Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, August 15, 1891

     4:50 P.M. W. reading. The dinner just done—remains still there. "I have eaten heartily enough." But "after all, Horace, I cannot go out—I do not feel to—it would be wrong for me to absolutely force the issue and that I would have to do. Tom was here an hour or so ago to ask whether I would venture out, but I told him I could not. And now maybe he has gone to Harleigh alone." Spoke especially of his enjoyment of the rice pudding, a part of which still lay on table. Referring again to the Costelloe and Smith difficulty, "As I told you yesterday or several days ago, I have put the matter aside, dropped it entirely. The broiled meat, the vegetables, the fruit—I enjoyed them all once, now they are gone, I must not even mourn for them—simply must dismiss them. No, no, no, Horace. I assure you I am the least suspecting of all—haven't the least idea of the why, wherefore. Doctor sends not a beam of light. But do you know, I bet it is some scoundrel story, some infernal lie, got afloat there, detailed, sworn to—coming, the Lord knows from who or how. But

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the affair is dismissed—let it go. It is, I suppose, one of the several mysteries you fellows will one day, many days, have to clean up for me."
W. now looks ahead to Bucke's return. "It is almost near enough to see."

     W. had the Critic in his hands. Therein: "Walt Whitman's note on his new book, 'Good-Bye My Fancy,' though it but fills half a page, is the most noteworthy contribution to Lippincott's for August." But W. says, "I am not satisfied with the piece—could not be well enough satisfied to say that of it. It was thrown together—hastily, as hay is—pitchfork—no order—is even chaotic as it stands—a thing that seems to have no necessity for being—is made—labors along. You know its history—that it came into my mind to write when I understood from you that Joe intended to print a notice of the book—that it was intended originally not to sign—but Joe got it, took to it his own way, the next thing I know he appearing here for me to sign it. He wanted my name over it. He is an inveigling cuss, anyhow—so good, too. I told him—well, if I sign it, it will be to please you, your folks, not because I think I should. But no, he would not have it that way—I was not to sign it reluctantly—not to sign it if I did not want to—yet that he wished it signed. And so between his wishing and lecturing the signature was set down. Now that the piece stands there, it almost seems as if everybody might read our story between the lines. Have you any such feeling yourself, Horace? No? Well, perhaps I am too sensitive. I suppose general readers will not look on it as we do. My main complaint of it is, that it is vague, misty, that it effects no end—hits nothing, so far as I see. It was designed to be essence itself—to focus the whole mass of fact surrounding 'Leaves of Grass,' me—but in that purpose it was a bad miss."

      "Good tidings of Tennyson," he announced, the Critic paragraph describing celebration of his birthday. Then, "Yes, after all, I sent the few lines Baxter wanted—sent them the night of the day he was here, and last night I sent a copy over to the Press, which appears this morning. Here is the paper," which, however, was only found after great difficulty. "The best part

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of it all is Arnold's tribute, and our best feather, too—genuine this time, I guess—for Peter Eckler, who publishes Ingersoll's works, who sends me this volume of Gibbon, which came today—encloses a clipping from the Herald, which flaunted Arnold's letter under a brigade of headlines, main, sub and minor."
I had read New York Sun (Dana?) editorial on Lowell which had contended that Lowell was not a man of the first rank—that his poetry lacked in original quality, vitality, natural throb and emotional ease—that Lowell would himself have been the first to admit it. W. heard. "Did they say that? Certainly it is the best thing so far—true, thoroughly true—I endorse every word of it—it probably fixes Lowell's place." Thought Burroughs' word anent Lowell "very pungent, valuable"—that it, too, had "peculiar weight" as "finally deciding the worth of the man."

      "I have a copy of the Boston Herald—yesterday's. Baxter, after leaving here, wrote a few lines about the call—hearty words, too. But Sylvester could be depended on for that."

     The Press he gave me was blue-and-black-pencilled: "Whitman's Tribute to Lowell — The Good Gray Poet Speaks Feelingly of the Dead Poet's Fame": Let me send my little word, too, to J. R. Lowell's memory. His was the true American's and humanity's spirit in the light of his own convictions, and he wrought them out faithfully. His written pages preserve a certain altitude everywhere. As Emerson says: "We are, at any rate, beholden to kings and eminencies for their grand standard of atmosphere and manners, or suggestion of them." Walt Whitman.

The "old gray" poet wrote the above impromptu on a little slip of yellow paper at the edge of which is printed these lines:

The Epictetus saying, as given by Walt Whitman in his own quite utterly dilapidated physical case, is, a "little spark of soul dragging a great lummox of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around."

Two boys came up. W. welcomed and talked a little with them—gave them each a peach—then dismissed them, kindly, inviting them to come again.


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