Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 19, 1891

     7:45 P.M. Quite a good, however short, talk with W., whom I found on his bed, in the dark, and for whom I lighted gas. At once inquired for "news"—then spoke of "betterment" in health. Warren went out for W.'s cream. No one else in the house. Suddenly a ring—which I answered, hastening downstairs—finding on step an old man (living here) who had

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brought a request from someone in Bridgeport, Conn. that W. should transcribe "My Captain" for hanging in a lodge room there. I explained W.'s condition and the stranger departed, W. afterward remarking, "I feel like asking, if they want it transcribed, why don't they transcribe it? Not forgetting the Bowery boy—You want to go to Lindsay Street, sir? Well, why in hell don't you go?" Soon Warrie came in with the cream, which W., after vainly arguing with me that I should have some, ate, and with relish. "I get to expect it—it goes to the right spot."

     W. has a letter from Johnston. "I see Wallace is now about ready to come—yet he will not come immediately. Johnston's letter is warm, as usual. But nothing from Bucke, and Bucke's is our expectancy. Yes, is our best man. What of Tennyson? Yes, I wonder. Bucke himself seems almost sick to come home—the thing seems to burst through every letter. And yet there seems an undercurrent to all that—a something I do not grasp."

     Again fervent in words about Baker, "I suppose he will come around. What can we do to bring it so?" Ingersoll not yet East. W. wants to send him "Good-Bye"—would send at once—but I advised to wait, that it may fall first of all in his hands. "I see, I see," said he. "And we will wait—ought to wait." As to Boston Herald editorial, I asked—is it not significant as standing there advocating not Baxter's views alone but the views of the whole journal? "Yes, that is significant. I suppose I have some friends there. But Baxter must be to the Herald very much what Talcott Williams is to the Press—not head, but of some authority."

     W. much amused at my detailing my letter to Woodbury, so far gone unanswered. W. exclaimed, "Pain! Pain! What a hell of an excuse. Pain! Pain! No, it is vexation, that's all. I never have any pain from such stories, though they have been circulated by hundreds. But I have been angry. For instance, the Appleton Journal stories—one of them—and by a writer who must have known better had he inquired—the story that Walt Whitman always went swaggeringly about, with his tarpaulin hat and red shirt. Which, to get into a great popular journal, go

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among some thousands of people, is vexatious, entirely unjust. And you remember that other story—of the old man who claimed that I wrote to Longfellow asking permission to dedicate the first edition of 'Leaves of Grass' to him. The further details of the story being, that Longfellow wrote back, asking to see the book or specimen pages of it, which I sent, and that finally he acquiesced sufficiently to say, 'The book will prove acceptable, provided you leave out so and so and so,' naming passages, poems. The whole thing idiotic. Yet the old man would undoubtedly—did undoubtedly (for I questioned him about it)—insist that he had the fact from Longfellow himself. And so with Woodbury—he will continually proclaim that the fact was exhibited by Emerson. I see the other Woodberry has a professorship in one of the colleges—is rapidly showing quality, reserve."

     W. also gives me letter from Johnston dated 24th and 25th July. W. calling "particular attention to several features of news" it contained. As to Johnston's trip he said yesterday or day before, "I enviges him the old house on the Isle—it is famous for many good things."

     Happening to mention O'Connor, "His vast treasury of knowledge—his overwhelming and elemental imagination made everything royal." Tells me of "a nut-brown girl—an English girl—right off the prairies" who "came here the other day—bought some of my books. But I could not see her—it was one of my bad days. She was quite young, a mere girl. The folks downstairs fell in love with her—had great things to tell of her ways. Now I almost regret I did not see her—it is tantalizing." I picked up Eckler's Gibbon (the old man had written therein a salutation to W.). "It is curious," said W., "the scrofulous old fellows they were—Gibbon—Dr. Johnson—queer types—fluffy, puffy, cheeks swelled out—clothes to aid—small clothes, damnable oddities in dress—leaving little of the man." And as I turned the leaves of the book, "A little chestnutty, don't you think? It seemed so to me."


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