Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, March 18, 1891

     5:45 P.M. Not a long talk together but one eminently satisfactory to me—since at last he has consented to have the doctor. I will see Longaker tonight and try to have him over tomorrow. W. admits that he feels no better. Morris had been in, forenoon. "He was here but a few minutes, but I had him tell me what he had heard from Stedman in the lecture, at least the part that related to us. And I am sure, to judge from the samples, he must

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have spoken of us just as we would speak of ourselves"
—laughing— "which is top-loftical enough, as you know!" And, "Morris says more is to come. It is very satisfactory." Morris had left copy of Literary World? "Yes, here it is made up for Sarrazin—I want you to mail it if you will. What relates to us is of little consequence, but the note about Sarrazin ought to interest him—will, I have no doubt." Had he found the Post piece about Ingersoll? "Yes, I have put it in the appendix. It belongs there, don't it? I think you were wholly right: it should not be missed from the book." I wrote to Johnston and Wallace. W. said, "I am glad—you should send them all you can—I cannot write much." As to the book, "I want to take all I can from it for 'Leaves of Grass'—the poems, the preface, perhaps more." This rather dark to me, but I did not pursue. Asked me to get him several more copies of the preface. "I had a present today—a joint gift from Wallace and Johnston—a book on Holland—descriptive—illustrated by Actus"—spelling. "It has attracted me: the letter-press is beautiful, type big. Then the character of the book is in our choicest color—natural—a discussion of the inner life of a people." Showed me the book. Commented on Black and White, which I picked up from the floor. "It is not as good as our illustrated papers—not up to our standard. But the English are cute—they feel their way to things—get to them eventually, through the horriblest conservatisms." Spoke of my trip to New York. "I am very curious to have you go—then to tell me all that you saw, heard—how the whole thing went off. It will be an event—yes, indeed. I wonder if the Colonel will let us have a copy by and by?"

     This letter from Bisbee to me today interested W. greatly:
1620 Master St., Phila.
3-17-'91

My dear Mr. Traubel:

I am glad you called my attention to the Contemporary Club bill. I had entirely forgotten it or not received it or something! However I enclose my check for $5—in payment which please receipt and return.


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As I told you I was tempted to write you a letter about your sketch of Whitman and there are some temptations one better not resist. And to me the temptation to recognize a good thing is only resisted in the fear it may be an intrusion. Your poet has been the occasion of much thought with me ever since I first saw his book. He was so new in every way and I shocked my wife by saying— "He reminds me of Jesus in some way." I never was able to convince her any more than I was able to get rid of the idea. My impression was of a new force introduced into life, and because it killed a lot of sacred prejudices so called—I could not condemn it any more than I could electricity because, through no fault of its own, it happened to kill a man now and then.

There is a lot of him I do not understand but I think the fault mine more than his.

I had always rather think I do not know enough to comprehend the universe and life than to think the universe and life small enough for my comprehension.

Your sketch gives me a better idea of the man and his work than I ever had before. It is a good while since I have read him excepting stray bits, and now the first opportunity I get will be to give him more appreciative attention.

My first welcome to his book was impressionable. My judgement has and will confirm.

He is deep in life and I love life. Others write about life—he writes life. Your article will do much good. It has done me good and I thank you for it.

Sincerely

F. A. Bisbee


Bisbee is Universalist preacher in Philadelphia. W. called it good, then said, "God help him—he has put his foot in it. What will become of him?" W. did not put his Lippincott's check ($50 for March piece) in Bank till yesterday. It came through clearing house to us (F. & M., where Lippincott's draw all their checks) today.

     Got an odd four-page manuscript from his waste-paper. W. gave me an absurd poem on himself—laughed over it. "That is what we made, you see," he said.


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     Mrs. O'Connor writes me this about Kimball's letter, which I enclosed:
March 15.

Yours—(Mr. K.'s) rec'd. Will try to write soon. Let me know when you get reports, and if he does not send, I will.

I think we will come right at last.

Yours—

E. M. O'C.


W. counsels, "Persist—push him: you will make your point."


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