Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, September 21, 1891

     5:20 P.M. Found in a pile of mail on W.'s table a book for Johnston (N. Y.)—"Good-Bye." Johnston wrote me, 10th, for it. I spoke several times to W.—yesterday positively—when he said, "John ought to have it—shall have it. It is small enough recognition of his good soul for us!"

     Also gives me letters—Wallace (18th)— "The note will show you at least what he is doing. He is going along in the life there, content enough."

     And two letters from Bucke (16th & 18th). "Doctor is tickled with the profile picture. Well he may be. It was a discovery—a flash of life on paper." And again, "Doctor's note of 18th will please you. You must have said something to stir him up on the subject of my health. And he is sending a lot of things to Tennyson, it seems."
18 Sept 1891

I have your card of 15th and today your good letter of 16th—thanks, too, for the scrap of ms., I have duly filed it away in its place in the great W. W. collection. Longaker (after having, it seems, "gone over" you pretty thoroughly on 15th) has much to the delight of Horace and all of us pronounced you to be in wonderful shape "considering"—in fact he was surprised to find you so well and we are all cheered up accordingly. I sent my book with a note to Lord Tennyson

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and have other things to send in due course (I sent him the Lip. Dinner piece while still in England). I have Critic of 5 inst., thanks. Very glad to hear so good report of your sight. I was somewhat uneasy about it. I am thoroughly enjoying Wallace's visit.


Love to you

R. M. Bucke


     W. enjoys all the letters from London. "They bring me the North—the fresh nights—the free sunrises." Wallace is faithful—writes him, I suppose, daily. Note dated 16th full of affectionate greetings:
Insane Asylum, London, Ontario
16 Sep. 1891

My dear Walt Whitman

Our friend H. L. T. set rather a bad precedent immediately after my coming here! For 3 days in succession he wrote each day to the Dr. & to me. But yesterday no letter came at all. Of course, this was only what one could reasonably expect, but after so much pampering & indulgence one becomes unreasonable. And, as he said in his last letter that you had reported a miserable day, I cannot help feeling anxious about you. However, the morning's mail will soon be here, & we shall perhaps hear something of you—or, more probably this afternoon.

I intended to write to you last night but hadn't a good opportunity.

Yesterday morning was a little showery, but warm. Dr. & I drove down to town, & amongst other things called at Edy's. The photo en of Dr. the other day was not a success (Dr. had moved) so he had to sit again, & two negatives were taken.

Yesterday afternoon the annual athletic sports were held here, on the grounds in front of the Refractory Wards. The weather turned out gloriously fine, & the sports were very successful & went off without any hitch. Quite a crowd of spectators, officials, employees, patients, etc. & the whole scene was very pretty & picturesque. The patients were entirely well behaved & all seemed more or less happy. The relationship between all classes entirely human, simple & kind.

The Revd. Mr. Richardson had promised to come, & I had quite looked forward to meeting him as the chief event of the day for me. I knew that he had met you here—is mentioned in Dr.'s book—& hoped

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to get some reminiscences & facts from him. But I was disappointed. He was very pleasant & kind & I had quite a long talk with him, but found at the close that I had got nothing of any importance. God speed him & good wishes to him!


Quite a lot of people here to tea. Revd. & Mrs. Richardson, another Revd. ("Short"?), Dr.'s brother, W. J. Gurd, Mrs. & Miss Bucke from London, another niece, also Miss Bucke & two or three little girls.

Dr.'s brother & W. J. Gurd had just returned from a month's "camping" in Muskoka & were quite enthusiastic about it. Some talk too of Canadian politics, English ditto, which I quietly listened to & noted.

Later four of us drove off in carriage—Dr. calling in at Dr. Sippi's—I going on to town with his brother, & W. J. G. & afterwards driving back to Sippi's for Dr. Most lovely moonlight night—Jupiter large, lustrous, regal. Arriving at home Dr. got his glass out—could see three of Jupiter's moons, one with the naked eye.

This morning eventful to the household here. Pardee went away at 8 o'clock for Toronto—a youth from Toronto (Archie, the Inspector's son), who has been staying here for 7 weeks—along with him. Miss Gurd (Mrs. B.'s cousin) to Sarnia, Mrs. B. with her for the day.

Just as I had finished the foregoing Dr. called for me to accompany him to town, & brought me two letters from Traubel. I was delighted to find that you had been out on Sunday with beneficial results.

What a wonderful fellow H.L.T. is! That he should be a devoted son to you is not surprising; but that he should be so zealous, ardent, & affectionate towards us is astonishing! I wonder continually how he gets time for all his work, & energy to support him through it all. But he is a true son of yours in his generous comradeship.

He forwarded me a letter from my old school chum, & dear friend always, Fred Wild. "Tell Walt," he says, "that I love him all the time." And that he means it, from the bottom of his heart, I know very well.

I write this at 1:30 P.M. Day gloriously fine—sky almost cloudless. I wish you were here to set on the Verandah & to look out on the beautiful grounds in front, with their dappled shade & sunshine.

But the messenger will be here soon, & as I want to write to Traubel before he comes I will close.

With a heart full of love to you always, & all good wishes,

Yours affectionately

J. W. Wallace




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Williamson writes acknowledgment to me of manuscript and book.

     W. remarks the number of books he gives away—yet that "it is the only way I can pay my friends. Indeed, this don't pay them: I mean, to acknowledge them." W. hands me among other "curios," he calls them ( "letters out of date," he names them, too, and "letters underfoot"—they so often are picked from the floor), a letter from William O'Connor, August 17, 1883; another from J. B. Gilder (January 15, 1891); and a letter from J.W.W. while still in England (August 7).
Washington, D. C.
August 17, 1883

Dear Walt:

I enclose the letters from Riley and Bathgate you sent me long ago, and which should have been returned earlier, and would have been but for the maelstrom confusion in which I have lived the sad year past. All the letters you told me to forward to Bucke went on to him except one, which was overlooked, and has been sent lately.

I was very much touched with what Ruskin wrote, which seemed to me to be very strongly on your side. You appear to have a different impression, judging by some remarks you make in a letter of last October, and perhaps have some other information. It seems a great thing to say, as Ruskin does, that your book "is deadly true—in the senses of rifles—against our deadliest social sins"—and also that its fruit is "ungatherable save by loving and gleaning hands, and by the blessed ones of the poor." I understand this as a high endorsement, coupled with a bitter indictment of English society. But maybe mine is a misreading.

I never told you about Macaulay's article on you in the "Nineteenth Century." It is certainly very fine, and I greatly enjoyed it. His reservations were completely oversloughed by his eulogy.

Do you hear any more of Rolleston's German translation?

The Nation this week (I have just seen it) does not print my reply, which may have come too late, and perhaps will appear next week.

Your postal card of the 14th came. What a good time you must have. Well I know that delightful Germantown landscape, and the unmatched Wissahickon.


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The enclosed about the Nirvana is good. I never believed that the Buddhist meant annihilation.

I sent Tucker one of Bucke's books, in souvenir of the gallant stand he made for you against the authorities. Did you send Mrs. Ritter one? I want to avoid sending to anyone who may have received already. You have probably sent one to Mrs. Gilchrist.

Goodbye,

Faithfully

W. D. O'C.


     Bucke left Logan Smith's letter to W. (August 8th) on our mantel—just found it. W. evidently gave it to him anent speculation as to breach with the Smiths.
Friday's Hill House, Haslemere.
Aug. 8th 91

Dear Mr. Whitman

We have just had a visit from Dr. Bucke, and we were so glad to hear from him all about you. In furnishing our house here we have got three of those New York photographs of you framed together, hanging in our dining room, and it almost feels as if you were with us sometimes. It is delightful to see Dr. Bucke again, he is so fresh and original and individual in everything he says and does. I am taking this summer as a rest. I have finished my work at Oxford, and in the autumn I shall begin writing. I feel that there is a great deal to be said about America, about England and Oxford and many things.

The Costelloes are abroad now. Mrs. Costelloe has got tremendously interested in art,—especially Italian art, and means to make art criticism her life work. There is a new school of art critics, who follow an Italian, Morelli, and judge pictures, not so much by the documents about them, as by the techniques of the painter. It is most interesting and there is a great deal of work to be done in it. We are all well, and send much love

Your affectionate friend

Logan Pearsall Smith


     Bucke writes me, September 17th, enclosing his copy of Bolton farewell report. (I have a copy of my own—beautifully done.) Submits several propositions. Should it go in book?—as his

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speech?, etc. I have written that my first impulse is to negative all except his speech. What was W.'s feeling? "I have none—I have not thought the idea out. Indeed, only get it from you this minute. I guess I agree with you about the Doctor's speech." Wallace himself counsels that apart from Doctor's speech the Bolton matter, if it be referred to at all, be boiled down to a few lines. Doctor's and Wallace's many letters give us insight into their life there together.

     W. gives me Wallace's letter of 13th. Wallace seemed to expect something from a meeting with Rev. Richardson, who had seen W. the year of the Canada visit. But Richardson is empty and Wallace found it out. Bucke speaks in letter of 13th of the "disillusionment" of J.W.W. It will not happen. He is as bad as he was! etc. etc. W. laughs, "God help him! Poor fellow! But rich, too, in his own splendid nature." Wallace's mention of a "maternal" note from W. touched us both, so sweetly was it couched (September 17th). Wallace sent me one of Johnston's notes to him, full of good words of me. Generous forgiving comrades! It is daylight for me. And Wallace says—we can do little, but we can cheer you who do do! A latch on the door of the infinite! Wallace's letter of 16th shows some anxiety for W.'s health. A silence on my part—and their solicitude!

     In letter of 18th, Wallace asks how to get six copies of pocketbook edition and pay for them—having W.'s inscription in three of them. I at once wrote: "Real easy—I will see to it." So I took six copies of the book out of the box in the corner, then to W. with a list of the names I had plainly written off, he saying, "I am only too glad! What wouldn't we do for those fellows! They open us a thousand unsuspected hopes!" Will do tomorrow. Likewise in this note some description of the occasion—the origin—of Bucke's speech at Bolton. And last from J.W.W. a note written Saturday—all then going on nobly—drives, talks, loafs, etc. In letter of 14th Bucke gives some impressions of Wallace. Bucke says, won't get down to hear Bob this time (October 12). No, I had no idea he would. Hope Wallace may be here to go with me. Bucke asks three questions (17th): Had I read

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translations? Had I extract from Lucretius for front of book? Could I not send him Symonds' poem?—to read, simply. Have written Burroughs to say, J.W.W. had been with us a day—went west—was expected back early in October. Would Burroughs like to time his own visit to meet J.W.W.'s? No answer yet. No acknowledgment from Ingersoll, either.

     W. had made up a big bundle of mail: money for Mrs. Heyde, a postal for Bucke, and so on. Confessed he was feeling better. "I am a wreck—afloat, but in a calm—not out of danger, away from storm (the possibility) but for the present secure." We have been seeing something of a paper from Conway—discussing freedom in America and England—his key idea being: English society is the result of evolution, American of revolution. W. laughed mildly, then grew serious and said, "That is one of Moncure's strange notions—and he will stick to it. It stays in his head, and the longer it stays, the bigger it gets. By and by it will possess him. You know his crotchet about the Presidency—that the Presidency is an obstruction—unnecessary—ought to be abolished! Oh! He would wipe it out forthwith! He's got that theory—it plays the devil. It assumes more and more the appearance of a tyrant—an octopus! Grows like a bit of debris lodged in the river—the currents flow on—add to it—fasten it—till in time it is a part of the place! But Conway is not a big light—shines only a bit of a way across the shadows. In this Presidency business he forgets the most important points. If he sees any distance into 'Leaves of Grass,' if his friendship for it has a solid rock to stand on, he must know that this Presidency—like everything else—is not established—cannot be justified—in itself alone, or at all, but with reference: with reference to a thousand things surrounding, coming before, to come after. That would be the message of the 'Leaves,' if any: relationship—the fact of relationship—everything with everything—nowhere break—nowhere cut, lesion. Indeed, I often think to myself, perhaps this is the kernel of it all: infinite relationships—the immortality of relationship—a thousand things to make one, one to make a thousand. Sometime s I wonder if

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'Leaves of Grass' has any one lesson, any one purpose. Whether it hasn't a thousand, a legion. But this—this 'flowing filling sense of relationship' as you call it, Horace (and it is nobly said, too)—oh! it enters, explains, contains all—I don't know but chiefly makes us what we are. And that is queer about Conway. He is so cute—so sharp—so brilliant, even—these central things, you would think, would come to him perforce. Anyway, here, now, he is all wrong—all."
But this was kindly said.

     Then we debated new "Leaves of Grass" again. W. of his "desire to cement all, bring all together"—doing it at once—for "these days are days the most uncertain" for him. He lives, he says, "in the perpetual sound of the water!" and things delayed, put off, might find occasion and man irrevocably parted. "Let us push on. The matter may seem unimportant to some—to Dave perhaps—but to me it is the rounding of all that has gone before—the last, but vital, touch." But if Dave had to throw away some title-pages already printed to make place for this new, "it must be at my expense, not his, and I want you to make that plain to him." And further, "When they impose these new pages, I wish you could be present. You know more about the book than anyone, now—more than I know, even. It is at your finger's end." And, "The association has been so long, so close, so subtle, so everyway intimate loving, how much of the book as it stands is yours, how much mine, nobody could tell—not I, certainly." He wished a duplicate plate of the title-page— "for my own use," he said, "for reasons." I have yet to get duplicate sets of plate proofs when the pages are cast. Sat down there and wrote a postal of instructions to Myrick.

     Letter from Mrs. O'Connor. W. read:
112 M St. N.W.
Sept. 19. 1891

Dear Horace,

I am able to send you the '79 "Report" which gives me pleasure, as it will save you some work. In the same package I send the life of Mrs. Gilchrist, you did not say if you had it, but I inferred that you had not.


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In all that book W. D. O'C. is once mentioned, & yet he as Walt's staunch defender, & champion had written reams, & given him the immortal name of "Good Grey Poet." Even William wondered that he was so wholly ignored, & he was very modest about any claim.

Did Walt enjoy the flowers that I left request for Warren to get for him? Glad he is so well. I am nearly tired out with the packing, assorting & destroying. It is awful work!

Love to you & Annie & Walt.

Yours—

E. M. O'Connor


As to whether he had enjoyed flowers: "O yes! Nellie! It was a precious sweet gift. Warrie brought them that day—then brought more several days after. Yes indeed—they were odors—oh! odors, bringing me all the fresh fields!"

     Morse writes for a copy of "Song of the Open Road," uses it for reading in his lectures West. W. said, "I will find it. He must have it—must not suffer for it. The gentle loyal superb Sidney! The debt for that alone"—swinging his arm over towards the bust— "is beyond our power ever to pay!"


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