Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, August 27, 1891

     4:40 P.M. Having just finished his dinner W. looked well—his color good and his manner bright. Weather continues very hot. At my reminder he gave me the "Good-Bye" for Morse and with it a "sculptor's profile" and a copy, unmounted, of the Gutekunst picture. When endorsing the profile with the big pen he exclaimed, "The gentle Sidney! Never do we forget him." I want Morse to write me a notice of this book for Conservator. W. gave me the circular about Morse's "Conversational Lectures." "They must be strong. After so long an uncertainty, it seems the right thing for Sidney to fall in good luck at last—if it is good luck." Bush writes me about Baker. Something in the letter attracted W., who exclaimed as he read, "Oh! I say 'amen' to all that first page—and this fellow Griffin—why, he is common-sensed and a man of feeling, too. I would like Griffin—like the way he drives at this thing."
The Engineers' Club
10 West 29th Street, New York
Aug 25

Dear Traubel—

I hasten to write. Returned here this A.M. Went early to Ingersoll's office. His partner Mr. Griffin & I had a talk. Baker better—moved last Friday (at least this was the intention supposed to be fulfilled) to the Catskills. Has nurses and all done for him that can be. Out of danger from wound in chest which might have been fatal. But possible danger yet from right arm—upper bone shattered—suppuration and blood poisoning possible but not probable.


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Anderson is a murderous villain. Griffin in his speech said that "a man who after knowing Isaac Baker a day could shoot him was a menace to society and not fit to associate with an obscene babboon." Griffin says Anderson's sister warned Mrs. Baker that day that Baker was in danger and A. went down to meet B. as he was coming from his train. However Griffin blames Baker—says he was a "fool"—lst to carry a pistol and 2nd to carry such a small one which could do no damage and still make it an excuse for the other man to shoot—3rd to have lived in the house when all was so disagreeable. Constant quarreling of the most petty kind. Anderson wrote a threatening letter because Mrs. Baker gave the little girl a peach "gratuitously." I never heard such nonsense as the whole thing is. Mrs. Baker called Mr. B. "Newty" and Anderson like a small boy mocked her. This nothing to shoot about or feel insulted about rather to move away from as being disagreeable like the bad odor from a piggery. Anderson certainly a blood thirsty cuss and most to blame. After Baker had fallen with 3 shots in him then Anderson jumped on him. Anderson is held without bail and will get due punishment if Baker fails. But chances are against this latter. In mean time Anderson will get well cooled off and his Southern chivalrous blood must feel really "insulted" now by his imprisonment. Anderson had a 38 cal. revolver—a killing size that most used—Baker a little 22 cal. that would not kill a sparrow. Anderson either a lst class shot or strange combination of circumstance. lst shot through Baker's chest—over the heart—a pistol shoots high naturally—2nd shot broke Baker's right arm just after he had drawn his little pop gun—3rd shot through Baker's left arm as he held it before his face passing through arm and grazing head. This shot aimed at brain evidently. Griffin has strong common sense, laughs at Baker's foolishness and sympathizes with his misfortune and is thoroughly roused against Anderson and will pursue him to the end. Baker will have all care and plenty of effort for vengeance if it comes to the latter. I can't get away yet. May send small express package tomorrow. Love to all. Mrs. Bush much better but still at Sag Harbor.

Faithfully,

H. D. Bush


"How deft a pen Bush wields! I wonder if he knows he has a distinct talent for that—a quick epigrammatic style? I know it is

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the abomination of the great stylists—they won't have it on any terms—short sentences, what they used to call the lapidary style. But to me it is the nucleus of something grand. Bush shows signs of it here—abundant signs. I am interested—short sentences, climaxes, all that—the French having it, too. And what it says of Baker here—it is the first authentic, first-hand thing we have had—clean-cut—lawyer-like, for Griffin—engineer-like, for Bush—means the same thing. Yes, these damned curious Southerners—they baffle us—a morbid sensitiveness—pride they call it—I call it lunacy, insanity, and it drives 'em into many a well. This story sets many things straight for me—confirms me in something I had strangely guessed. Good for Bush and Griffin! And good for Baker, too, who will come round again."
And then he spoke of "the power and vitality of simple writing," that it had for him a charm "beyond the determined methods of professional writers"—literary showmen. "Such letters as this, for instance." Had he yet written the Chicago poem? "No, but here is Horton's letter. Isn't it free and cordial? One of the reporters at his best! Besides, Horton has been here—manifested his friendliness in many ways."
The Chicago Herald
120 & 122 Fifth Avenue
Chicago, Ill.
Aug. 5, 1891

My Dear Walt Whitman,

I am commissioned to ask if you can supply The Herald exclusively with a poem in relation to the coming world's fair to be held in this city. The idea is to get contributions from the few leading poets of America, and the list would be very incomplete without your name. The West is anxious to hear from you on this subject, and The Herald reaches the West very widely. If you entertain the proposition favorably, please state probable length and price. One or two other distinguished poets have been approached, and have made encouraging replies.

Your Admirer and Friend,

George Horton.




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I quoted for W. from article in Illustrated American on Lowell, which gave Lowell eminence as "a great critic" and author of one supreme ode (Lincoln) but said the people were not interested in him as in Bryant and Longfellow dead and Whittier and Whitman alive—the temper of the article cautious. W. remarked, "That must be William Walsh. I suppose he is there yet. It sounds like. And he has always taken a shy to 'Leaves of Grass.' And I can see the critical feature, too. It seems to go home." But he had "no desire to read the piece." Lowell matter drags on him, he says. Yet I mentioned to him Curtis' estimate, too—which put Lowell on top, both in critical and poetic gifts—leaves no equal behind, etc. W. laughed, "Fools give names, judgment, when angels are silent—dread to speak, dread to think or know or think they know. It is equal to the idea of the great man of the Critic—that even Emerson pales beside the orb of Lowell. No, no, let this go—it will go!"

     Press this morning announces sailing of Majestic. W. asked, "Do you know if McKay is back?" And to my no—I had understood he would not be back till September, "Well, I wish you would stop in there—tell them not to bind up any more copies 'Leaves of Grass'—that we have quite a budget of new pages to go in with it hereafter. I know Dave printed an awful edition. I know why, too"—laughed. "He saw trouble ahead, or possible—my iron hand, my death—that he now sells without contract—don't know what will happen or what minute. And I know he objects to putting this new matter in. But the book is ours—we will have our way. See here," he had been reading his own copy, which I had bound for him a while ago, "I have put things in shape—made the new pages for 'Good-Bye' and 'A Backward Glance'—a new title-page—and this," unpinning a sheet which I read, it enumerating editions and copyrights—closing with the last, '89, of "Good-Bye." "That," I said, "practically copyrights 'Leaves of Grass' entire, dating from this year." He laughed, "Yes, so it does—so I intended. Read the last paragraph there," which I did, it proving a naïve statement of the reach of the copyright from this year to 1905 and then to 1919

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by renewal, etc., etc. "You see," he remarked, "that may bring me Kennedy's accusation again, that I am foxy, deceitful—though I don't know that I should say deceitful—for he would not say deceit. But Kennedy would have a word about it, you can be sure!" And further, "I wonder if there will be any more annexes—another?" "Why not? When fall comes you will be writing again." "I don't know—I guess not. I used to argue that way, but I do it no longer. No, Horace, I guess the old hen is done for—the last egg is laid. I see nothing beyond what we have now. I feel more and more that the curtain is dropped." Then, "I want a duplicate set of 'Backward Glance' sheets—want them paged for the 'Leaves of Grass' plates. The other set will remain paged for 'November Boughs.' I am finally determined to act upon your counsel (which is my own, too), to put 'A Backward Glance' at the end, not at the beginning. And to set the book now into a shape in which, if my wishes are regarded, it will always remain—marked, sealed, with my final word, hope."

     Bucke sends W. copy of Academy containing this: "Dr. R. M. Bucke, the biographer of Walt Whitman, is at present in England making arrangements for the publication of Whitman's last work, 'Good-Bye My Fancy'"—with further items of no value to us here. W. laughs heartily at "Doctor's embassying in England." Also said, handing me a little roll, "I was searching for something today. Among things which turned up were these"—containing Verestchagin's "Progress in Art," copy of United Services magazine and a daily graphic pamphlet "Distressed Ireland," sent over by Johnston.


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