Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, October 21, 1891

     4:40 P.M. To Camden early—yet first procured plate from Ferguson, and pencils. W. in his room, autographing a lot of Gutekunst photographs for Wallace. After we had shaken hands, I said immediately, handing them out, "I have kept my part of the bargain: here is the plate and here are the pencils." "And I have kept mine—here are the letters"—reaching forward to table. Had enclosed the letters in an envelope inscribed, "Letters from R. W. Emerson to Walt Whitman 1855 etc: for Horace Traubel." With them the S. S. Times criticism, of which he said, "It is weak dilution—useless talk—damned patronizing—amounts to little. The fellow was evidently told to write two inches and did so. It is all right—it has blown over!"—thus to dismiss its triviality. On the old yellow envelope on which was written in his more delicate hand of long ago, "Letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson to William H. Seward introducing Walt Whitman" he had today written in blue pencil, "(Never delivered)." The letter in splendid condition, still in its own envelope, addressed to "Hon. W. H. Seward,

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Secretary of State, Washington, D. C."
So far as I know, this letter has never been published:
Concord, Masstts.
Jan. 10, 1863

Dear Sir,

Mr. Walt Whitman, of New York, writes me, that he wishes to obtain employment in the public service in Washington, & has made, or is about making some application to yourself.

Permit me to say that he is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying, large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends; entirely patriotic & benevolent in his theory, tastes, & practice.

If his writings are in certain points open to criticism, they yet show extraordinary power, & are more deeply American, democratic, & in the interest of political liberty, than those of any other poet. He is indeed a child of the people, & their champion.

A man of his talents & dispositions will quickly make himself useful, and, if the Government has work that he can do, I think it may easily find that it has called to its side more valuable aid than it bargained for.

With great respect,

Your obedient servant,

R. W. Emerson

Hon. William H. Seward

Secretary of State

Is it not vibrant—spontaneous—corroborant of the earlier, 1855, letter? As to this, it is still in its original red-stamped envelope, addressed to "Walter Whitman Esq. Care of Fowlers and Wells 308 Broadway New York" (envelope all crushed, torn, discolored) and forwarded from them to "Walt Whitman 91 1/2 Classon St. Brooklyn." W. had at some time written on this in large hand, pencil: "Emerson's Letter" and again, in ink, and more delicately, the same thing. W. says of these, "They establish

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an epoch for me. The good Emerson! It is beyond computation a man's salute!"

     Now W. continued his autographing till done. Then proceeded to wrap up deliberately and tie. This seemed to labor him and I offered to relieve, but he said, "Let me do it: let me continue to do all I can!" Then he said, "Wallace was here most of the afternoon." (I found from Wallace that he was only there an hour.) "He is very bright—very optimistic. He did not bring down the Canadian picture which I want to see. You bring yours, won't you? I am quite sure it is the one I don't like. I have fixed these pictures up, thinking they were better to go over. One of Wallace's dead-sets is to go down to Timber Creek. I encourage it—yes, have told him he ought to go. I find he is much disposed to see the concrete of 'Leaves of Grass'—I mean its geographical concrete. I told him today how to go—gave him some points (for which he questioned me). He is not satisfied to go there for an hour or two: he says he wants to absorb its air, as much as may be—to come into touch—that is, remembrance. And so he plans to spend a couple of days there, which I think well enough. I doubt if he'll find a hotel nearby the Stafford's. I suggested—or perhaps he did—that he stay with the Staffords. Yet I told him they are quite poor, and it would be well to pay them if they accommodate him. He is much disposed to pay his way—morbidly disposed to it. And this is one of the cases in which it is right for him to gratify his inclinations. But he'll have to be careful—the Staffords—the old man, Mrs. Stafford—are very spunky—though poor, very remarkably independent—distinctly so. So he'll have to work in the money, pay, without their suspicion, even. And he must do it." Further, "I think he has a notion to walk—he may do it: the whole distance is not more than nine miles. And through a nice bit of country, too." When W. said, however, "He will go Friday," I put in, "No he will not—we have our supper with him Friday." "Well then, Saturday." But how about the Penn Club reception Saturday evening, for which Morris has had tickets sent us?

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"To be sure, I think he ought to see that, be there, too. I feel, Horace, that you'd best pilot him about the most you can. I want him to meet life on as many sides as he can here. For his sake, you, he, ought to go there, too." I said, "Then you favor delay?" He quickly, "You won't discourage his trip to Timber Creek?" "No, I am in favor of it—it is what I have been telling him all along to do—to see Walt Whitman through America!" W.: "Good, good—that would be my gospel, too, and this will help him to see America. I want him to get a glimpse of a New Jersey farmer's life—of its mixed light and shadow—its simple, homely beauty, strength." I suggested then, "Let him go Sunday and stay over till next day." "Or Tuesday, if he cares to? Why not? Let him loaf, loiter, absorb: it is as good as he can do." Then again, "Wallace seems bit mad with that hunger to do something for us—it is morbid, almost, a sickness. Bless his good intent!"

     At Ferguson's today. F. told me of a recent evening at League, several, with John Russell Young present, Young having warm things to say of Walt Whitman. W. now remarks, "I knew Young—knew him pretty well—though we were never intimate. True blue, John! and full of spirit, life—saw him often. So he lives in Philadelphia?" "Yes, and I propose to look him up." "Do so, do so—I will give you a copy of my book to take him. It will help you to open up." Referred to Jeff and George as "both fine specimens of men—inclined to the grand in port." Wondered what had become of "a bundle of Tennyson letters I had about me somewhere—now gone, gone for years—where to, God knows!" He had autographed the two big books for me—at my suggestion put copy of autographed Gutekunst phototype with each. Bucke writes me rather doubtfully about Morse's piece in Conservator:
17 Oct 1891

My dear Horace

Yours of 14th came yesterday. My Annual Report is finished and sent off. I begin lectures to students Monday. I was not greatly impressed

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with Morse's article, think he has a good deal better stuff than that in him if he would only take pains to squeeze it out—express it. Yes, if you could spend a week out of each month here that would be fine. We could do no end of work together—the devil of it is the world seems made on such a poor plan that nothing is fixed as it ought to be! Are you doing anything at all about our book? I will take a whack at a circular pretty soon now. Love to Anne.


Affectionately,

R. M. Bucke


But W. declares, "Doctor is extreme—is mistaken. On the contrary, I liked it very much. We go to a good meal—we eat all the dishes set out (and they are good enough, thoroughly good enough)—yet dream of dishes, the thousand and one things—not there, as if they had anything at all to do with the job in hand!" We still discuss the drop-light. W. gave me his whiskey bottle for Tom. "Tom will think it all right? How much I drift into his debt." Again of Morse: "We know where Sidney stands—we don't ask him to declare his love every time he opens his mouth," I said, and W. with a laugh, "Well said, Sidney has gone through too many fires for us to be doubted now." Alluded to the peaches I left the other day: "They took me out in the orchards." They were good to look at? "Yes, and not less good to eat. I have one left."

     Wallace says, "I feel that my mission is about done. I might go home now, as well as later." Yet he will stay for a week yet, anyhow. W. says, "We are glad in him—glad in him. Let him feel at rest on that point." Wallace has several times said, "I am sure Walt is glad I came, that he appreciates the feeling with which I came, and my agency, exercised for the group there in Bolton."

     A question I feel about the Seward letter: was not W. cute enough not to deliver it, because he knew it would stand in confirmation of the 1855 letter—ought to be retained—yet, once in official hands, would probably be filed and lost? I shall ask him. Its non-delivery seems as if all eyes for future necessities.


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