Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, August 11, 1891

     5:35 P.M. Found W. much less discomfited by the frightfully hot day than I had believed possible. Yet he asked, as he fanned himself, "Isn't this the hottest ever was? Certainly as hot as we have a right to expect days these parts!" Then, "And what of Baker? That is of more importance than all the fires of nature?" To my return that "the doctor seems to expect his recovery," he said, "Good! Good! It lifts a weight to hear that." Then, recurring to weather, "As I just told Warrie a few minutes ago—if we

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can't get rid of the heat we can at least say to it 'you're another!' and defy it."

     I have letter from Bucke dated 31st July—written from Cricklewood N.W., London, as follows:
Kingsgate, Cricklewood, N.W.
London
31 July '91

My dear Horace

Your good, long and most interesting letter of 20th reached me last evening and has been read and "inwardly digested." A card of 21st from W. came by same mail and it is (as you may well believe) a great comfort to me to hear and know that W. is getting on so well. Was much pleased, too, to hear from you that Mrs. O'C. would go west with me. I have quite set my heart on having her make us this visit and shall be greatly disappointed if any thing comes in the way of it. It seems only too certain that the Smiths (including Mrs. C.) have gone clean back on W. I do not know that you will approve of the plain way in which I told W. about it (no doubt you will see the letter) but I always think it best to come right out with these miserable businesses and after a clear understanding all round to start fresh on the new basis. I have not time to write you half such a good letter as you in your kindness have written me but you will not think for that that I love you the less. I am as busy as a nailer, spent yesterday afternoon at the British Museum working at the Danish translation & shall work at it this afternoon again. Then the two German have to be done. The French will probably have to wait for the shipboard time (L.pool to New York). Meter matters take a lot of my time and all looks well in that direction tho' I doubt much whether I shall accomplish any thing very definite during my present stay here. I am told that Tennyson is much broken in health and mind and sees nobody but I shall attempt to see him & should I succeed shall make as full a note as possible of what transpires. I am very sorry about Clifford—if the meter would only get a move on and assume such proportions as I anticipate (perhaps foolishly) possibly an opening might be found in that direction (?). Love to W. to Anne and yourself. Write to old address—I hope to sail 26 Aug. & see you 2 or 3 Sept.

R. M. Bucke




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W. read it deliberately. As to the Smith matter, "Disturbed? O no! Doctor! I have already dismissed it, like that"—sweeping his arm— "never to be brought forward again as far as I shall move. No, I look upon it as a feast gone—the bread, meat, corn, wine were here once—now all are swept away, taken off. And there I drop it. As to what you fellows will do, I have nothing to say. But it is an experience I cannot linger over." Then, however, "You don't know more than I do about it, do you Horace? Nothing has been told you and withheld from me? No? Well, it is all right then—if this I find here, if what we can all guess is all we all know, then we all know nothing—then we are mystified alike." And further on in the letter, "What is the French he speaks about? Not Sarrazin? For I want to use the Sarrazin translation we already have. O yes! Benzon—that's a woman—yes, that is a great piece, I understand." When he learned I had written to Symonds for a contribution to the book, he said, "That was right, very right—I hope he will respond. But poor fellow! He must be in a bad way." I had also written Burroughs, enclosing the Tribune piece and asking him to correct or substitute for it, W. again saying, "You did quite right—it was a happy thought. And I hope John, too, will respond." Then showed him Johnston's letter, dated 30th, which he deliberately read. "Did you read Wallace's letter, the one I gave you yesterday? How good it was! Johnston is very free—lets everything take its own course. That is the perfection of 'style.'" And informed me, "I wrote both to Bucke and Johnston today—not at any length, however." Speaking of Browning he said, "Browning is an identity—has a place—is something definite. Yes, yes—the more I think it over, the more plainly I see. I could not prove this, I suppose. But I feel it."

     Harned complains of Eakins and O'Donovan for their criticisms of other artists (unfavorable almost without exception). W. asked, "Is it possible Tom is not mistaken? Did you say Eakins, too? It is a tough nut!" Then, "There is St.-Gaudens—I suppose he is the top of the heap, or if he's not the top of the heap has many claims to the top." Anne will get W. his prunes.

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He said, "God bless you, darling!" I urgently inquired if there were not other things he wished, but could not get him to say more than, "Tell all the fellows, God bless 'em! Give 'em my realest, substantiallest, thanks. Yes, the heartiest, Horace, and there do come up needs, I shall not hesitate to call on you. In the meantime, I am overflowed with all the good things I need!" Exhibited to him a picture of a group of us before the piano—Reeder, wife, Anne, H.L.T.—Anne's figure and profile especially fine. "I don't know anything more natural," W. commented. "It is the kind of thing that justifies the whole craft."

     Read W. this, sent me from Newark by Mrs. Baldwin: SUMMER BOOKS

Walt Whitman still lives. One more utterance from our old original individualistic American poet, now, as he tells us, in his seventy-second year, and not expecting to write any more; this, indeed, written as it were in defiance of augury. The grand old fellow in that little of new he gives us is in good fettle and equal to himself. Most of the volume is made up of recollections, memories not only of facts, but of thoughts, and they are not the least interesting, especially his recollections of persons once famous, but long since gathered in by the reaper....

His farewell may be found at the beginning. But the interpretation is as obscure as the text. Good-By my Fancy Walt Whitman (David McKay, Philadelphia). There is a bold photographic silhouette of his expressive face.

[New York Commercial Advertiser, Aug. 8, 1891]

W. asked, "I wonder whose hand that tell-tales? I don't have a notion. Yet there is a mark in it. But the main thing is, it is warm, friendly—shows a beating, brotherly heart."

     Black writes me his explanations why dinner report was not complete. I wrote back, "I do not complain, only regret."

     As to last issue of Critic, W. says, "I see Joe gives us a lift again. Did you see it? Yes? Friendly, don't you think? It is a very readable paragraph, too."


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     W. comments with considerable candor about his "failingness," saying this among other things: "I doze, doze, doze—my life runs its last thread in sleep."

     8:00 P.M. To W.'s again, just for a minute—to drop him the copy of the Ingersoll-Whitman colloquy he is to fix for our book. "That is not a copy of the last? Of the piece as I revised it? Well, that was the only piece which had any value. The original piece was miserable hack-work at the best. So Talcott couldn't find it?" —incredulous— "Well, we must do the best we can with what we have."


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