Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, April 8, 1891

     5:20 P.M. W., having just finished dinner, seemed in excellent condition—speaking freely and well. Yet complains of weakness. No proof for him today. Has been writing some further matter, "some final items," he says. I examined and read—they lay on

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the bed. Returned me Atlantic. "I now have a copy from Mrs. O'Connor—can use that." Was he disappointed in the piece? "Not in the least—not at all. The only criticism I would pass on it, if I sat here with William over the manuscript, would be this: that its purpose was too obvious, that its ethical aim too continuously showed its head. And I do not know but this was William's weak point, anyhow, if he had any—that this was the weak spot in the embankment. And in it I know he outraged his own best convictions, as well. The novel with tendencies has a dangerous weapon in hand—a weapon best not touched." But after a pause W. went on, "I only say this because you asked it. Some things are better not said—best thought and left to others to think, if they must, or not, if not—unhunted-up, unsummoned—and so of this criticism."

     Referred to O'Donovan, "Doctor asks me about him: I shall say what I know, which isn't much. Herbert tells me O'Donovan is quite a fellow, stands well among sculptors." I spoke of a fine $20 bill I had seen in the Bank—I thought the most beautiful note I had ever seen. W. right quickly drew a $20 bill from his vest pocket and said, "I will ask you to get one for me." I said, "Perhaps you won't like it at all!" "Yes, I shall. I am sure I shall like it."

     We spoke of singers. W. said, "I am writing something about them now—the old figures I knew." Then, "Wagner? Well, I know little of him, though much about him. And I am confident that I should have seen in him all that makes him grand—a towering figure." Further, "Your and the Doctor's eloquence have clean converted me." Some bits from Ingersoll's Shakespeare address were in Press. W. read—now said, "I liked them immensely—and now the paper is on the way to Bucke—he was howling so much to have it or any edge of it." I told W. I would say to the Truth people that he was willing though he could not write the review. "Yes, that is a good idea—I am perfectly willing."

     Doctor's letter of 6th has this item about W.: "...a postcard from W. in which inter alia, he says 'Am tired and deaf, am sitting

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here alone and glum as usual.'
Poor old fellow he is having a bad time...."

     Some mention of dinner in Doctor's letter of 3d. This is his word: "I note your idea for the birthday—Ingersoll etc.—do not suppose we can do better—still it does not seem to go to the right place with me—too much of a repetition—and then I detest these formal dinners—but I do not know that our hidebound social ideas permit anything better. Horace I suppose you know that we live lives of the most contemptible slavery—driven with whips along a narrow road by the ghosts of our ancestors! It is enough to make one sick just to think of it. See that I get the bal[ance] of the proof of the little book as soon as convenient...."

     Looks now as if all was to wait till his birthday: no book till then. We will probably make that date the point. W. had "thought about the thing" himself and "felt disposed to set that day." Touching upon the noise and mass meetings, etc., of ministers and people upon what is called the Saturnalia of Gloucester, W. said, "I take little interest in it. It seems to me like a case of the mumps—it will pass off by quite natural applications." Bucke had written me that Bob was wrong about Bacon: "take my word for it, Shakespeare never wrote those plays." W. laughed, "That's Doctor—that's Doctor—vehement, cocksure. Why, his cocksureness is almost the most surprising thing about him!" Then as to the plays, "Don't be too sure, Doctor—don't be too sure! There's many a way out besides our way! As for me, I decline to debate the question. I am like the end-man in the minstrels, 'Now Julius—how's so, or so, or so?' And Julius will scream, 'I won't Sambo—no, I won't! I'll not guess it, I'll not give it up, I'll have nothing to do with it!' And that is where I stand about Shakespeare!" After a good laugh (he had told this with great unction) he asked me, "Is Julius still a character in the minstrels?—the same name—the end-man? In my early days, Julius was always the name and there was a hilarious common joy and wit

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about the whole by-play and play of the men which attracted me."


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