Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, August 26, 1891

     5:10 P.M. W. had laid down. "I have not had a good day, and visitors have been here. It is hard for me to keep a stiff upper lip, driven as I am." I was somewhat surprised to hear this, though the tone was not the least evil. Who had been here? "Several. But one of them, Talcott Williams, I was glad to see. Talcott stayed a full hour." Had he (W.) asked anything concerning the Immortality manuscript? "No, not a word—it was not mentioned by either."

     Returned me Harrison's letter, remarking, "It is exceedingly bright, well-written, cheering—and has a certain value, too. Though it is singularly vague in some ways—unsatisfactory. Evidently the man Harrison has some recommendable traits. Indeed, I like this letter. It seems to have a pure ring, and what he says of Tennyson goes well with some of the other indications we catch. Oh! yes—I guess there need be no doubt but Tennyson is very friendly towards me—has a genuine admiration, of a sort. I have had it by various and unmistakable signs. And Hallam, too, I should judge, is friendly—acknowledges us for something." Gave me his mail—letter and copy of "Good-Bye" for Logan Smith, Illustrated American for Wallace. Forgot to mail Smith's letter yesterday. W. says of the heat, "It pulls on me—seems to stick everlastingly."

     Inquired, "When you went to London, had you no time to take the trip to Sarnia? You ought to go there next time. Sarnia is opposite Port Huron, Michigan. And all the country thereabouts for a hundred of miles is the best I know. It was a real

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joy to me, both for that time and for memories since."
And he spoke of the tunnel that was to connect Canada with the U.S. at that point and of "the unnaturalness of the political boundary," which could not last.

     Bonsall indulges himself in today's Post with an argument which made W. smile and say, "It is curious—and the question is: who is right?" I narrated it. He had not yet read. We are glad to know all about everything, especially such things as particularly pertain to our locality, and are therefore gratified to be informed by Cesare Lombroso, of Turin, Italy, through the medium of the Alienist and Neurologist of St. Louis, Mo., ...that in common with Tasso, Swift, Newton, Cardan, Hoffman, Rousseau, Ampere, Haller, Lenau, Schopenhauer, Pascal, Poe, and others too numerous to mention, Walt Whitman is "a Degenerative Epileptoid Psychosis," which he postulates upon the assumption that "from anatomico-biological analysis of the careers of sane geniuses and those neurotic or insane, of their geographical distribution, of the causes, often pathological in character, of their appearance and of the evil inheritance discernible in their descendents, naturally arose the suspicion that genius has a degenerative origin."

...Whatever opinion may obtain as to [Whitman's] product, does any one who knows the man or his work imagine him insane? Is there a taint of hereditary degenerative quality in his composition, character or conduct which suggests morbidity? It is his distaste for "fumes," his freshness, breeziness, love of the open air and manly comradeship that differentiates his personality and product and makes it a new evangel....

     W. says, "I have been hoping for some days to have more definite knowledge about the Doctor's comings and goings—what he did at Bolton and how soon we may expect him here. Our supposition would be that he sails today, but does he?" I laughed at his suspicions and doubts, and he laughed too, though to say, "That is more and more my disposition—to accept nothing till I see it with my own eyes, have it in the grip of my hands." I rallied him on his general large faith, etc., at

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which, "Never mind about that, Horace," ending it in a murmur of pleasant assurances that I was "made for a cross-examiner—born for one—if ever man was!"

     When I told W. I had sent the Bucke letters to Kennedy, he said, "Now the dear fellow's heart will be glad! He will not violate us—tell our secret."


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