Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 12, 1891

     5:30 P.M. W. "finished with dinner." Seemed bright—good color. Terrific rain storm about three, which had made it slightly cooler. "I am still here—not melted," he said. "No change anyway, so far as I know." I inquired about dinner. "Had you much appetite for it?" "Not a bit—I never have." But once there was appetite? "That was long ago—long. And, Horace, I have really eaten very little—a dish of peaches for my breakfast, for dinner, peaches!—and that is all."

     This in the morning paper: "Boston, Aug. 11 (Special).—James Russell Lowell was pronounced critically ill late tonight. His physician who has been by his bedside constantly since yesterday said that he was totally unconscious, and sinking fast...."

Now Lowell dead. W. had "just been reading it in the Post." Not astonished. "He has been sick some years. Did you notice, Horace, how close his age and mine correspond? He is about three months younger—was born in September 1819. And so Lowell is dead! One, another, another—soon all will be gone! None of the old group but Holmes and Whittier—and both these old, old men. The hands move onward—on, on." Again, "Lowell had believers—there were men ardent in his behalf—men of places, power—men with a right to say something. They think he

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cleaned an area—had a note—felt the true beat. But I do not know."
Had he seen Lowell at the reception, '87? "I did not see him, but I was told he was there." Was Lowell the man who had endeavored to turn Lord Houghton back from Camden? "Yes, I believe so—he was the man. O'Connor knew all the details of that—could have given you all the facts. I think Ellen could herself tell you all about it. William went to some trouble, I understand, to gather them." But, "I met Lowell, once, many, many, many years ago—perhaps 50 years or on to that—in New York. Oh! I have been fortunate in many of my friends, Horace. In New York, early days, I came upon many characters—men original, with power—among them Levi D. Slamm"—spelling it for me— "who edited the Plebeian. The Plebeian had a considerable stand at that time—quite a posish—and Slamm would have it, every way, that I take a place with him—work with him—which I did for a while. I suppose I was about 22 then. One day, evening, Lowell and Story—W. W. Story, the sculptor—came in to see Slamm. It was a visit, I don't know for what. Slamm, oh! he was a grand looking fellow—grand. He came to me—said, 'Whitman, Walt, I want to see these fellows—ought to treat them decently—but, you know, I'm head and ears in work and I'm going to get you to take them off my hands'—which I did, forthwith. Took them to the Park Theatre, which was the crack theatre those days—spent the evening with them. Lowell—oh! he was very handsome, at that time, very. Such a complexion! And good easy hair and beard (the hair parted in the middle, right down to the forehead—then as now). He looked every way as if he was on easy terms with life. Rather fat, at that time—not large, not small, either. Did Clifford think him small? I should say, decent enough size. And a good voice, too. I could not make much of his talk. He was one of those fellows (do they call them nil admira?—or something that way) admired nothing, expressed no surprises all-hell-knowing, going everywhere, regarding everything, impassively, like an Injun—as if to say: oh that's no news, there'll need worse than that to be news! In the play, talk, walk, the same air,

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carried along without a break."
As to Story, "I do not remember him at all to describe him—remember only that he was there. He is one of the curious memories, only nebulously floating, held."

     George Jones, proprietor New York Times, also dead today. W. remarks, "I cannot say I know him—I have met him, that is all." But, "There was another Long Island fellow I knew those early days—William Mount, artist—character-ist, I call him. He lived away from the city at a place called Storey Creek—lived with his parents. When he would come to the city, we usually went to the theatre together—the Park Theatre, usually—and if anything struck him there, any curious, beautiful character—a head, shoulders—he would whip some paper out of his pocket—he always carried it—and indicate by a few deft lines, which of course excited my wonder and admiration. Mount was in demand those days—painted portraits, sold them. It was long, long ago. He long, long wandered out of my ken. And there were others, too—Tilden, for one. O yes! he was well known in New York even then. Try to imagine him: imagine a very small man, even dapper—clean-shaven, good head, very neat in dress, high hat, a good writer—stately in his talk, stiff, even, but plenty of words—quite elaborate and lengthy at all times—that would be Tilden."

     Speaking of our book of essays, W. remarked, "You seem to be making it very comprehensive. Good, too, if you succeed." Speaking of kindly Inquirer paragraph discussing the Lippincott's birthday talk, "It was in best mood—thorough—and helps, helps. Yes, all such things help the cause."


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