Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, August 29, 1891

     8:35 P.M. Late because Mrs. O'Connor's train was delayed. W. reading Symonds. Has been reading Scribner's. Says, "I am afraid Symonds is sick. Poor fellow! It has been a long time—a long time since the last letter. I wonder if he is any better? We ought to look it up, but how can we?" Asked, then, "Well, how does Nellie look? Well? Good, good!" And she would be down towards noon tomorrow. W. himself looking very well. Had "spent an hour in the parlor, at the window, comfortably wrapped—thanks to Mary." I told him of Current Literature (Sept.)—that it quotes the "Good-Bye" poem, the Lippincott's one-page piece, and something from Mme. Benzon, which induced him to say, "There must be a new hand on Current Literature—some would call it a 'prentice hand, maybe. At any rate it indicates a warming disposition. Won't you bring me the magazine here? I ought to see it—especially as that French woman, who seems to be a power over there, was one of our first famousest

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friends. It is not a bad idea to know how winds blow, for writers as doctors."

     This morning had brought me further notes from Wallace and Johnston. W. "grateful to read them" for "they are so full of a warm heart," and saying, "Doctor will probably be here Tuesday—and Wallace, when? Do you say six days later? That would be too bad. Doctor will not be able to wait. Yet we ought to have all here together—Nellie, Doctor, J.W.W." (Sometimes refers to Wallace as J.W.W.) However, "The sea has its chosen ones—we have no appeal." Endorsed a copy of "Good-Bye" for me to take up to the home to Mrs. O'Connor. McKay just back in town—has a new boy, born 4th of July—the previous child St. Patrick's Day. This excited a good deal of merriment in W., who said, "I suppose the next one will come Christmas." Picture of Holmes in Press—today his 82nd birthday. W. had read the account. "The picture is quite a good one—quite like." Had he known Holmes—seen him? "O yes! Several times. Saw him once in Boston—at Ticknor and Field's old bookstore—when I was up there fixing 'Leaves of Grass.' And we had a little chat—I suppose ten minutes or so. Bright, genial, epigrammatic—a Bostonee of the original stamp—that was Holmes. O yes, very pleasant—very. Genial in a way abundant for all, extending good fellowship right and left, but with the Bostonee palpable, too. 'I am Oliver Wendell Holmes—do you know—you are duly to take notice of it!' It belongs to the whole race—none are exempt, not even Emerson. Though I don't mean to say that it was made offensive—spread out defiantly. Indeed, the real New Englander façades all that—oh!—two, three, four bricks thick—has too much of practical good nature to break the barrier, the reserve—has a certain philosophy that it would not be becoming to make such a possession too plain. Yet it was there. Yes, Lowell, too—Lowell perhaps most of all. But to countervail such examples take a man like Baker—our Baker here in Philadelphia. He was an out-and-outer. He was frankly, boldly, bravely Baker: I am George H. Baker, I would have you know—no shame, no suspicion of reserve—not four bricks

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façaded—no, nor three, nor two, nor one, nor any brick at all. Yet you would like him—his heart so took you up, beat close to you. He had such an air of genuine love—royal in his ways, offerings—as if he was always addressing you—take this pearl, take this gem, take my horse and carriage—use them—take house, lands—take, take—my best linen, the whole entourage is yours—take, I give. That was the noble air of Baker. But back of all this, of the Bostonee, there was no such magnificent spontaneity as we find with the natural characters everywhere. Look at the Colonel—how eminent for his great nature—red with nature's first gifts of blood. And I often think of the scientists—in ways, for reasons, the highest type of all, surpassing all. Darwin, for instance—our own Brinton. Yes, I think of Brinton, surfaced by philosophy—the best sample I know. Not the first sign of imagined personal splendor, unconsciousness. And Darwin, giving to us, our time, the race, perhaps the most, richest, ever yet extended by any one hand. Oh! the very simple-heartedness of the man a gift in itself, inestimable. Think of these Darwinian—yes, I may say, even the Brintonian virtues as set off against the Bostonee. It is beyond all that speech can tell."
I quoted some passage from Ingersoll about Darwin—his simple rational nature and love of integrity—giving so much of truth, yet hardly daring to use the word (this its essence). W. exclaimed, "It is grand, grand: the Colonel sees it. But why shouldn't he? He is himself a choice tree in the same forest." Further, "The difference is, the one seems set to a spot—to swear to it—to see no other; the other seems to have taken a complete sweep of the globe—gone round and round—and come to the same spot. And yet that difference is everything, everything. I don't know anything that has gone higher than Darwin—the noble, the exalting; Darwin is to me science incarnate; its spirit is Darwin, Darwin its." And further, "The typical Bostonee, the Bostonee in flower—knows nothing of this—surprised to have it mentioned."

     Talks with Mrs. O'Connor delightful—full of reminiscence—of her tender love for William and for W.


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