Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, September 6, 1891

     3:10 P.M. Bucke and I went to ferry in a car and from there took a cab to W.'s, where we found Bush and wife with W. in the

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parlor. We were there full an hour, W. talking admirably and showing no sign of any ill effect from yesterday's drive. W. said immediately after my entrance, "And what of Wallace, Horace? Now, I shall not be satisfied till I hear definitely of him." Bucke put in, "Pssha! There's no danger, Walt—he'll come about all right tomorrow!" W. then, "O yes! I am sure of that! And yet I have the concern, too!" I had found in Philadelphia the boat not yet sighted—indeed, hardly expected today. Then some talk about ships at large—Bucke describing the Majestic and the Teutonic— "sister boats, the top of the heap." W. remarking, "No doubt, no doubt! They must be samples indeed! But where the devil did they get such names? Why didn't they hit upon more significant names—something flavored of the sea, the wind?" W. had remarked to Mrs. Bush that she was "rosier, ruddier than I had expected." And he admitted, "I was not sure but you was a blue-stocking—a Bostonee—and blue-stockings—well, as a rule I don't like 'em!" And he laughed with considerable freedom. After some time some stranger came in with a youngster—telling Warren at the door, "I saw Mr. Whitman at the window—wanted to show him to the child." Stranger said he had been there often. But W. had no remembrance. What was his name? W. wished to know—the fellow replied, "Call me a silent admirer." And even when he left, after nearly sitting us all out of countenance (he had said, "I only came in for a second"), he seemed for some reason to hesitate to give W. his name. Said he wrote pieces for the Post from Del Air. When introduced to me (W. introducing from his sitting posture), he said, "I have heard of Mr. Traubel often. I was in David McKay's the other day (I am often there) and asked him, pointing to a man opposite, 'Is that Mr. Traubel?' but he said, 'No, that is another person.'" And the man called Bucke "Buckey," Bucke exclaiming, "Bucke! Bucke!" Warren several times rose—tried by one hint or another to get the man away. But nothing would work till I bluntly asked Bucke, "Don't you think we had better all go?" When the stranger took his youngster, insisted he should again look at W. and departed, meantime,

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however, after repeated questions from W. and inabilities to find a card, told us his name was Whitcraft. "But I wanted to be a silent admirer!" he said, almost mournfully, as if the victim of a great disappointment.

     W.'s general talk free. At one moment, while we spoke of the Bolton fellows, he said, "Noble men! We take them to our heart! And Wallace—God be with him—God bring him safely here!" Then pulled himself short with the exclamation, "There it is again! God! If I might for a while join the serene band of philosophs I would set to, define that word, make it plain what I mean when I use it! Though I don't know—probably to define it would be not to define it at all—the best things elude definition! But the philosophs! Oh! they never mean with such a word anything even on the edge, the hem, of the damnable Methodistic Presbyterianistic god, stretched on a throne across there"—swinging his arms to illustrate— "on one side and another his angels and saints—all the mysterious humbuggery of what they call heaven! No, no, no—they reach for quite another thing. Often I think, I use the words—I say, God bless you! or God be with you! or God knows! or somehow use God, one way or another. But I see how easily a man may be misunderstood—and I feel, if I have any power to write left me, I will someday go seriously to work to express my right to the words—how I use, express them—what they are intended to explicate. But my conception is so at odds with any churchey theological ideas on the subject, I often think perhaps I should not use the words at all." At another moment speaking of "explications" of the Bible, W. contended, "I hate them—I would rather accept the stories as they literally stand, with such significance as I can then strain from them. This idea of taking the beautiful old myths—stripping them of all national, historical meanings—forcing new intentions upon them—why! damn their lights! The explicators bring us nothing but confusion and lies!"

     Bucke had never seen a picture of Jeff. I took that from the mantlepiece. But W. contended, "The picture you have there is a poor one. I had a better, which I sent to New York to Horace

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Tarr. Tarr wanted it for one of the engineering journals—wanted me to write something to go with it. But I had already written for another journal all I wished to say publicly. But now the picture has gone! Tarr has had it—oh! a full six months."
Bush would probably see Tarr in New York? And W. himself, "I guess I will write—ask it of him—that is probably the thing to do. It is a picture to have, Doctor. The one in your hand falls short of Jeff in every way." W. very amusingly described his condition to Bucke, "My head easily gets in a whirl now. I think it is reaction after the heat—is from the change. In the summer—in extreme heat—I feel feebler, enervated—but more or less comfortable—certainly had not this whirr, whirl, in the head. Now I feel as if my brain had an envelope like the outer crust of a pudding—a dense, mucoussed cover or wrap—and especially when I talk it seems to take active shape. My deafness is directly chargeable to it."

     We all subsequently went to Harned's (W. promises to prepare book for printer tomorrow)—Anne, Mrs. O'Connor and I going to our own ranch for tea, however. Afterwards I got a cab and went for the Doctor, who rode to 537 with Mrs. Bush while Bush and I walked up. Found Morris there. A good talk—much of it by Bucke descriptive of the trip and especially of the visit to Tennyson. Not a sign from the steamer. No telegram. We will all go to town tomorrow together. We must go to McKay and Eakins' anyhow. Mrs. O'Connor goes off to Washington at noon tomorrow. Wallace probably will not see her. Bush and wife at Harned's. Bucke and I will probably have a conversation on his Tennyson visit—I to write down, throw it in dialogue.


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