Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, October 14, 1891

     5:30 P.M. Another good half hour with W., who seems himself again. "I hear from Wallace again. He comes on tomorrow with Rome. What a thing it will be to see Rome again, after so many years. He is an old man now, I think older than I am." I said, "The world will have cause to remember him." "For what?" "Why, for 1855." W. smiled and answered, "That will be seen. I wonder, I wonder?" Then went on, "Wallace's letter is very cheery. He seems to have the faculty for pleasure—to see through difficulties to underlying favors—seems to turn a good face to everything—to the people he meets, things that happen—all that. He has seen Gilchrist, spent part of a day there. Says Herbert is well and hearty and was very cordial—indeed, wanted Wallace to stay over for a time, which he could not do. Wallace is now back in New York, determined today to go to see Bush. Has already seen Johnston, Williamson, to more or less satisfaction. He will probably be here towards or a little after noon tomorrow, and Rome with him. He says he intended to see you first. As I understand, Rome is to go home in the evening. This is in effect a wind-up: the last step of the pilgrimage. He says he has seen something of America—is satisfied in a way. And for my part I think he has gone about under fortunate conditions. The weather itself almost unvaryingly fortunate—clear, sunny—though, somehow, bent as Wallace is on being pleased, even foul weather would now be to him fair. What a quality that is, to be pleased, to go about with satisfied temper, not disturbed, immovably in touch with contentment! It ought to do a good deal with him—for his good health, for instance."

     I, too, heard from J.W.W., W. saying, "So he's better than for three years? America has done that for him, anyway—which is something to count for. Good, good—for after all, that is the chief thing—to set him on his physiological feet again." I said to W., "Bucke asks if we've collapsed? He gets so few letters." W. laughed, "Oh! the impatient Doctor! I have just written him a postal—and you write him, don't you? From time to time? He must be patient! Probably some of our mail got in an hour after

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his growl—on its very heels."
And then, "When we collapse, he will know."

     W. calls attention to "an English offer to publish my works abroad—for all England and for English readers everywhere on that side." Did not mention names, nor did I yet ask—but wonders if Forman could not be called on for help in case of need. Which, of course.

     Handed W. first a card sent by Aggie for Marion. "Oh! It is from Agnes! And this is the darling new one! How do the little girls come—a whole cluster of them! We will wax fat in the sweet gifts!" Then I gave him Baker's letter to read, and as he took it, "The brave Baker! It is good to hear from him again!" And as he read, "The fellow is a poet, sure enough! Oh! I like all this—it is a word fresh from the mountains!" And as he finished (the sentiment to W. near the end), W. exclaimed, "Thanks! Dear Baker! Thanks! And your friends are all happy to have such an announcement! So he is about cured—about free! It is almost more than could have been hoped for. Yet not more than we can be glad over!"

     Billstein—in New York last week—visited DeKinney, the great Century printer. W. greatly interested in result, and questioned me till I had told him all I could remember of what Billstein had told me. W. thought of some mechanical appliances, "That seems to be the very soul of mechanism!"

     Asked me, afterwards, "What of the Pan-Republic Congress? Tell me." But I knew no more than appears in papers, which he equally sees. "It is a noble object, a splendid purpose. It ought to send out infinite radiant gleams, for the betterment of affairs." I said, "It enlists a lot of men out of business and politics—is good because it shows them there is something beyond and superior to the details of their trade." W.: "That is very strong, vital—that is something, probably, to justify the whole proceeding. Sometimes the thing has struck me as a convention called to declare that two and two are four. Yet I thoroughly endorse its objects. Solidarity—human solidarity—is not that 'Leaves of Grass'?"


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     Had W. ever been in any communication with Dante Rossetti? "No, I do not think so. I would have remembered. Dante Rossetti took up—examined—'Leaves of Grass' from too high ground—from a region of ecstasy, so to speak. Was ecstatic himself—regarded everything with that eye. But I do not think 'Leaves of Grass' ever meant much or anything at all to him. I have a cool malignant enemy over there in England—Watts, Theodore Watts—of the Athenaeum. He has no room, patience, for me—no desire to acknowledge me. And Rossetti knew him; they were under more or less easy terms—friendly. And I think came under his influence. Nor Rossetti alone—Swinburne for another. I could not expect anything, against such odds, nor did—nor do. It is a fact—to be acknowledged a fact—then passed. But of William Rossetti I feel certain: he is as warm today as in the long ago—shows no diminution of interest in—loving applause for—'Leaves of Grass.' They say Swinburne spoiled his laureateship by the Russian poem. I don't think so—I don't think he had any chance anyway. And no one else now living there in England, for that matter. Which suggests that the present is a good time to let the fuglery lapse—at least for a while." As to American art, "It wants nothing—asks to be let alone."

     W. gets many letters of curious inquiry, including one from Canada, about an early piece of writing. Bucke writes under date of 13th, of his busy occupations in London—the minutiæ of Asylum life.


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