Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, October 23, 1891

     Morning: Clifford writes—will join us if his Times work will allow. Law cannot come. I announced to W. yesterday, "Morris says the omissions in the book are his fault—he read the proofs!" W. raised his finger admonitorily, "Oh Harrison! Harrison! The devil's in you, too!" Then his odd sentence died in the affectionate question, "And how does Harrison keep these days? Is he pretty much always well?" I said, "He is cautious—is tied to the necessities of a family!" "Good for him! And he braces up to it?" "Yes, nobly." "Good again for him! How much it means for a young girl or fellow to tie up with a purpose!"

     Met J. W.W. at 4:15 and with him first to see Talcott Williams, at Press, who was fortunately in and with whom we talked for some time—first about W.'s condition, then about American municipal and social development. Williams much at home here—Wallace little to say in way of dispute—nothing at all, in

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fact—and yet listened well, and enjoyed as he said. We wandered about street afterwards. We went into the little alley to the simple, cloistered Carpenters Hall—historic, heroic—set with such modest still air in midst of the great buildings on all sides in that neighborhood. To Independence Square also—and reflections sundry thereby around. Wallace every way acceptive, moved. And after the six o'clock, to Reisser's. Of course it was a surprise to Wallace to go into the room with me to find Clifford, Longaker and Morris there to greet him, and when I introduced Buckwalter, who sat with him, it flashed out that something had been prepared. Afterward came in Frank Williams, and still later Harned—and these made the party. We retired to the back room, where a table was set (here, 31st May, '90, we had sat with Ingersoll till one o'clock: great memories!). Wallace next me, opposite us Morris and Clifford, to the right Frank Williams and Buckwalter, to the left Harned and Longaker. Two hours together—things not uproarious. No speaking. Before we left Morris suggested that Wallace tell us about the Bolton group, which he did—giving tender thanks, informally, and not as gratitude, for the comradeship which seemed to enshroud the Whitmanic name and circle, as manifested in a deepening of their Bolton life to each other and in such significant reception as had been accorded him in America and as seemed to grow and fasten us together here. His first contact with Walt Whitman was from Rossetti's collection of American poetry, and the first copy of "Leaves of Grass" he possessed was the '83 edition. He said, when asked if the book had in any way repulsed him at the start, "There were parts that did repel me, but the attraction at the very first was much more than the repulsion." He would not venture now to say what was his estimate of "Leaves of Grass." It was too big a subject to tackle in this way. But nothing so much as the comradeship induced through it had impressed or convinced him. W. seemed everywhere to attract opposites—to bring opposites into contact—yes, even to weld them. The Emerson letters were brought out (I had them in my pocket) and read aloud—Frank Williams the 1855,

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I the 1863, letter. Had Emerson changed? The feeling of Morris, Williams, Buckwalter and Clifford seemed to be that he did, though how much, or where the record of it could be, if anywhere, is not known—the record being vague, at the best. But Harned had a more favorable opinion of Emerson's deliberation—thought there had been no substantial shift of his regard and admiration. Lowell, Stedman and Arnold up—Clifford told his story of Arnold at Mrs. Coates', Arnold having asked, "Can you tell me what was Longfellow's opinion of Whitman?" Arnold evidently had never read Walt Whitman at all. No one present knew anything of any reference whatever to W. in any of Arnold's books. Stedman affectionately discussed (will speak in University extension course at Georgetown this winter, giving all his Johns Hopkins lectures). A good many stories told—frank, easy, quiet talk. Williams recalls "the night Ingersoll sat here with us, spouting Shakespeare." Wallace said, "Our 'college' as we call it came about quite naturally. It is not a Whitman society, though they are all friends of Walt. Some years ago I gave out that I would be at home thereafter always on Monday evenings and that any of my friends, coming that evening, would meet me, if they chose, and probably one or two others. We have not even a name. We are strictly informal. But I believe we have some influence in the town, indirect though it may be. For we are known there, and our 'college' is known, and we have heard things to convince us of an influence." It was of course to Johnston and to Wallace that the rise of Whitman among the collegians was due. About the birthday, about 1887, they had sent W. a present (each had conceived the idea independently), but not till after Johnston had been here had anything like intimacy sprung up with W., "if it can be called that even now." Readers of "Leaves of Grass" scarce or none in Bolton. Such words and more to same effect interested us greatly—paved the way for further questions and answers and divers good interrelated talkings. At eight or a little after we adjourned. Clifford had first to slip off to his paper. Frank Williams had to go for his train, Longaker to a patient, Morris to

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his work (he is editing books). Harned complained of being tired. On my way to Camden we debated whether to go to W.'s at all. I announced, "I shall go, anyway, if only for a moment and a look." Finally, would all go together.

     At W.'s—Wallace, Buckwalter, Harned and I. I preceded them upstairs, found his door locked, W. cried, "Come in!" and so I hurried round through Warrie's room. W. extended hand (he was reading Scott), "Ah! here you are! And where from? I am here with most of my duds off—have been taking a wash, bath. Now must take care myself." I told him who were with me. "Bring them up for a minute: yes, all welcome, welcome!" The others were soon there. Hearing them outside W. exclaimed, "Come in!" Tom first. W.: "You had a good splurge?" "Yes, a great time." Tom immediately turning a question on W., "Did you get the whiskey, Walt?" "No, Tom, where on earth is it?" "Why, home if not here, I suppose. Why ain't it here? I filled the bottle two nights ago." W. then looking at me, "How is it you didn't bring the bottle, Horace?" I had expected the children would bring it. Tom remarked, "Anyway, it ought to be here." W. then, "That's the most important news I've heard in a month." I had said, "I was at Tom's last night but it was too late to bring the whiskey." "No, it wasn't—late or early, that's always welcome: there's no late for whiskey!" And again, "I had the threaten of a bellyache even tonight, but it passed off—otherwise I would really have had practical use for the whiskey—the missing whiskey!" After which he questioned Tom, "So you had a supper? A good time—a thorough good time? Who was there? No champagne, did you say?" Harned laughed and called it "a beer crowd." Then, "I have been to Washington." "Been to Washington? What office are you after?" Turning to Buckwalter, who sat on the other side of the bed, near the door, "I guess I'll get you to push that to." Thus explaining to all, "I've had—been in—a catarrhal condition today—have had a bad, ugly day. As I sit now, have only a few duds on (after a wash) with the gown thrown hastily around me." Then spoke direct to Wallace, "I've put your names in the little books. I feel

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as if I ought to do a good deal more for you."
Wallace reminded W. that he had still another for autograph, purchased today. "Yes, and I'll do it in another—do it with pleasure. I really ought not to take the money you left, anyhow—but I've already spent a part of it."

     Wherefrom he developed into general talk. "I'm reading Carlyle's trip to Paris—here in a magazine (it came from Johnston, Wallace!). What a growler he is! He turns to the right and growls, turns to the left and growls, looks himself forward and growls—yes, growls at whatever he sees, country or city. No, I wouldn't apply the word unhappy. Yet he was always perturbed—everything seemed to be wrong, against him. It minds me of someone who had been to see him—Conway, I think (at least, Conway told me about it—Moncure Conway). They walked out, two of them—the stars were shining, they stopped, the stranger looked up, 'A glorious sight! glorious sight!' he cried. But Carlyle—oh! Carlyle—he would not have it so. 'Ah! Ah! It's a sad sight! A sad sight!'" W. told this with great gusto and feeling, but J.W.W. said, "That's a story told of Leigh Hunt—Hunt and Carlyle," and gave it as he had heard it. W. then, "It seems Carlyley. Such a fellow, with all his views, and what he says, is very valuable to make up the banquet—variegation. I don't think, would not say, he makes a type. Integrity—oh! integrity, honesty—it is his from top to toe. He don't wield a lance but a club. Without him there would be a great blank in Britishism. I think the fellows who rouse us and taunt us—perhaps even torment us—are the most valuable in some respects." More concretely again, without anymore transition than I show, "But what did you do tonight? Radiate?" Tom said J.W.W. had for one thing given us some account of his chums. "Oh! That I would gladly have heard: we ought to know more about them." Tom then that the supper was tame compared with the Bolton reception to Bucke. W. then, "There was a good deal of the hip hoorah for Bucke—if it comes, well enough; if it does not come, well enough, too—don't force it!" Then suddenly looking over my way (I was hid by the round

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table, piled full, that was between us, and scribbling all this away on the wrapping of a box I had and edges of newspaper), "What are you doing over there, Horace, that keeps you so quiet—anything's up? You've hardly said a word." Whereat I did say some words, anent Wallace and his smoking at Reisser's. But the minute after I looked over at Buckwalter who indicated by and answering my look—we had better go—and up I got, the others as immediately. First however over to W. to show him front page picture in Bazar: "Portrait of a Dutch Lady" from a painting by Bartholomew van der Helst 1613-1670. Of which paper he said, "Hadn't you better leave this? I would like to look at it at my leisure and long." After which our good-byes. Wallace and I to Harned's for a little while. (As we left W. asked me to "look up Warrie downstairs—have him run up for the whiskey," for "that is the most important item of today's news! Or for a month!" with a laugh.) Warrie came in at Harned's while we waited. Harned took Wallace into his library. Later, to 537 York—where a little talk further and Wallace early to bed.


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