Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, August 21, 1891

     7:55 P.M. Often go to W.'s after last trip to Post Office. Tonight sitting up—reading Symonds. Talked of many things. I asked, "Does it not seem remarkable, how much the critic is made of in Lowell. Won't that fix his place?" W. asked, "Did you interpret it that way? So did I—it is a fact to note."

     Returned me Doctor's long letter. Had written on it in red ink "Visit to Tennyson." "Yes, I read it again. I think I have it down fine. Do you take good care of it, Horace. By and by it will need to be used—who knows? Especially with what Doctor will want to add to it, and his letter to you supplementally." And then W. laughed merrily, "A funny incident—Doctor tripped up on his Americanisms. How did you construe that? I hoped Doctor would state a case." I suggested that he did—the "awfully" having escaped W. Now he took it all in. "How blind—not to see that! But it's sometimes the Doctor's damned writing. How good—good! And characteristic of a simple honest nature. What we will learn of Tennyson after all!—that he was simple as the rest of us!"
49 Comeragh Road, West Kensington,
London W., England
Monday 10 Aug '91

On Saturday I went again to the Smiths' at Haslemere. Mrs. C. was (and is) away on the Continent (Mr. C. too). I had plenty of talk with Mr., Mrs., and Alys & Logan S. Logan desired me to send his love to you he is very friendly to you, Mr. S. only moderately so & Mrs. & A.S. not at all as far as I can find out. Mrs. C. I believe is in her heart friendly but "for reasons" she says nothing. This matter is too delicate to write about even to you but I will tell you all when we meet abt. 2d or 3d Sept. When I returned to town today I found your letters & card of

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24th, 26th & 29th and a couple of letters from H. besides letters from home etc. I am well pleased to see that you keep, if not fairly, at least not markedly worse and I hope to find you "right side up with care" on my return about 2d Sept. (not a very long time now). I have the "Lip." and find that the "Dinner Piece" comes out well—I think it as good an ad. as we have had. But the main thing I want to talk about to you today is my visit yesterday to Lord Tennyson. I was (as I have said) at Mr. S.s and he sent me with a man & buggy to L. T.s place some 5 ms. away. I drove thru one of the wildest and most beautiful pieces of country (in a drizzling rain) that I have seen any where, hills, woods, brush, every-where but with splendid English roads to drive on. Got to T.s place (a fine almost stately mansion) a little before 4 P.M., got out, rang the bell—a footman opened the door, I gave him your letter and my card & said "please give these to Lord Tennyson." He left me in the hall and disappeared in the house—soon he came back and conducted me into a room on the ground floor to the left of the main hall. I went in and sat down, in a few minutes a quite young looking and handsome man came in—he held out his hand to me and said "Good day Dr. B." I shook hands with him saying at the same time "You are Hallam Tennyson?" He said he was and we had a little talk—then after saying that "his father" was sleeping—that he always lays down for a couple of hours in the afternoon & would not be up until 5 o'c., he asked me if I would wait. I said certainly I would wait if he thought L. T. would see me. He said "I don't know, but I would like you to wait" then he asked me if I would step in and see Lady T. I said I shd be very happy to do so. He took me to the next room where L. T. was lying on a sofa—a very pale & delicate but a very spiritual, intellectual & pleasing face. I sat down by her sofa and we talked for a good half hour about Canada & the Canadians—about the late Sir John Macdonald, about Carlyle & Mrs. C. (she said they were not understood, that Froude's book did them injustice—that they were greatly attached to one another etc. She said she had seen Mrs. C. once when some disparaging remark was made about C. burst into tears) and other things—then Hallam asked me to go with him upstairs to see Mrs. Tennyson. I went (of course)—Mrs. T. is a very young looking and almost beautiful woman with an air of considerable distinction. She received me in a half stately but very kind manner and we had quite a little talk. (I had been at least half an hour with Lady T. and it was now nearly 5 o'c.). A little before 5 Hallam asked me to go with him to

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Lord T.s room—I did so. I found L. T. in a large room on the first floor (up one stair, as yours is) containing book shelves and many books—he was sitting on a sofa and as I went in did not see me so as to know who was there—in fact when I went up to him he thought I was Hallam. I spoke to him and took his hand (which he thought strange thinking I was H.) however he soon realized who it was and then welcomed me. We then talked with perfect unconstraint for an hour. T. is not much for compliments, very blunt and downright—he spoke of you with much good feeling but my reception at the house, by the whole family, was a far greater compliment to you than a volume of soft phrases would have been. None of the Tennysons I imagine (I had hardly any talk about L. of G. except with Hallam who spoke very freely and pleasantly on the subject) have read you so as really to understand you or what you are after—but have read you enough to know in a more or less vague way that you are a great force in this modern world. Had I been introduced to the Tennysons by the greatest prince in Europe they could not have received me more courteously, nor had I been a near relative could they have shown me greater friendliness—all this of course was for your sake since they did not know of me by name even. But after all I fear I can give you but a faint notion of the pleasure my visit was to me. The Smiths had said that T. was old and queer and that he certainly would not see me—that perhaps H. would see me etc. etc. etc. So that I was totally unprepared for the reception they gave me. And the Smiths seemed as much surprised as myself when I went back and told them about it. T.s presence is imposing but does not make as strong an impression of great personality as I expected. He is still handsome but so shortsighted that his eyes have little expression. He is not nearly so reserved, careful and dignified in conversation as I looked for—says (with somewhat rapid enunciation) whatever comes uppermost—said (for instance) "there, I have caught you in an Americanism" and then pointed out the phrase. Said "I hate that word 'awfully' they might as well say 'bloody' at once—they both mean the same." Then showing a lot of pictures & busts of self and family (different members) done by Ward-Millar's etc. etc. he said: "The best of it is they never cost me a penny—they were all done for nothing."


I am asked to go back to the Smiths' but probably shall not as time is getting short. I sail 26th inst. & must leave London for the north about 20 or 21, Mr. Costelloe is to be back in town tomorrow and then

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we see what is to be done about the meter. I have the Danish W. W. piece translated—am now at Knortz' have a lot of work to do yet. Give Horace my love and show him this letter, tell him to keep it. I may want to see it again as I have no other record of the T. interview. Tell him it must not get out on any account that would never do. Best love to you dear Walt


R. M. Bucke


     Ingram had been over, left pears for W.—some for me. As to someone's harsh criticism, "It is all right—it is as well—the best thing, indeed—to know it. As a doctor, learning there is a fellow with small pox in the next row, knows more about the chances of his own patient than before."

     Christian Register writes of Lowell and speaks of the two men left—Holmes and Whittier—ignoring W., as it always does. W. laughed it off, "Why should they not? As for us, we are not hurt. 'Leaves of Grass' has a place or has not. And if it has, no more need be said." Boston Herald has recently been piling it on Donaldson for his advocacy of a tariff on art and now quotes the closing passage of the dinner report to show how W. himself confutes Donaldson. W. says, "It is right—that's where Tom is clean lost—lost. He seems to think we can force the growth of American art—make buyers, sellers, all that. No, no, no, Tom, that is not freedom—not freedom." Bush writes hopefully, almost confidently, of Baker. W. accepts it as "an omen." Harned had gone to Harleigh last Saturday but W. "heard no report from him." Would say nothing definite about driving out tomorrow. "I'll see after tonight's sleep—that always decides so much." Had brought him manuscript of what Mrs. O'Connor calls the sequel to "Good Gray Poet." He took it—looked at me—looked at it—saying, "How familiar it all is—the paper, the hand. It carries the mind back, back, back." And instantly commenced to read—reading on—making occasional remarks—now and then exclamations—I sitting there, watching him. He of course wore his glasses. I could see the color come and go in his face. Once he cried, "Noble!" oblivious to my presence. His eyes seem

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to trouble—often he will close them, lift them, sometimes close one and use another singly. Turned the sheets in order, legs crossed, gas light almost full in his face. Hair animated—blown-up—very easy, however. Said, "I have passed a soggy day, but I felt the air, too. There seemed no absolute lull, not the day through at any time."

     As I left sent "love and a kiss to Anne." Burroughs will be down in September. W. thinks, "It will do me good to see him again—noble quiet loving John!"

     I find he reads about everything he sees about Lowell. "I smoke away at it." And yet I doubt if much goes off in smoke—his summings-up seem to include so much.


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