Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, October 15, 1891

     Harned wrote me the other day that Dr. Johnston had sent him a copy of his "notes" and wishing J.W.W. to accept his hospitalities. Postal (Oct. 7th) from Johnston this forenoon. Also, note from Buxton Forman (Oct. 5th). Forman's requests as to portraits hardly possible to fill up—the diners not available. We expect J.W.W. today. No further word.

     Day opened clouded but cleared beautifully by and by—temperature all mild. Salter writes me, date 11th: "I have just read

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Havelock Ellis on Whitman in the 'New Spirit.' Do you know the book? Ellis is a friend of Chubb's and wrote me warmly about my own book."
Referred this to W. yesterday, who said, "It is a pleasant glimpse of the man. I wish he would tell you more. You might ask him sometime." I have a large mail waiting at home for Wallace—17 letters in all, and papers in addition.

     To W.'s—reached house about 5:45. Found all hands in parlor: W. at east window, Rome next to him on a chair, Wallace facing, over towards the door, Mrs. Davis on sofa. Warren had admitted me. Greetings very warm all around. Rome said, "I did not always know you, but since Dr. Johnston's visit I have learned about you very well." Rome seemed to wish to run off—was to go back to New York by 6:50 train. But W. insisted, "Sit down, Andrew, you have plenty of time—can stay full 20 minutes yet." The room was dark, only a few gleams of light from gas in hallway. Seemed that the two men had been to 537, had lunch with Anne, and now W. had spent time from a little after four with the two visitors. In midst of talk W. said, "Sit still, I want to go upstairs a minute"—rising, calling Warrie to help him—turning to me as he went, "Entertain them, Horace, till I come back. Yes, do." And so out, returning from the upstairs trip in about ten minutes. He insisted that Warrie should go to Philadelphia with Rome, to show him the way. Wallace offered to go also, but W. remarked, "I thought you would stay here a little while longer and go up with Horace." Which deterred J.W.W. and induced him to say good-bye to Rome then and there. They were astonished at W.'s frank free talk and endurance. Rome remarked, "I had no expectations of finding Mr. Whitman in any such condition. I have known Walt for forty years, but never knew him more willing to talk or to talk better." But perhaps there would be reaction from all this? I hoped not—thought probably not—but knew instances in which there had been. When Rome was about to leave, W. said, "It has done me good to see you again, Andrew, after all these years. You must come this way often." Rome a shortish, well-built man—gray beard—wore glasses—good voice—somewhat of the English

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verbalism left, and enunciation peculiarities. I think W. had given him a big book, though I am not certain. W. congratulated Wallace on the weather he had had in America— "especially wonderful to an Englishman"—Wallace admitting. Wallace does not say a great deal except as questioned. I told W. of my letter from Forman and of its substance, he laughing at imposts and "damning" them, exclaiming, "One way would be, for him not to send the books at all!" I laughed, "That would be poor revenge, from my standpoint!" W. heartily joining the laugh, "Sure enough! But that tariff business knocks the devil out of our patience!" W. told me, when we were alone with Wallace, "I have had an offer from England, from someone, to handle my books there. Didn't I tell you about it last night, Horace?" Only in a few words—indefinitely. "Well, I meant to—I thought I had. It is from someone, a new publisher, a new firm going into the publishing business, who well can be an opposition to the Tauchnitz." He had great difficulty getting this word out, first asking me, "How do you say it? To the great firm of Tauchnitz publications. I don't know much about it. The offer came in through Joe Gilder." I put in, "I hope you will let someone else manage for you—will not worry about it." "No, I will not worry—will not let it worry me. I will call in Henry Forman to manage for me. Of course there's no more than the proposition now." We talked over the dollar edition, I saying, "I am sorry Dave opposes it," and Wallace expressing his personal pleasure in the idea. W. himself declaring, "I think we are about ready for it. I can see the argument all clearly enough—it convinces me. As to Dave, well, we must look to him." But McKay not yet consulted with W. When the visitors "wondered" with W. if they had not overstayed the limits of time, W. urged, "No, it is all right. I am enjoying it." Wallace himself mainly silent, seeming rather to absorb than give out. W. certainly assuming a very rugged outside, as if unbroken on his old front. But when I finally got up and said I was going, and Wallace thought he would go with me, W. was quick to say, "Well, perhaps that's the best. I had been thinking of soon excusing myself—going upstairs."

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Arranged with J.W.W. for him to call about noon tomorrow. We went off together, after shaking hands with W.

     Wallace happy to have had the long talk. "After what you wrote me of his condition, this seemed a great surprise—benefaction, even." He spoke of W.'s giving then the very long audience—doubted if he had not stayed too persistently—dwelt upon W.'s grace, voice, gesture—every turn of the head expressive. Wallace's reverential attitude marked—now greatly, deeply, impressed. At home we talked the whole evening of Whitmanic affairs—indeed, up to one o'clock. Wallace gave us some account of his travels. He had seen Bush, Williamson, Johnston. Bush had asked to lunch with him but they could not arrange. Spent Wednesday evening at Johnston's. Much engaged there with the Hine and Waters portraits. Found Johnston busy (sent a souvenir spoon over to W.). Williamson lives out of town (in Brooklyn somewhere). Remarks that since he has seen W. he thinks more and more of the Morse bust. He had secured a dozen copies or so of one of the Edy pictures in London, Canada. Exhibited—offered to leave a copy. He is every way simple, generous. His baggage has not come yet. Showed him the two Whitmans sent up from Washington by Mrs. O'Connor. Liked both—a copy of one of them he having seen in Johnston's collection. Morse's Carlyle photo he does not like. As to Morse's piece in Conservator, "I confess I was not taken with it." Bought a copy of Burroughs' "Indoor Studies" in New York. Had wanted it. "The last week I have felt distinctly better. But at London, though my general health was good, I did not sleep well—felt so stupid, lethargic, all the time."

     We discussed many things with respect to W. I found myself pretty communicative—perhaps Wallace will set it down to gossip. In course of evening went upstairs among my papers, treasures, and were there till the wee sma' hour. Wallace particularly interested in the manuscripts: "Good-Bye," "Passage to India," etc. Protests, "I only hold a pint." Yet had been all day in leash to new wonderful things. Thought

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himself "stupid." I gave him a loose copy of "Death's Valley," cautioning against its use, and he took notes of this thing and that as we went along. "You know I am here in a representative capacity. The boys will expect me to tell them all about everything when I get back." He had had the long talk with W., "yet I hardly remember any part of it—certainly not his words. He spoke beautifully of Mrs. Gilchrist—gave me a sort of sketch of her life—yet not details or figures only. I wish I could have remembered what he said of Knickerbocker history, too—Mannahatta—that justice had not been done the old settlers there and that he always reproached himself—felt to kick himself—that he had not done something towards this act of justice." And Wallace said further, "I guess it was Rome's coming which inspired the old man." Yet Wallace very considerately asked my counsel how often and how long to see W.

     J.W.W. much enjoyed his big mail. "I am getting entirely past the sense of novelty with which I saw everything on my arrival. I am getting to be a Wandering Jew, moving here and there constantly, without rest. I am glad to have you say 'home' of this place, for curiously, when I got here that was my first feeling—that after going for so long among strangers, I am home at last!" Wallace wants to go to see Pete Doyle. "I read all and copied some of the letters to Doyle, which Bucke has, and I am interested to meet a man for whom Walt demonstrated such an affection." But if Doyle is on the road, he is hard to catch. I think lives at Baltimore now. Wallace desires to see Ingram, too, and Brinton, if he gets back in time. I find he has more pleasure in the concrete actual America now than when he first came and when he protested that he had come to America to see Walt Whitman and nothing else. He will be more apt really to see W. in this mood than the other, for some knowledge of things outside W. is necessary for any real fair grasp of W. himself. W. himself said to me when I remarked this the other day, "You are undoubtedly right—America and 'Leaves of Grass' are indistinguishably complicated." Wallace is inclined to admit this

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more markedly and readily now than before. He has given me new meanings about my health. "Bucke and I discussed it. We think you must take care, for Walt's sake, if no other."

      "I have not had time to read all my letters, but was impatient to look through them hastily, and did. There are many kind loving messages to you both—Mrs. Traubel and you. I did not think I was neglected, but naturally, when not having letters at all for a couple of weeks, when before you had them every day, you would wonder, some, and wonder if things might not happen." He had designed to sit down tonight and write some account of his talk with W., but was too tired—will defer till morning. "I must take some report of my talks back to the boys. They will expect it. You, who are with Walt every day, a son—in fact, we might say, an only son—ought to take the world in your confidence." Did he suspect I had notes? Had Bucke said anything to him? I think not. Yet I say nothing myself. Displayed all my treasures but these—the greatest treasure of all. Johnston (N.Y.) had a duplicate copy of "Leaves of Grass," first edition, which he gave Wallace (I think for Dr. Johnston—Wallace has a copy bought in Liverpool). Wallace looks much better than when he left—the air is on his face—no longer sea-brown but heart-red, which is a good omen. I have not yet dared to ask how long he proposes to stay, for fear he will mention a date this side of my hope. So I rest in pleasant ignorance.


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