Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, April 1, 1891

     5:25 P.M. Quite the most vigorous talk with W. had for long time. Very communicative. He was much amused with my recital of a debate with Bucke about "The Riddle Song"—roared when I told him B. thought I should watch for some hint of the solution before W. slipped away from us. "Doctor would find after all, that it is the old story, 'diplomacy,' again—the secret: that there is no secret. Some of my simplest pieces have created the most noise. I have been told that 'A Child Went Forth' was a favorite with Longfellow, but to me there is very little in that poem. That is one of my penalties—to have the real vital utterances, if there are any in me, go undetected." W. gave me a letter he had today from Ignatius Donnelly. "You might just as well take it: it belongs rather with your collection than mine."
State of Minnesota, Senate Chamber
Ignatius Donnelly,
Twenty-Fourth District
St. Paul, March 29, 1891

Honored and venerated friend:

I have come to know you through your writings and through the warm praises of our dead friend, William D. O'Connor.

I have received your card, through Mess. Schultz & Co. of Chicago, and I shall treasure it as a memorial of one I love and honor.


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I thank you and pray that your days may be long in the land which is proud of your genius.

Believe me to be

with sincerest respect,

yr. friend,

Ignatius Donnelly


Also gave me this curious "pugnacious" note (he called it) from Cassius M. Clay:
White Hall, Ky.
Jan. 6. 1891

Dear Sir,

I have just received your "Leaves of Grass etc." 1890—for which accept my thanks.

I have not found time but to glance over it—& cannot return a criticism—even if such a thing was a consequence.

I am very independent in such matters—and think with Burns "Crooning to a body's sel/Does weel eneugh" and let the world read or not, as it likes.

Wishing you long years yet of health and happiness I remain yours truly

Cassius Marcellus Clay


"I am the target for missiles good and bad—numberless missiles, from friends and enemies."

     Morris had asked me to see Symonds' letter, to quote from it for Literary World. Showed him the letter but advised that he not quote—it would seem out of confidence, etc. W. said, "You were quite right—I am sure we should guard well these inner utterances—often they are only and simply for us." And further, "But use your own judgment—all I can say is this: that you are safer in the position you occupy now than you would be in any other."

     Morris reports to me an expression of Gilchrist's to the Coateses, that there were but two real appreciators (understanders) of W. living today—Symonds and Rossetti. I am surprised he did not say there were three. W. laughed and said, "That is very like

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Herbert, very. I don't know whether I ought to say it, but I may say I think him the most insular of all the excellent fellows we know—though it is true, too, that Rossetti and Symonds are good friends."
W. laughing continued, "But though I accept them both—appreciate them—their weight, mass, of testimony—I should not—no, not at all—express my feeling in Herbert's way. Rossetti is not thoroughly measured even by our fellows—his allegiance means a great deal, has expressed itself in thick and thin. Except for this—his dread of Italianity, which withdraws him often into an English hauteur, reserve—he is one of us. I can never forget what he and Symonds have been to me." Was Gilchrist's mother so Englished as Herbert? "Not at all—no, not at all—she was everything but that, everything—hadn't a sign of it. I had intended saying just now that in most ways she has so far been my most thorough accepter—more open to my purposes, determinations. I might say of her, she was mortised in science—in Tyndallism, Huxleyism, Darwinism—she came to 'Leaves of Grass' stamped with the stamp of the best elements—even with a brush of Spencer, though more from the concrete, experimental workers. I think I have told you how someone wrote me in those early years of her advocacy—that if asked to mention the last person they would point out as likely to go off into a poetic enthusiasm, Mrs. Gilchrist would be that person—not sentimental, yet gifted with the most splendid sentiment—oh! most splendid!" I mentioned to W. some of Herbert's extreme applause of English art (at the Contemporary Club) and said, "It created a giggle." W. then, "It makes me giggle, too—it is very funny."

     W. gave me a letter he had received from Bucke today. "There are things in there to interest you—discussing my prose and poems. See how they appear to you."
30 March 1891

I have today f'm you—letter of 17th enclosing Wallace's copy of Symonds' good letter and (better still—if possible) the "Goodbye" poems—these last I have (so far) barely glanced at but I can see that

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this is a superb cluster—better I think even than "Sands"—but I will write more fully of it later—it is marvelous to me dear Walt, what power and fascination there is still (as much as ever indeed) in your verse while your prose has certainly lost in force, in grip. How is this? is it (I believe it is) that your verse comes f'm something in you—inside the mind—the intellect something perennial—not liable to decay—while your prose rests upon the intellect—the great ganglia—and these feel the effect of time, of age?


It is funny Walt that you always call Dr. Longaker—Dr. Foraker—but whatever you may call or miscall him he is certainly doing you good—at least giving you some relief—may it continue and increase!

My plans at present are to be in Washington (at Med. Supt. Ass. meeting) April 28 to May 1—then put in May at the seaside & in neighborhood of Phila. and go home 1 June. We shall see if I can carry it out!

Love to you always dear Walt

R. M. Bucke



31 March 1891

re "Goodbye my Fancy"


Ruskin says of great writers that they "express themselves in a hidden way and in parables." I have understood this of you, Walt, for many a year and I am bold enough to say that I believe I have followed the subtle winding & burrowing of your thought as far as anyone. I have known well from the first that "there are divine things well envelop'd—more beautiful than words can tell." It is this mystic thread—running through all your poems that has fascinated me from the first more than anything else about them. I have noted the (by most people) "unsuspected author"... "spiritual, godly, most of all known to my sense." And I understand (tho' you will never tell—perhaps could not tell us) where the secret prompting comes from. Well the "haughty song—begun in ripened youth...never even for one brief hour abandon'd" is finished, and the singer soon departs...and the present listeners soon depart. But the song remains and will do its work—that same song is the most virile, potent and live thing on this earth today—and the singer and the listeners they go the way provided for them but they will not get out of the range of this prophetic utterance. I congratulate you, dear Walt, today upon having completed the

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greatest, most divine, most humanly helpful work that has ever so far proceeded from any individual man—and this claim for Leaves of Grass I will maintain while I live.


I am, dear Walt,

With love and admiration

Your friend,

R. M. Bucke


Had he read the Inter-Ocean editorial? "Yes, it seems good-naturedly stupid, non-positive—friendly, however, in a way. I have not read it with any severe attention." Asked me, "By the way, Horace—don't it look as if the bottom had fallen out?"

     Speaking of dinner next May 31st, W. said, "Yes, have it—have what you feel you must—but do not count on me." I urged, "But you will be there?" He shook his head. "It is doubtful—things with me get more and more confused, uncertain, impossible. Where shall I be at that time? Who knows?" But still after a pause, "But the dinner is your right—you think it your duty. And of course have the Colonel there—he belongs there—he has the best warrant of all to speak for us. Yes, I say it deliberately." And more emphatically, after gazing out the window a minute, "That reminds me: the bottom seems to have fallen out of the Ingersoll-Whitman dinner colloquy. What do you suppose has affected Talcott? I have neither had it nor a word about it since the loss of the first draft." Had I not better see Talcott Williams? "Yes, do so—I authorize you to do so—to treat with him for it." I suggested, "How would it do to include that in the book—to send it to New York and have Ingersoll correct and fill in his and you fill in your part, and print it as substantially your discussion?" This seemed to impress him, "Sure, sure—why, it never occurred to me—yet as you present it now it comes full-round. But do you see Talcott first—ask to have it. And there should be no delay."

     McKay had spoken to me of Stoddard as a man indebted to nearly every publisher in America, "they having to look sharp for their manuscript if they advance him money." W. protested, "That may be true—I do not know—but I don't

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believe it is true. I never heard any mention of such a thing before."
And to Joe Stoddart's rather poor opinion of Stedman, "That may speak for Joe, but not for me. Stedman is a germinal force, of his kind of course. I know he is not a great genius—or genius at all—child of nature—or anything of that sort in the first sense, but in the literary trade he is top, very top—puts forward its fairest foot—is warm, true, honest—eligible to the best appreciations."


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