Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, March 20, 1891

     7:50 P.M. To W.'s, finding him not so bright as yesterday—yet not despondent at all. Looks forward to Longaker's coming tomorrow. "Yes, I have taken the pills—one, two, more of them. They are not without effect." Yet he was not "prepared to give judgment." Slept better last night from the relief of bladder—not up at all. Said, "I am reading the Dutch book—this from Amicis"—pulling it down from the bed. "It has a French, Italian vivacity. It tells the story of travel. Yes, I like it—it has something for us—some true, subtle strokes." No proof for him today, but our printer has started on the prose—one man. W. exclaims, "We are going devilish slow—but no matter. We will get there, and the poems are up!" —this in the way of triumph, strangely leading the way again to an old thought of mine which I had communicated to Bucke and of which he wrote me in a letter received today (dated 18th):
18 March 1891

My dear Horace

Ex-President Cleveland and I were born this day 54 years ago! Yours of 16th was received & welcomed this morning—I am glad things are no worse with you—every day I dread that some bad news

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may come but now the spring is opening and we may hope W.'s condition will improve—still, I must confess to you, Horace, my hopes are not any too strong—the physical bars to W.'s rallying are of course greater than ever before and we may not be able to do much if anything in this direction. Still we must wait and hope. What you say about W.'s being in less hurry with the book now that the poems are set up is curious and interesting. This bundle of poems finishes L[eaves] of G[rass] and no doubt he has been uneasy lest anything should interfere with their setting up under his own eyes. The prose, of course, he cares much less about.


Yes, of course, I am much pleased to hear of the autobiographical matter in the appendix—I have an idea that the little book will be just what it should be—just what we want—I am exceedingly anxious to see it.

No, I did not the least imagine that our book could be got out by 31 May (tho' I mentioned it to you) and I agree with W. and you that next fall would be as good a time as any—let us meanwhile maturely weigh what should go into it. I will go over the whole field of W. essays as soon as I have time and let you know at once what I think should be admitted.

About Life-Saving Reports. Has not Mrs. O'Connor a set of them? Or do you have to have leave to print? I could have told you better than to have asked for "O'Connor's reports"—have understood for years how that matter stood.

Walt has written very little to me lately—just a post card now and again—the last dated eight days ago—it is a gloomy sign.

I would give a good deal to be present at Ingersoll's lecture but of course it is out of the question—I hope you will be able to go.

The first dozen meters are made—we shall place some with w[ater] w[orks] people for test at once—So far the shop is damnably slow but I am trying to reorganize and vivify it.

Affectionately

RM Bucke


I told W. of a convert Bush had made, whereat W. said, "There is a dry twinkle in the man which I like—the slow, sly humor of bright quiet men! Sometimes it is the richest of all—travels most ground. Bush has that honest faculty." Adding, "And that

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reminds me: what did you think of the copyright picture in Life?"
—going on almost immediately to say— "It is rather a forced effect, yet would seem witty to a fellow who has wit—can give it what it has not—meet the humor with a better." Had he heard from Bucke? No. But I had—but did not dare tell him of the letter, which was gloomy.

     W. read, too, with real eagerness, letter I had from Mrs. O'Connor, enclosing one from Kimball:
112 M St. N.W.
March 19, 1891.

Dear Mr. Traubel,

I was to return your letter from Mr. Kimball to-day, but find that I have no envelope large enough, & will get some.

In the meantime since you sent it, I have consulted two friends who were in the office with William, & they both think that Mr. K. will do what he has promised, but that he is slow. They also think that he is as William used to say super-cautious. I also think that he is now at his leisure looking the reports over & marking copies for you. If you do not get the reports in a very few days will you let me know & I will write him & ask that he make a little haste—as time is passing! & life is short!!

I will enclose the letter he sent me, and you can return it.

I am so very tired these days, & the work grows more & more urgent & pressing as they hasten to completion.

Yours cordially,

Ellen M. O'Connor

I felt all that you did when I read Mr. K.'s letter!!

"That looks lovely—right. I am sure you will make the thing wholly move our way." And further, "That was only a little quibble on Kimball's part, that the law might be brought in against you. For these reports, once issued, are common properties, for authors, writers, editors, reporters—anybody—to do with what they think." Referring to some of Burroughs' writings on religious questions (in Open Court), W. said, "No, you

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need not bring the paper. I do not care to read it. That is a part of John which does not appeal to me. His great work was with his intimacies with toads, birds, gnats—out-of-door creatures. Yet he himself might explain his later days by saying he had evoluted: has he?"

     Young Stoddart had left a copy of current Truth at Bank for me to take to W. Contained interview, poem "Old Chants" (made to fill a page—ornamented), and loose colored portrait made from one of Gutekunst's cabinets. Portrait poor—interview rather boyish—meant well by Stoddart—poem seems to have shaped itself nobly in the printer's hands. Rained so hard I could not bring the paper with me. W. satisfied to have it tomorrow. How much had he asked for the poem? "Ten dollars." I said, "A cheap page!" Whereat, "It may be, but I am glad to get that, if I get it—as no doubt I shall." Then, "I wrote for copies of Munyon's World today, and I wrote Melville Phillips, too, to say that Munyon had not paid me the ten dollars he promised for that poem, telling Phillips he should collect it for me. Oh, yes! I have always found Munyon honest. He has always paid heretofore. Phillips you would not dislike. He has the preacherial exterior, but underneath all that is something more—something more solid."

     Advised me, again, "Tell all the folks over there—John, Alma, the rest—that I am still here—holding the fort, as I say, sort o'—with an apostrophe after the o. That I have had an awful tug this winter—this has been the hardest yet—that we have not given up all hope, though much of it is gone. Give them my love—tell them all the good things you can of ways here—all that." And when I kissed him good-bye, he said, "God bless you, boy—God bless you! Take care! Take care!" Adding something, "What would happen to me if anything happened to you?"


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