Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, May 19, 1891

     7:45 P.M. W. on his bed. Had just gone upstairs. Now rose—went to his chair—giving the stove door a pull with his cane by the way. Doctor had been here and thought W. "better." W. himself said, "I feel a trifle more comfortable, but just as weak." Said, "I have sent copies of the book to Tennyson, Symonds, Johnston (at Bolton), Kennedy." None so far to Wallace. I left copy of book with McKay and got receipt for it. He disputes the correctness of W.'s recent bill. I shall now follow the sales myself. Also brought W. five dollars for a copy for one of the clerks at the Bank. He asked, "So he is a young man? Good!"—continuing— "You remember what I told you the other night—remember it quite clearly? The purpose of 'Leaves of Grass'?" And to my assent he added, "It was this: nature, nature, again

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nature. Not art, erudition, decoration, elegance, but simple, elemental first-causeism—to get at things direct—accept the final truths. Without this a reader can never grasp 'Leaves of Grass.' I was going to say, damn art, but again I say, I must not do that. For no one knows more than I do the place it has occupied, the good it has done—no one. But accepting all that, I pass beyond."

     Again he spoke out quickly, "No sign of the Swintons today"—adding— "I want them to come—want to see them—indeed, am curious." Brought him proof of plate made from the O'Donovan photo. He was gratified with it. Held the original out before him—regarded it admiringly. "It has that splendid thing, audacity—that great flavor of genius—the will to dare—to spread a big feast—to utter big things in big ways! Take it over to Paris, London, Germany—it would storm them—it would be a true utterance out of the West! I can see just what professional photographers would criticize in it—its first virtues, in fact. Among photos it excels any so far, in the range of its audacity." He will get 1500 copies printed—1000 for the books—the rest for his use. He discussed it with me. And then, "The picture is like Eakins—has his best touch—has breadth and beauty, both. He is a remarkable man."

     Brown will print "November Boughs" last part of the week. W. suggests American liquors for the dinner. "I think they are as good as any others—fully. I have often wondered if some ways they did not excel." Had made up contract for McKay. I have taken facsimile copy on press. W. expects no profit from the edition—enough only to make himself whole.

     Morris will use sea-pieces from W. in a volume he edits for Lippincott's. Would W. consent? "O yes! For such a purpose, why not? And anyhow, why not? Let the gospel go forth!"—with a smile. Morris up to see Gilchrist—spent Sunday with him—they riding together to West Hills. Mrs. Jarvis there said Dr. Johnston had promised her a copy of the photo of the house, but none has come yet. W. was for sending her a copy of New England Magazine, but I told him I thought Morris had already

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done so. "By the way, I have sent a copy of the book to Sarrazin, too—put a five-cent stamp on it. It starts on a long voyage." Gilchrist took a photo of graveyard—the one drawn by Pennell for Bucke's book. "How are the banks in Philadelphia?"—several had been run lately.

     Asked him, "But do you not have an art, too?" He quickly, "Yes, nature's—as nature has. I seize, let go—freedom the first, last—to let nature take her course—that is 'Leaves of Grass.'"


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