Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, September 25, 1891

     5:35 P.M. W. in his room, his lap full of papers. "The heat continues. Isn't this the hottest spell yet?" Had been reading local news. "The horribilia of Camden politics!" Had Tom sent the whiskey? I had left bottle last night. W.: "Yes, it came: and handsomely, too. Anna came down with it. The sweet child—

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oh! the sweet child! Oh! the sweet children! And I intended writing Tom a little note about it—to give him my thanks."
I would meet him this evening. Could not the note go by me? "If you meet him, tell him. Tell him I am grateful—tell him his good deeds transfix me! And tell him, too, Horace, about coming here—that he is always welcome, that I love him, love to see him. But say, also, that my friends hardly understand—some of them—the real severity of my bladder trouble, that I am often sick for that. And that is one item only. There are days where for several hours at a time I have simply to concentrate every effort merely to hold together—merely to keep up. Oh! I want them all to understand me at that, at my real condition. And Tom especially. These gathering complications, increasing my difficulty merely to live, grow more and more serious." Just now looks quite himself. Admitted he had "a passing fair day." "Warrie is away in Philadelphia, gone to see Ingram's nephew, cousin, something or other, who was on the Saratoga, has left here, taken passage on a boat for California, to go round the Horn. It is a dangerous, hazardous voyage."

     Called his attention to this from Conservator: One of our sailing masters rashly employed a Chinese steward while in England; and now, his boat, moored at one of the lower wharves here in Philadelphia, is watched, each day, in sunshine or shadow, by officials of the government, lest its suspect, its freight, its wayward and wandering child of the Orient—either with or without the sympathy of his criminal captain—should choose liberty, should take our parchments at their word, should connive to have free America soiled by heathen foot! And yet we must not permit Chinese laws to discriminate against Americans coming within their jurisdiction!

W. remarked, "Yes, that's another of the damned stupidities with which free America arms herself—closes herself in—thinks to maintain her self-respect. I don't know anything more contemptible. The only satisfaction we have is, that we have nothing to do with it—that its doing prevails, is current, in spite of us. How 'Leaves of Grass' would wipe all that out!"


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     Would he take the ride tomorrow? "We must wait till tomorrow comes—tomorrow may bring us bad!" Then he said, "I suppose you hear plentifully from Wallace? I do, and he always has a good deal to say about you: his letters are full of compliments of you. But no, I don't feel to insist upon that word—don't like it—but they discuss you, always in your favor, and sweetly, too. Wallace expects to move west—travel a little—starting Monday. What a fortunate length of days! He is constantly felicitating himself on the beauty of the weather—the clear skies—the star-lit nights. And hearing what we do of England, I do not wonder he feels our clear atmospheres a luxury. And he has had a particularly good stretch, anyhow—good for us, even. Days and days and days of unclouded sun, rainlessness, climatic sobriety, serenity." He had written Wallace a postal—gave it to me "to read and mail." "We are under a grave debt to our friends," he says, "a debt daily growing deeper." "But you forget their debt to you?" "Is there a debt to me?" "You don't doubt it?" "Why shouldn't I? Anyway, Horace, we will know and acknowledge our own debts, however others theirs!"

     Showed him Forman's picture. The other night said he long ago had a portrait. Now he questions. "Did I? Now I look at this, I doubt. Taken at Wien, I see"—pronouncing like wine "and splendid, too. I have had to revise several of my notions about photos. Once I thought the best were undoubtedly taken at New York and in San Francisco. Now I see these foreign fellows at least contest with us. And so this is Buxton! How good a face—everything so ample—sweet, too. What a noble head! And the clear eyes! And ears, nose, mouth—the splendid beard! What a feast he must be to know! This face tells me much that I have only been able to suspect from the letters. He is a thoroughly Americanized type—yes, just as you say, Southern. And I expect his hand is as good as his eye. I know he is a fellow I should delight to be with!" After a pause, "But I am more and more secluding myself—am forced to—and to be with my friends, oh! that is past, gone, swept away, the current flowing on, on—God knows to what sea! But, Horace, the picture

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attracts me—puts blood into my old corpus!"
Then I showed him a couple of the Bucke photos I thought he had not seen. As it proved, he had not. The two figures—Wallace and Bucke together—moved him as it had me. "It is the best yet, and another argument for foreign photos! I tell you, Horace, they are rubbing us close! We'll have to look to ourselves."

     In at McKay's today. He paid me $68 for big books to date, I giving him receipt. Again we discussed book, the new "Leaves of Grass." And W. was quite free in the development of his ideas. "I can see the day for dear books is past. I don't know but that Dave will object to the one dollar edition—will speak of it as an injury to the better book. But that is folly on the face of it. We often hear of publishers issuing cheap editions by which to sell the dear. I think maybe it would be well for me to write to Dave—give him my ideas. Then refer him to you, you discussing it, standing for me, giving him the benefit of our talks together. We want to treat Dave fairly, want to give him his due. But we want our own, too. No one is more determined than I am that 'Leaves of Grass' in its new form shall be mine, from head to toe. I like Dave's present book: the letterpress, the paper. But I have a suspicion the cover of the three dollar book should be more elegant or substantial than the model you left with him. Though I leave that in the main for you two to arrange together. No, I would not autograph the dollar edition: we could use the same title-page with a facsimile instead of a written autograph. We must try to make Dave appreciate the unique character of the book—what it stands for (even publisherially) and why I have worked so hard to get it into the present complete shape. If I write to him, he will know you speak by authority." And again, "No one knows so much about this—about my affairs, purposes, anyway—as you do. And you are properly my spokesman. Yes, Horace, will be that long after I am dead."

     I described to W. Wallace's odd suspicion (evident) the night he was with us, when Anne set out oysters, in the half-shell and panned. Recalled Thackeray—W. said with a laugh, "Perhaps if you'd scattered some grains of copperice over 'em he'd not

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suspected!"
And further, "That brings back a story—a fastidious young man had been in the country—returns—says to someone at an early meal, 'Oh! By George! What can you think. Out there in the country they gave me milk strained from a beastly cow—yes, from a beastly cow'—and how daintily he had got it in town, in a pure glass! Was it the shell that worried Wallace? I once boasted, the best oysters were in Washington and Baltimore, but now I think we have them quite as good here. And oysters are my dish. Think of them—their best specimens! I have just had a meal of them, and they went to the right spot. They probably give me more subtle pleasure than any one thing I can eat these later days."

     W. asked me for some blotters, so I went down in the evening, towards eight, to find him busy with ice cream.


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