Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, October 2, 1891

     To W.'s on my way home—5:45—but found he had just closed his blinds and meant to lie down. I did not wait—had no mail. Not a letter written. "I doubt if I have written a word for two days." Seemed for some reason not so bright.

     7:55 P.M. To W.'s again. In his room, reading Hedge's "Prose Writers and Poets of Germany." "It is one of my resources." Harned had been in last night. They had talked considerably about Symonds' essays. W. disposed more and more to give them value. Yet Miss Porter asks me, as I read her Symonds' letters, why this difference in temperature, the published as against the private judgment? Was it the consciousness of the critic? W. believes, "Yes, there seems no other way out. For sincerity lurks in both—is present everywhere."

     W. says still, "I hear from Wallace, no less than two letters today. And a letter from Dr. Johnston, too, written from Annan, Carlyle's old place. Oh! There must be a charm in it all! Johnston has gone there to see his parents—was born there. The parents seem quite well-ado—solid, of some local consequence. I enjoy the Doctor's letters, especially some of them. He has at times an objective touch—a daring objectivity—gives description, detail. I am greatly moved by it." Was this letter one of the sort? "No, I can hardly say it is. The letters from the fellows there—from Johnston, Wallace—are mainly made up of thankfulness to me, to my work. Yet Wallace, too, now and then, tells

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me what he sees, leaving the thought of what he sees mathunsaid. This shows power—too latent, too little exercised, perhaps."
Reference to Emerson, Carlyle—some of the old fellows. "They evidently made drafts of their letters (does Wallace? you think so?), and I don't know but that has something to be said for it." I argued, however, "Letters, journals, should be free: float along, word by word, as it comes, like the toss, the rhythm, of a song." W.: "Beautiful! I like that. I guess it is so! I live it—our fellows would, naturally. But I often look at the letters of the old fellows—say, a hundred years ago—they have a certain stateliness, measure—preparedness—yet a charm, too." I asked, "What of Bob's letter the other day?" "It is perfect; it is the curve and sweep of a wave up the shore!" Adding, "But every one to his kind. And we must see to it, every fellow is acknowledged for what he brings, not what we think he should bring." And again, "A letter is very subtle! Oh! The destiny of a letter should be well-marked from the first. We should know, make, every letter to fit its purpose—to go to the doctor, to the intimate friend, to the admirer, and so on and on, each having a quality its own, and for a specific end. It may seem queer for me to have a philosophy of correspondence, but I have. And of course, freedom is the charm of a letter—it before all other qualities. And a letter without freedom certainly has nothing left to it."

     I had a note from J.W.W. marked Lindsay, Canada. W. said, "I am not surprised that the expansiveness, bigness, of things here should storm him. It gives him a copious draught. But what of his return—not a word of date?" I expected him any time next week. W. asked, "But you know nothing about his dates?" Speculated about Bucke. Is the lecture over? Was it a success? I was to go to Unity Church to hear a lecture on Hamlet. W.: "Yes, go and tell me about it." But there might be nothing to tell. W. then, laughing, "Well, tell me there is nothing: it is something to know that." Explicators of poets? I felt to say to them, Diogenean-like, "All I ask is, that you keep out of my light." W.: "A fine application, Horace, and true as truth! It is my own feeling exactly. And it is one of my dreads, that there

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may come a time, and people, to exposit, explicate, 'Leaves of Grass.'"

     Left him a dozen Conservators. "Will send them away." Asked, "And what of the gentle, great Sidney? Is there anything further? No? What a child of nature! How could we but love him! The piece? O yes! I like that—more than like it: it is few but mighty," playing on a current phrase. "But 'Song of the Open Road' for Sidney? I can't find it anywhere. Very likely we will send him a complete book—that might be best." Salter wrote of his "pleasure" in Morse's "Leaves of Grass" article. W.: "I do not wonder—it is as simple, sweet, as a tale told across the table." W. "doubts" if he can go out tomorrow. Seems able, yet disinclined. More and more withdraws. But we will try. I leave it in Warrie's hands—I to be at 328 a little after five—to go out, if W. is agreeable; not, if not.

     Wallace's letter of 23rd in a grateful strain, no objective eye evident. In letter of 28th, writes of plans of his departure on the morrow.

     Bucke writes (27th), about to go to Montreal. Speaks of J.W.W.'s departure, will miss him, etc. Had no copy of address to send us.

     W. gives me Wallace's letter of 17th to illustrate "the, so-to-speak, inner tones of the man."


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