Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, April 21, 1891

     5:10 P.M. Although W. had not been out today, he was unmistakably better. Yet Warrie reported that in earlier hours he had been "weak—and good for nothing," as he said himself. Busy writing on the yellow sheets. "A man named Stinson has been over—one of the Record staff—and he wants me to go among his 'Celebrities.' I am writing a few notes here." And then, "As to what they shall turn out to be—that is another matter. I am never certain of things any more, even when I control them—never sure what will result till it has resulted. That seems to me important, from every point of view, to understand. It saves a fellow lots of trouble." Gave me back New England Magazine sheets. "I read it—it has a floating, easy style—simple effective narrative. It hardly carries out our fears. He has the names all right—things come up with more accuracy than we would have believed. The whole article has the air of fact—as if it revealed the critter, or glimpsed him—threw here and there flashes of light, conviction—making a picture harmonious, faithful—and

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with vista, leaving it to be understood that all is not closed in with the simple words as printed there. You have fulfilled Heine's standard—no great flourishing periods—a direct series of strong touches, fact and fact, from one passage to another."
And even the illustrations satisfied him. "Now," he said, "we must see that we get copies, someway. All our fellows will want them. These pages will no doubt give out as good a popular idea as can be of our habits, ways, courtesies—habitat—the house—friends. Yes, it is an outlet to much. After all we will not be disappointed—only be grateful things are as things are. I always feel even with my own books, which are entirely in my hands, that I never get them just as I want them." If Mead will not liberally supply us copies, W. thinks we must buy them. Said, "I am just writing to Bucke, to say I have read it—to tell him substantially what I have been saying to you." [For the text of Traubel's "Walt Whitman at Date," see Appendix I, page 561.]

     And after pausing and looking north from the open window, "I have a letter from Bucke—you can take it"—handing to me. "He is still in bed—still in pain. It is an unfortunate mishap—and Maurice anyhow no longer seems to maintain the same standard of health as of old." Murmured then, "He speaks of the beautiful days there—but what could be more beautiful than this? A gorgeous procession of lacy shadows and flames—sun and darkness. I have been watching the light clouds. No, no, Maurice—the days are not better there than here!"

     Gave me a postal to mail to Johnston (Eng.). "I wrote it last night—it has lain there, forgotten." I had picked it up from the table. He read it. "Is it stale? Well, let it go." Longaker was over yesterday—thinks W. "getting along" which W. says with a laugh, "is vague enough," impelling the question "which way?" Myrick wants six more pages from us. W. asked, "Where will I get it?" I suggested, "Continue the autobiographical notes—everybody delights to read them." "I could do that." "Well, why not do it?" Then I added, "Those who would criticize them would criticize you anyway, whatever you do." He laughed merrily, "Yes, I see—and I care nothing for them, anyway, fortunately." I still urged,

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"Why not send to Bucke to forward you half a dozen of your best letters?" But he shook his head, "I couldn't work that. My letters are too full of bowels—the ups and downs of the physical critter, prisoned here, suffering fleshly ills too many to mention. This frank commentalism would not do for our purpose!" And yet "the letters might be used, too—parts of them." Neither of us had word from Talcott Williams. W. said, "I cannot understand it—he must have some reason not confessed to us." And further, "If I could only get my hand on it, I could show him! It's mine anyhow, to do with what I please. He has possession but I have right."

     He gave me a copy of Contemporary Review for April, "Johnston sent it over from England. It contains an article on the influence of democracy on literature—trash, trash, trash—bold stupid trash, from first word to last. What does Gosse know about that subject or any other? He is like the Philadelphia fellows—nearly all of them—wise in bindings, names, of books—with a pretty good income, leisure—given to loafing in libraries—knowing about every book that ever was—yet knowing all, knowing nothing—never even in suspicion penetrating to the facts back of books which are the real books to be reverenced at last. Gosse is a child of that world. Here he deals in the pettiest commonplaces—travels a flat road—never once proving anything." Then there was no democracy in the paper? "No, nor anything else—I defy you to find it—defy you." As to Gosse directly, "I have met Gosse—he has been here—is a fat, healthy-looking fellow—affable, friendly—and with unction, too, of a sort: all of Stedman's unction, perhaps, without the splendid lynx-eye—a trace of the unction anyhow but absolute emptiness at other points, where Ned is gifted."


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