Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 5, 1891

     5:50 P.M. W. on his bed. Feeling any better? "Still holding the fort: that is about all." Says word from Bucke very scarce. "Wish there was more, but Maurice is busy." Said with a happy ring, "Baker seems to be better—has chances. Poor fellow—he has a big journey ahead of him before he is well—if he gets well, which I doubt. But anyway we will hold out our hope—make it last till the last."

      "Traumatic pneumonia? Yes, I know what it is. It is singular how nature, wounded in one part, disturbed, will throw the weight of her concern on another. So with Baker. I saw it a thousand times with the soldiers. And now I notice it with myself. For instance, I doze—that has lately been my recourse—not to sleep, no—to doze—to lay on my back. It is an increasing tendency—yes, necessity."

     The Ledger reprints the Transcript discussion of "The Literary Changes of a Generation," in which was this characterization of W.: A GLANCE BACKWARD.


It is exceedingly interesting to reflect on the great changes which have taken place in the American literary field in a little more than a generation. To realize this more fully, let us look back to the year 1855—

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some thirty-five years ago—and note what was taking place in literature in our country at that time.... [T]hat other personality, who stands alone in the galaxy of letters simply because of his strange and untoward originality, Walt Whitman, in the year referred to was preparing for publication his volume entitled "Leaves of Grass."


This is not Kennedy's? W. says, "No, it has not his fingermarks, yet it is not unfriendly." Adding— "I vaguely remember seeing that before, yet would not like to stake anything on it." But curious—most curious—a piece by F. W. Sanders in Christian Register in which the queer Georgian Johnson turns up again: [A] typical Georgia Cracker made his appearance at the Church of All Souls, and introduced himself by saying that the papers led him one of the wealthiest and most respectable citizens of Alabama, and that, if being honest made a man respectable, he was....

Alike guileless and garrulous till the lecture began, this quaint old man talked in a high, thin voice to anyone who would listen to him, and told us about himself, saying that he was not wealthy, as the newspaper had stated, but that he had some land and a few thousand dollars.... He told us also that he was "the Alabama cotton-planter" who some years before had visited Walt Whitman and spent forty days with him. His visit had been mentioned by the press, and it seemed very strange to him that this had not come to the notice of his auditors. Although he deprecated the newspaper statement as to his wealth, the fact that his name thus appeared in the public print evidently pleased him greatly. His satisfaction at this was childlike and quite on a par with his troubled astonishment that the circumstances of his visit to Walt Whitman had not become matter of general knowledge to the reading public of America, which, to him inexplicable fact, he adverted to more than once with much naïveté....

W. laughed, "He was undoubtedly half-crazy. No indeed, he did not live with me forty days—he pushed himself in. Yes, Sidney was here at the time—good Sidney!—and knows all about him. He made himself particularly disagreeable by his determination that I should discuss with him the other literary fellows—

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cèlébres—deliver him my opinions. He is the sort of man you are only safe from by avoiding."
The Press reprints W.'s little Lippincott's page—Ledger favorably reviews the conversation. W. says, "They are all straws in our cause. They have no importance whatever—yet have every importance." W. wished me to go to Oldach's tomorrow. "Find out from him how many copies of big book—in sheets—are there, and how many sets of sheets for the pocket book. I want to know. I have a vague idea—but copies have been sold since his last report."

     Rather amused over Johnston's (N.Y.) letter about the Baker shooting:
J. H. Johnston & Co.
17 Union Square, New York
Aug. 4 1891

Dear Traubel

I enclose my check for $5.00.

Isn't it terrible abut poor Baker? Why did he carry a revolver! I went to Leadville in '79, carried $38,000 worth diamonds and left my revolver in the hands of the makers. I have crossed the plains ten times and never carried one. I would carry one mounted with $10,000 worth of diamonds if presented with it.

Love to Walt.

Ever yrs

J.H.J.


"That sounds like John, and it is true, too—that fire-arm business is a bad one—it takes what it gives. Sad! sad! sad! for Baker!"

     From paper received from Johnston today: Dr. R. M. Bucke, superintendent of the London Lunatic Asylum, Ontario, is paying a vist to Bolton this week, being the guest of Dr. Johnston, Manchester Rd. Mr. Bucke is a friend and biographer of Walt Whitman.

[Bolton Evening News, Monday, July 26, 1891]

W. says, "I had a copy: it was a good reminder. I like to hear, even if little."


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