Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, September 10, 1891

     5:10 P.M. To W.'s—found him, writing pad on lap, "putting together," he said, "a few words, on a postal, for Doctor and Wallace." He insisted that they were in London now—I not. He further said, "I hope Doctor takes him the route I went. Does he? The same ground—oh! it is as good as anything anywhere! And a few hours at Niagara—that will do—that will give eyes to the blind! Then to finish the journey—to wind up at Doctor's—the Asylum—the strange, strange life there!"

     We spoke of Wallace, W. remarking, "I can see the necessity of his going off with Doctor—of being convoyed by Doctor. And

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it will do no harm, except perhaps to his feelings—and he will get over that before he is in London long. He made a very pleasing impression on us all here—very—genuine, loving, true."
"His voice?" I asked. "Has he any?" W. laughing, "Has he any? I asked myself that. I can't make it out—find it beyond me to hear him—to keep up any real connection between his speeches. There is something a little odd to me about it. Well, well, well—we are made and made—God knows for what, how. I have written to Johnston, not at great length—and do you, too. He will like to hear every word we send."

     Said he had spent a better day but that his head still troubled him. Referring to Wallace again, "I am sure we have all taken a shine to him." And, "That trip to Canada was one of my best—seemed so completely to possess me—to fill me—I absorbing, yet absorbed. How much of all that will Wallace get?" Wallace had said to me, "I did not come to see America, but to see Walt Whitman." I had replied, "But if you see America, you see Walt Whitman; or you must see America to see Walt Whitman." Telling this to W. he said, "How subtle—how deft a knife! It goes to the vitals!" I told him I had received the poem from Symonds—he thereupon, "And now—what about that poem, Horace? My memory serves me some pretty mean tricks, but, somehow, I do not remember this thing at all—its make, form, how it came, what I could have said to Symonds about it—anything, in fact." "But it was in 1871" "So long ago as that?" "Yes, and you must have received it in Washington." "Surely, if I had it that year, and I suppose I did have it then. But all memory of it is gone, absolutely gone." So I was to bring him the pamphlet. "Will it serve your purpose?" he asks. "Will it come within your wish? You think it is fine, eh? I have no doubt. But I must see it again—you must bring it to me." And again, "And what about the book, anyway? If Dave won't father it printerially, what will you do?" We proposed to get subscribers. W. wondered "if that could be relied upon." Yet felt, "The book ought to be issued: it seems like a part of our schema." I brought up question of new cover for "Leaves of

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Grass"—the green. Would he authorize me to say that he as well as the rest of us had fixed upon that green cover of the edition of 1872? "Yes, I do. You can put it to Dave just in that way. In fact, say we are determined upon it. And here, by the way, are your sheets for Ferguson. Tell Dave we will have about 35 pages to add, prose and verse. Tell him the book will remain as now, but with the new matter. Let him keep the present rough edges, the gilt top. I like that, like both. Yes, I agree—the time has come for another step—quite come. I am glad you touched Dave—sent out a feeler—glad, too, he did not make any great ado in opposition or any opposition at all." Moreover, "I have another word for Dave: tell him I feel that the book ought to be sold—after these additions—at an increased price—say two-fifty or three dollars. There ought to be something piled on, a little, anyway. Though, as a rule, I am not in favor of a costly book." I tried him on the score of a cheap edition of "Leaves of Grass"—say, in paper, at 50 cents. He was rather averse. "And yet it is a thing to weigh. I can see your argument—it is a good one. But I suppose I live out the Baconian notion, that the human mind, constitution, by the necessity of its being, denies, discredits, any enumeration of new truths, ideas, philosophic or social. Anything new, in fact, whether complex or simple—is there, in fact, before the fact, opposed! And I could hardly explain why I object to a 50-cent book. On the other hand, a dollar book—even a 75-center—would commend itself to me. I am rather in favor of it, now you bring it to me in the way you have, passing over the first inward protests. It is at the least a thing to think over. Try it with Dave—yes, do that—then let us speak about it again. Our new complete book, you know, is to be autographed. I have so arranged the title-page, which I suppose will give it a first-hand value."

     W. said by and by, "Warrie went to town this afternoon, and one of the things I commissioned him to do is to go to O'Donovan's, see the bust. Bucke did not say a word about it yesterday, so I conclude he did not go. I am extremely curious to know about the break-up." At the very time we were talking about it

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Warrie came in. But O'Donovan had not exhibited bust, though explaining that when he told Bucke and me that it was taken to pieces he meant it in the artistic sense—not with any absolute meaning. But he admitted he was seriously overhauling. W. said, "It is obvious that he has been dissatisfied with his own work. Perhaps it is a good sign. At any rate we are helpless in the matter—I have my own doubts—culminations of culminations of thoughts on the matter—now, today, if anything will ever come of the experiments. O'Donovan, maybe, is not the man? Eh? But of course there's no use sitting here and making stupid guesses."

     McKay does not regard Reeves & Turner's note as an order. Will not fill till he hears from them. W. gives me an apple for Anne. "This is for the dear girl, with my love!" The second picture he looked for yesterday for Bucke "has not turned up. I generally find that if I particularly want a thing it has disappeared." I asked, "How about fruit—is there anything I can get you?" "No, I know nothing—I am well provided. But I do need stockings"—lifting up his leg, showing me the blue material— "like these—several pairs!" A very singular transition, but I spoke to Mrs. Davis about it. W. himself merry to think of his "absurd shift of base."

     The Ferguson sheets characteristic. Outside his red ink: "Copy for the new pages and some emendations on plates for Walt Whitman's work."

      "Oh!" said he, just as I was about to go, "I almost forgot the most important thing of all—Williamson's manuscript. I have laid it out for you at last." Handing me a package, on which he had inscribed, with red ink, "For our friend Williamson, New York, MSS. etc. f'm Walt Whitman with best thanks and love." Package contained rough drafts "Sail Out for Good, Eidolan Yacht," "Old Age's Ship and Crafty Death's," "A Twilight Song." Also a corrected proof sheet of "The Voice of the Rain" (at first called, "The Rain Enigma"); an army pass, 1864, Alexandria; a photo of W. W.; a North American Review corrected reprint of "Poetry Today in America."


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