Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, March 26, 1891

     8 P.M. W. continues in apparent good condition—talking freely and vigorously. Was he not much better? "I do not know, would not like to say. But I suppose it is better to be no worse!" Had not the catheter helped him? He seemed to doubt, "I do not think I can hardly admit that, but the doctor—his general knowledge of my condition—they have helped me, I am sure they have. And that is much of medicine's secret, however we may disguise it." But he is undoubtedly improved. Longaker over again today. The bed all covered with manuscript. W. getting more copy ready. We debated some minor points. I brought him over three prose pages. Lost plates of the preface turned up today. W. "overjoyed," he remarked. Brinton in to see me and inquired after W., who spoke of him as "the good fellow," etc. I had not with me, but reported to W. this letter, received the other day from Arthur Stedman:
The Century
7 West Forty-Third St.
March 22d 1891

My dear Traubel,

Your kind letter in at hand, and I hasten to say that Mr. Whitman's message has been duly delivered to the Governor, who was much pleased thereat.

In regard to the inquiry he says that the lectures will be published in magazine or book form, probably within a year from now.

His health seems to be visibly improving.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Stedman




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He said, "Yes, I am glad you wrote him. I know Stedman is not a great, splendid, flourishing genius—anything of that sort—but he is a man of good generous capacity, full of literary treasures, intellectual, a critic, in one line or two master. W. I honor and respect him for his noble instincts." Further, "Stedman always was a jerky, nervous critter, like our friend Morris here." Afterwards, "It was Alden, of Harper's, as you know, who refused the 'Sunset Breeze' poem as an improvisation and Gilder who refused the 'Jocund Twain.' Yet I welcome all that, too, on the principle, as Bucke would put it, that if our light cannot be kept burning in whatever gale, then it deserves to be snuffed out." Ingersoll had said to me, "I like Whitman for his don't-care-a-damn manner. He started out knowing what he wanted to do and has stuck to his intention." W.: "I should expect that from the Colonel: should expect that his magnificent appreciation of individuality would grasp that side of us."

     Talked about Symonds. Did not W. have much hope of the autobiography mentioned in the letter to Wallace? No positive response, only to say, "With the orthodox literateur even Emerson, Symonds, have much in common, etc. They never come down from the bench," etc. I had written Symonds today, told W. since of the things I said. He wished he could have seen my letter. I told Symonds about the "master" question, that none of our fellows here ever used such a term to W.—that W. and I differed somewhat as to sense in which Symonds and other Europeans applied it, W. contending that it was only a student inclination, I that it was not alien to the feeling with which others address Jesus as master. W. then, "All that will be immensely interesting to Symonds. He will undoubtedly enjoy it. Perhaps as he gets sicker and older, these dry leaves will fall off. He will not be afraid to let his horses go." I did not agree with Kennedy that it was "cowardice" in Symonds to feel so warmly by letter and in private and to not let this warmth penetrate his printed allusions to W. Then W., "Nor do I, I think you are right—that is the explanation. It is the critic in him which makes him judicial, cautious," etc.


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     W. questioned me about Stedman's reference to Hartmann. "Hartmann is a dangerous rascal to have roused," he said. "He has some things in common with Thorne, and his lies are the dangerous lies, made up, en passant, from talks with me—just enough of truth in them to make trouble. He is a big, broad savage—always hungered to be au fait with the literary group—has a good eye—is a quite determined pursuer. I wonder how the Poet-Lore people came to their disagreement with him?" And again, "It is pretty bad luck to fall into such hands—to be reported by a man who lies from the mere necessity of lying."

     He laughed over Scovel's forgery of the Arnold letter. "It is still going about in the papers—every once in a while it turns up. I meet it. By and by it will fall under Sir Edwin's eye, and then who's to pay the racket? Hartmann is a fellow to make the fur fly—to create a fight. He don't care how, by whom—just to have the fur fly—which is poor satisfaction to anyone with the first traits of manhood. It indicates a fundamental venomous disposition." It is rarely he speaks so positively of Hartmann or anybody else.


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