Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, April 2, 1891

     5:50 P.M. Found W. lying in his bed. Not, however, ill. "I came to rest. That was all. I am about as well as I have been, which of course isn't very well. I ought not to complain. Dr. Longaker has not come today—this is his day—but I suppose the storm"—it is raining terribly— "kept him at home. The worst thing lately has been the clutch of my old monster—the grip. And it fatally—almost fatally—affects my hearing. If I talk myself, or listen to others talk, a while, I seem to lose my hearing utterly."

     He returned me the proof-sheets I had left him yesterday and I had brought him others. He asked me, "So you are quite set that the Sarrazin piece, or Kennedy's Dutch piece, should not go in the book? It is quite a determined feeling?" And to some emphatic affirmative words of mine, "I do not quite look at the matter your way, but when I meet with your opposition, and Tom's, and then Doctor Bucke's—all set firmly against me—positive, assured—a bold protest—I confess I am shaken—feel much to be reconsidered—practically, must yield."

     Had he read Blaine's letter in reply to Fava (Italian minister withdrawn on account of the New Orleans imbroglio)? "No, what is it?" And when I repeated its substance, he said, "I would warn the fellows over there, Beware! Beware! Bluster all you may—cry your loudest—that is all right, that is necessary and inevitable—but before you get yourselves practically embroiled, consider your danger—consider, consider! For all you

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take, interest—deep, subtle, inexorable—will be exacted. And payment, and bitterest travail! America is long suffering, quiet, not quarrelsome, plain, democratic—no great armies—not easily aroused; but once stirred to the deep—once touched at the heart—she is fearful—she sways the fates themselves—yes, till judgment is hers!"
And then, "I missed Blaine in the papers. So you think he was poised, clear, strong? I must read the letter—look for it when I get up; it is a thing I would not want to miss."

     After a pause he continued, "Doctor writes me again: he is thoroughly taken with 'Good-Bye'—thoroughly—it is quite exhilarating to see how he freezes to it. But what—what—will be said of it, long, long hence, when I am a person passed—passed—into the night?" I picked up a book from the floor—W. H. Babcock's "The Two Lost Centuries of Britain." W. then, "I have been looking into it—casually—a bit here, a bit there—but it seems to me the more he writes, the more lost they seem—the more dark—the deeper the mystery. I suppose if the charge was made to him he would say, well, that is what I meant to show—that they were dark, lost, irrecoverable!"

     McKay wondered if W. expected him to publish "Good-Bye My Fancy." W. with a laugh, "I wonder—yes, I wonder. I am not averse—it might be just as well. Let us hold it in mind." McKay will be over to see W. to make a six-months' settlement. I advised him to bring the subject up.

     W. announced, "I catch a good item of news—that the Critic will publish a full syllabus of all the eight Stedman lectures. This is a very good item, very." The one report so far ignored W. "Well, it is all according to who writes the report, whether we come up great or small."

     McKay says Ingersoll's lecture undoubtedly stimulated sales of Walt Whitman volumes. "The sale has been better ever since." W. as to this: "We had a right to expect it—it was a legitimate prophesiable influence."

     Mrs. Davis has built W. a shelf between two of the windows.


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     W. said to me of [the following article] that "such curious criticisms have a tendency to stagger good sense," yet "are based in something which is not to be laughed away."We have tried time and time again to find poetry in what emanates from the so-called "good gray poet," Walt Whitman. We have argued that the fault must be ours and therefore, our "soul" being guiltless of "poetry" must, according to time-honored reasoning, be fit for "treasons, stratagems and spoils." But, after all, do Whitman's lines fulfil any one of half a dozen different definitions of poetry? Can the following, for instance, to quote Wordsworth, be characterized as "wisdom married to immortal verse?"

[Whitman's "The Unexpress'd" is here quoted in full.]

This is one of the latest specimens of his "verse," but the poetry is "unexpressed," according to our thinking.


[Chicago Standard, March 12, 1891]



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