Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 170] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, April 29, 1891

     5:30 P.M. W. seemed to me better—whether because he had just finished his meal I do not know—since he said, "I am not better—I have suffered another of the very meanest days." But while he looked pale and worn, voice and manner were certainly fuller and more vigorous. Gave me postal for Bucke, letter for Dr. Johnston and paper for Mrs. Stafford to mail. Contents pages not yet touched. "It is a short matter, once got to—but to get to it—there's the rub." But, "I'll do it tomorrow, if it's in me!" Gave him duplicates of last three pages. Everything now cast except title, copyright, contents pages. Left word for Brown as to paper (he not being in). W. spoke of the wine recommended by Longaker: "I can't decide for myself whether I should do it or not." I urged and he finally consented that I should get some as a trial. Should it be sherry—or what other?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 171] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Let it be sherry—if I prefer any, it is that." I exhibited a note from Ingersoll—this:
400 Fifth Avenue
Apr 28. 91

My dear Traubel—

A thousand thanks for your good letter. I am all well now—all I had to do was to lie still in bed for one week and live on air. This I did and now health comes back. I send you my love for your loving words—same to the great poet. Hope to see you both before long.

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll


W. read—paused at the passage "live on air." "That gives me a hint. I wonder if it would help me to follow that notion?" But after a pause, "No, I suppose not. Dr. Longaker says I should eat—don't want me to fast. Though this scheme attracts me." Then he finished the letter—exclaiming, "The noble old fellow! The grand soul he has, too! He is ours—ours—if ever man was." And here, said W., was "Leaves of Grass" again, "witnessed to, justified."

     Returned me Atlantic. "I read that second part of William's piece with the same care as the first. It is full the first's equal—topping everything of that sort, probably, ever was in America." I spoke of O'Connor as having a genius for that sort of thing and he acquiesced, "It is indeed so—I always knew it—never made enough of it." Morris would note my collation of [O'Connor's] reports in a Literary World letter. W.: "That is a good idea—it always helps a good deal to have the couriers out—all of them possible." And again, at my explanation of a letter I wrote Mrs. O'Connor this morning detailing my plans, W. said, "Yes, I will write an introduction—gladly, gladly."

     Gave me a letter to take home and read—a big letter, blackly written: "It is unique, don't you think? A bit of the World enterprise—ink, envelope, paper. It is from Julius Chambers. And do you know, Horace, it invites me to a birthday dinner—my own birthday—the Quaint Club over there—seems to be a small

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 172] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
affair—probably would spread a very swell dinner."
He would not go? "No, it is impossible—impossible. But I have been considering whether the invitation does not demand a deliberate, well-considered answer. I must turn the thing over for a day or two." I told him of my own plans to have a dinner downstairs—throwing the two parlors into one—spreading a long table—and having a very few of our close friends there. W. at once, "That seems the best idea yet—the very best—and I consent to it. Say, from seven to half past nine or so—or anyway arranged so I can withdraw, or even not appear, if necessary. That seems entirely practicable, provided"—here he paused, looked out the window, resuming— "provided I am about at all. And who can vouch for that?" Discussed the subject fully. "I postaled the Doctor about the Quaint fellows—that I could not consider that." And, "If we can get a few here—just a few—the real fellows—Burroughs, Ingersoll—a scarce dozen—a few more, if you like—and some of the girls—that would serve. Work with that in view. The idea reflects my own exactly, in spirit and letter."

     Gave me a five-dollar bill out of which to pay Cohen for the envelopes. Wrote me a sheet—a gift sheet—to go with the "Good-Bye" copy, which he wants me to have. Wrote it on his knee, with a bad pen—hence an unnecessary unsteadiness: Copy of
Good-Bye my Fancy
by Walt Whitman
April 1891
Camden New Jersey
for Horace L Traubel


W. has been much interested in a golden wedding, celebrated by neighbors, two doors west. "It is always a picture of wonder, delight, to me." As to the New England Magazine cut passages, I proposed making another article of them. W.: "Yes, do it—extend the anecdota—give more—I will help all I can—every way I can. It is characteristic of the editors, to wipe out anything that grates anybody's sensibilities. In spite of what your man up

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 173] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
there wrote you, that forgetting the proof was no accident. Damn him! Does he suppose we don't know better than that nobody ever asks for proofs? It is thinnest of thin veneer. We know it only too well for his good."
And then, "There are certain of the magazines by which I have been treated generously, manfully. Lippincott's with Joe Stoddart, the North American Review. They always showed me a splendid consideration—in payments, proofs, every way." Would not Stoddart today take almost any offering from W.? "Yes, I think he would. Now that I can no longer write I have a certain vogue. But that is unjust, of course, applied to Stoddart, who has favored me ever since he took up with the magazine." Digression to Dick Stoddard, "The worst about Dick is, his infernal venom—his disposition to state every personal incident its worst way—poisonously aimed—making most of things of which least should be noted or nothing." It was true that Stedman was very friendly towards Stoddard. "But Ned is friendly all around, anyhow—is very unctuous—receives everybody in the open-handedest spirit."

     Spoke of Review of Reviews and of new quotations from him and of its "friendly disposition." Gave me a copy of Fortnightly—and though referring to Symonds' "The Second Idyll of Theocritus" therein, dwelt more specially upon Frederic Harrison's "Editorial Horseplay." "It seems that Harrison somewhere suggested the return of the Elgin Marbles and was criticized for it—and now he goes for his critics. It is good writing, of its sort, but smart, tricky, not up to the emergency. Yet well worth reading, too. As to the return business, I look upon it as a piece of arrant idiocy. Why not return everything? To give back here, there, everywhere, everything that had been stolen, would leave nothing undisturbed. And besides, it would be no readjustment—it would be confusion. But there is a mad something or other about some men which dispossesses them of sound judgment." He felt there was "too much of this smart writing anyhow"—and— "There's something in public life—in the life of the stage—the addresser of the public—flare, blare, blaze—which turns the head. Look at poor Anna Dickinson just now!—mad as a hare—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 174] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
and vicious, too—barking, biting, right and left—everybody—scolding, screaming, swearing. And anyway, Horace, I think she was always more or less flighty. I remember years ago, meeting her in New York—talking with her—and I can recall coming away then, saying to myself, there was a screw loose—very loose. And you heard, saw, her Hamlet? What another force that must have been—another argument. Nor is she the only one turned by public attention."
He mentioned the eccentric Count Joannes, in my boyhood already daft. "There was a time, Horace, when that fellow was among the good of the heap—for some years he played good parts—played them well—say two or four years—Caesar, for instance. He was a serious, good-looking fellow. Well, well, well—we know no more about it than that it is their tendency—they go astray out of the vital necessity—the focus, the direction—of their make-up!"


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.