Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, August 20, 1891

     7:50 P.M. Warrie came into the Bank in forenoon with a big fat envelope, addressed in W.'s hand, and with his "from Walt Whitman," containing long letter from Bucke describing his Tennyson visit and success and with it a note from Logan Smith. Warrie said, "He told me to say to you, he thought you would like to see it at once. He wants it back." Bucke speaks definitively of the visit—hardly with as much detail of conversation as I had wished (he talked with Tennyson an hour) and with added words on the Costelloe-Smith difficulty. But I found at home a letter from Bucke which seems supplementary—an impression of Tennyson's manner and make—rather close in line and strong in color. Now to W.'s and these letters became mainly our subject matter as we talked. W. read mine very carefully—as he handed it back saying, "That is strong—it is valuable, too: I can pierce it through and through—realize from what ground the Doctor writes it, believes it. But no, no, no, no—I would go further, much further. What he says does not satisfy me, does not take us to the end of the story. There are many stars, differing in glory, but all glorious. Do not forget it, Doctor, do not forget it. But how vitally the Doctor writes. You shall have the letter to keep for him, as he asks. I only wished it back so I might read it again, more particularly, tomorrow." Did he wish a copy? "No, after I have read it again—that will be enough. Doctor will probably want to add some notes to it—to use by and by, say 15 or 20 years from now—when everything will have taken other settings—when it can be harmlessly done. I noticed particularly his injunction of secrecy. All right, Doctor, we will divulge nothing! I ought to hunt up Alys Smith's letter—see that that is kept, too: she sent me a full account of their visit—lots of particulars—evidently carefully preserved. How much more Doctor will have to tell us! Out of that hour's conversation, as you say, must many things have come—been worth remembering. And that Carlyle touch—it is interesting—more than interesting. Froude? Oh! he seems to be one of the

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stubborn men—set, a real John Bull—who, once having got an idea, hold it through thick and thin, through good or evil—will not hear to anything else."
He felt as Doctor had said, that, more significant than words said, was the general air of friendly welcome. "I am not for sure myself how to take it all, but it seems good—good—and when Doctor is here to fill it all in, I've no doubt we'll have the light we need."

     Johnston (letter 12th) wrote warmly of Wallace's understanding of W.—that J.W.W. was as well prepared as any man in England to speak of W., and probably would, present difficulties of purse and health overcome:
34 Manchester Road
Bolton, England
August 12th 1891

My Dear Traubel,

I have just finished reading your article in the Camden Post of August & feel all of a tangle with pleasurable excitement at the honour you have done us in writing so flatteringly about us & for the proud position you assign to us among English Whitmanites.

My heart's best gratitude to you, our loyal & true hearted American friend!

Such words as yours go straight to our souls & while they reveal our own unworthiness they do not fail to arouse in us a desire to be more worthy our exalted privileges. Little did I imagine when I returned from America this time last year how pregnant with blessings the coming year was—that it would result in such close intimacy with our beloved master & in the formation of such valued friendships as those of yourself & Dr. Bucke. Thanks be to God for all the benefits wh. we have recd at His hands!

And surely the chiefest among these are our dear friends who are grappled to our hearts "with hoops of steel."

I shall send one of the papers to Wallace & let the others see the article & proud men will they all be, I can assure you.

If I might venture to criticise the article it wd be to object to the respective places assigned in it to Wallace & myself. 'Tis he who is the "chief of the apostles" here, the rest of us lag a long way behind him, perhaps not in personal affection but in depth of insight into & in all-round

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intellectual appreciation of all that is in Whitman; & to him it is that each & every one of us owes his original introduction to & elucidation of L. of G.


Sure am I of this that no one in England at the present time, & that includes Dr. Bucke, is more competent to write about & to expound Whitman than J. W. Wallace, & were his health more satisfacatory & had he leisure he could produce a book about him which would be second to none. You may think these strong words & that I have an exaggerated estimate of my dear friend's abilities, but I only speak what I know. He himself has long contemplated writing an article in wh he wd. say things wh have never been said by anyone yet & he has told Walt so— "by God it is in me & shall come out!" but his hitherto state of health, his poverty, & his lack of leisure through the necessity of working for his daily bread—he is an architect's assistant, the chief of the staff in a large firm—have all obstacled his cherished inclinations.

Yesterday was his birthday & we are rejoiced that he accepted the first instalment of our Testimonial from us. So that one difficulty in the way of the American visit is overcome. Perhaps in time the others will vanish too—nay I am certain they will; for surely it cannot be that he & Walt are not to meet on earth!

Do you think you cd manage to send us some more copies of the Camden Post—we sd like 2 dozen if possible—& I will pay you for them.

I hope the heat has not prostrated Walt much.

Dr. B. due here 23rd—we expect another good time.

With love to your dear good wife & yourself

Yours affectionately,

Johnston


W. says, "I suspected as much—I suppose he will write." And as to J.W.W.'s understanding of "the message of 'Leaves of Grass'" "I do not know—no, I do not. But it is as well to know to have Johnston tell us about it. Time will demonstrate how nearly he hits the truth." Johnston's reference to tomb [in letter of August 11] caused W. to say, "It will justify itself—the tomb is one of the institutions of this earth: little by little the reason will eke out. Yes, it is 'for reasons.'"

     On the table, untouched so far, the Immortality piece. "I ought to chastise myself for having forgotten it. I confess it had

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quite slipped my mind. I must take it up. But somehow, I hardly write at all these days—have stopped altogether, except for a few brief notes. I must write Logan Smith tomorrow—only briefly, though."


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