Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, February 19, 1891

     5:10 P.M. W. looks very much better—indeed, is better—saying to me, "I feel a fine turn for the good—or think I do—which is about the same thing. I have written Johnston and Wallace—telling them this." I had been to Ferguson's—seen Myrick—arranged for him to start one man on the book Monday: Myrick said he could not give us two till the big Bible is out of their hands. W.: "I am content—at least, must be: it is the best we can do, no doubt, but I hope his one man will be a good man." I said, "If he isn't, that proof-reader is between us." W. then, "It is true—yes, true—but against stupidity even the gods fight in vain. But after all, I guess you are right." Said he felt "relieved" himself "to have the matter in something like shape."

     I left Chadwick's (manuscript) reply to my "spirituality" paragraph in last Conservator. W. said, "I shall like to hear what he says." On his lap the local papers. "I have been reading about the funeral of Sherman today. It is a great account."

     At 5th and Chestnut this afternoon I had passed a man so like O'Connor I paused and looked after him as long as he was in sight. When I told this to W. he exclaimed, "So like him, you say? So like him?" And then with eagerness, "But how did he walk, how?" —explaining after some further speech from me— "O'Connor's walk struck you at once: it was fawn-like—full of grace—light, soft as a feather. To me it always had infinite meanings."

     What did W. know of James Redpath, now also dead? "Not a great deal, perhaps—yet I knew him well, too, and he was very favorable to us—to 'Leaves of Grass': treated us handsomely at all times—when on the North American—before—since. You know, of course, he was an Englishman—came to this country—went to Kansas. You have heard the descriptions of the typical New England woman—that she had 'views.' Well, James had

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views—that was one of his drawbacks. But of course we may easily make too much of that. He was of the intellectual type—all brains, no body—and once he had a wife—I met her: but one of the smart women, too—then they were separated. Yes, Radpath was a very active man—always at something. His knockdown, and death from that, was not wonderful: he had for a long time been in a way to invite death. In spite of everything, he was a noble man—believed something—was no liar or coward."
Somehow the talk digressed to religious questions. Some minister had been saying, conscience was born of the Christian revelation. W. said, "That is very much like the old story of the hen and egg—which was first. I remember the question was asked the clerks in the department, once, while I was in service. They went from one to another"—laughingly— "and came to me by and by: a sedate, serious old man—I can see him yet as he stands beside me. I threw myself back in the chair, looked up in his face, just as I do now"—indicating— "and said to him, 'Whichever you choose! Whichever you choose!'—which started a guffaw all around the room."

     Next we discussed Shakespeare worship among scholars, W. going on at some length. "I rest satisfied with the position of Elias Hicks—even his position about Jesus, which was this—that Jesus was valuable to him, not by any qualities of intellect—or any formal qualities whatsoever—but by the force of his power to exalt and inspire—to inflame the John Smith or John Jones about us—the Toms, Dicks, Harries, of everyday life, and I think Elias would, unconsciously did, in fact, apply the same judgment to Shakespeare. Indeed, it may belong to the question of Christianity itself—whether it has done more evil than good in the world. I am not disposed to dwell upon its evils so much as to congratulate humanity that it was attracted towards it—that it represents something perceptible still even in the crowding and hoggishness of the life about us—some nuggets, grains, streams—of truth which humanity cannot get away from. That is the side which appeals to me." I put in, "But isn't it with some of us as with Davy Crockett, that things get so

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'damned respectable' that it is time we moved off, into the woods and freedom? And we could say that of Christianity without any impeachment of what it has done—but simply as notice that a new life belongs with the future."
I was hardly finished ere W. exclaimed, "Good! Good! And I can say amen to all that, too, it is my sentiment—just as you say it—and as you say it, it is conclusive. I recognize to the full its justice, weight. For the Christianity we see—the Christianity of churches, creeds, articles of faith, preachers, Sunday schools—I have no sympathy: it is damnable debased currency. I say, go on—buffet it how you will: your buffet, your challenge, has my respect."

     Remarked, clapping the paper in his lap, "The General's son seems to prove he was a Catholic." I said, "I don't think it makes much difference what he proves." W. then, "Nor do I, it makes no difference at all." What did he think of the protest that Shakespeare was the poet, not of feudalism but of the modern? "I can see how people should get, hold, that view—how he could in a sense be called the poet of the modern. But of the modern-modern? No, no, no—he had no glimpse of it!"

     Had laid out a copy of Burroughs' book for Wallace. Later I wrote Wallace and sent it off. Says he "realized the weight of my argument against the extraneous matter" in "Good-Bye My Fancy"—but is not yet disposed to give a final decision.

     Discussed Saturday's Critic reference to autograph. W. said, "I am at a loss about that: I guess somebody else must have put in the lines. I remember the autograph—it was asked for—but haven't the least remembrance of the other, at least, that is as I see it now, though I know my memory is so bad nowadays, it will not do for me to swear to it. The lady's letter is only a few days old, anyhow."


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