not have it from me: it is like nature, inexhaustible—like a fine day, ever-fresh. I should feel to amen all that was said to it!" Before I left told me, "I have a postcard from brother George's folks: they say they read the Lippincott's matter aloud—liked it all. But are they not all repeating that? It is a 'Leaves of Grass' wave!"


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