Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, October 27, 1891

     Wallace met me, 4:55, as by appointment at Drexel Building, and here we looked up Frank Williams, with whom we went to the roof for a bird's-eye view of the city. This delighted us all. Wallace seemed thoroughly to absorb and luxuriate in it. To the east, looking up or down, was the winding, solemn, inevitable river, confused northward among the hills and westward in the flats. All over the city from thousands of stacks jets or puffs of steam, pure against the gray background (it blew briskly and

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temperature fallen far down). And far at the upper tier of houses, miles from where we stood, the departing sun had lit with its glory and gold a row of brick houses and frame—the stretching panorama showed by a million signs the busy mingling life that surged and swept on every side. Williams and I pointed out to Wallace the main places, buildings, landmarks—and we wandered across the big cemented roof, engaged by the chasing phenomena. The atmosphere not heavy but mists hung lightly, lacily, upon the horizon—the sun setting in cold color and the flowing river dusky dark (blacky) gray. Williams said, "I am glad you fellows came in to see me. Long as I have been in this building, I have never yet been up here." Leaving Williams and the building we went out on Chestnut Street again, I piloting, Wallace absorbent—stopping at Ledger for me to write and leave an advertisement; at Record to get a couple of copies of yesterday's paper. Wallace had joked with Williams, "I find I have got to Timber Creek before some of your people here." Williams then, "Yes, and I never would have got to this roof but for you"—things easy of access postponed.

     Rapidly to Poet-Lore office—Miss Porter luckily in, Miss Clarke unluckily not. Some talk—a good deal of it about the tomb, Miss Porter averse and Wallace remarking, "I seem to be the only one who thinks it all right." Talked of Lowell, I mentioning the article I had on stocks, Miss Porter saying, "You may let us see it? We would like to have it." And further, after I had stated the main lines of my argument, "That would be just what we wished. I do not think as much of Lowell as the world elsewhere seems." Then, objecting to the exclusive praise usually bestowed upon Lowell's "Ode," "I think Whitman's poem, the one in 'Drum Taps'"—she seemed in a good deal of doubt about its name— "I think, as I was about to say, that this poem is at least to be mentioned with if not mentioned as better than Lowell's ode." She meant "The Banner at Daybreak." Wallace much pleased with the talk. Miss Porter asked us out to their West Philadelphia rooms. She is quite strong in her distaste for the dilettantism of the Critic and of all its sympathizers, planting

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herself on the human, as contra to the artistic (where artisticism is death)—and determinedly brave in her assertion of all this. Wallace rather quiet, yet now and then freely taking part. Likes her ways—her voice, etc. W. had given him a message to deliver her (he had just come from W.'s to meet me)—intelligence that he had had an extra bad day (bad sleep last night)—yet was cheerful, and as Wallace said, "He smiled as he wound it up," Miss Porter replying graciously, "That is characteristic of Walt Whitman! Thank him—yes indeed. Have you been to see him? Ah! Tell me how you left him today." Debated the propriety and consistency of the tomb, Miss Porter referring to a talk she had had with Brinton about it in which Brinton seemed, or tended, to approve—she, however, dissenting. Wallace said when we had left, "The talk threatened to confine itself to the tomb affair."

     After leaving Miss Porter we went down Broad Street—I taking Wallace to show him the Art Club (where W. spoke April 1890)—to Academy (reminding him of the history of our refusal)—to Horticultural Hall. Wallace thoroughly attentive, liking to see and to have his store of practical Whitmaniana increased. On the river remarked the beauty of the night. Stars ascendant, a bit of mist and cloud—everything warmed and enlivened by the lights from the city. Remarked this as characteristic of our climate. "Nothing so much impressed me when I first got in America as the absence of smoke—to travel hundreds of miles, here and in Canada, and to see no smoke. Of course I have made up my ideas of towns mainly from Bolton, which is the only one I really know, and is very dirty. What most made me marvel just now from the top of that building was the clear air hanging over the whole place—the whole big city. There was hardly a sign of smoke."

     We went straight home and had supper, after the meal I going off to see W. and do some other errands by the way, and Wallace to stay home and work over and fix his camera. I reached home from W.'s about 9:50. Wallace and Anne in dining room, Wallace writing on his notes, Anne laughing over Puck. Talk and discussion of various orders—mainly, with this question: should

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J.W.W. sail Saturday. We objected—set Wednesday next, and I think Wallace finally yielded to that. We have things to do together—to finish the vignettes, to look through my papers, and as I shall be engaged off and on a departure from Camden on Friday would break up the visit, and our work, abruptly. Impression is he will stay. (Read me his today's notes on the boat—interesting and well done.) Wallace wants to go back on a slow boat. Sea voyage will do him good.

     8:25 P.M. Now at last to W.'s—in to his peaceful areas. Found him looking through a book of old scraps—taped, old, yellow—as if through seasons wet and dry, cold and warm. Had a lot of chopped wood piled in the room. The odor very perceptible, the instant I opened the door, and my eyes lighted on it. "Oh! You notice the odor? It has an odor—a pure sweet odor." I called it "better than the odor of flowers." "In senses," said W., "that is true. At any rate, it's a bit out of the fields for us—the odor of woods. And I conceit that it is medicinal, though as for that I am not knowing enough to swear. The smell is no longer apparent to me. At first it was very perceptible—I enjoyed it famously." W. asked me, "Where's Wallace?" I had left him home engaged with his photographic apparatus. W. inquiring, "But no harm done? Is well?" Then, "I saw by the papers that William's 'Three Tales' are to be out today. And I told Wallace he could probably get or order copies of Dave, which I suppose he will do. I am anxious enough myself to see the little volume." Then he asked, "You met Wallace? Did you see Miss Porter?" And to my "yes" said, "I am glad he could meet her—she is one of our American women, the image of whom will follow him a long time. I want him to see every side—or all the sides he can see—of our life, people, here." I gave him quite a circumstantial account of our several visits today. "Wallace has seen the Staffords. Of course you know that. Did he tell you about them? He was here today—very full in his descriptions. I think the trip to Timber Creek was a victory every way." H.L.T.: "I think I got the names of the women—the Stafford women—mixed. Who was the Amy you spoke of the other night?" "Did I speak of Amy? I don't remember. Harry's

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wife is Eva, his mother Susan, the two children to whom I sent the money are Harry's. There is an Amy—a young girl—daughter of one of Harry's sisters. The little girl was here—I think, born here. And they told me I should name her, which I did, giving Amy. Amy's the name of my grandmother. Amy is now out in Oklahoma or some such place West."

     Williams came in to see me yesterday, after I had taken him the books, to ask if the autograph on the portrait was genuine. It was beautifully turned and the ink as black as the print above it, and Frank was in doubt. When I assured him of its genuineness he exclaimed, "It is a marvellous autograph. I could not be certain about it. How it will all please Mrs. Eyre!" W. asks now, "Did I give it any such touch? I could not have thought it myself." I picked up a picture off the floor—a copy of the same plate, autographed very much in the same way—saying to W., "See! Here is one—it is remarkably like the other." And the thing seemed rather to impress him. "That is a fortunate head all through—is mystic—a touch of shadow, of indefinability." Was touched to have me repeat some things said by Miss Porter. "It lifts us way up—it makes us feel our rights!" Nothing found in Herald yet. W. "satisfied either way." Record paltry and not amounting to anything definite. Yet W. insists, "It is substantially true—though it has a bit of black."

     We were speaking of the use of foreign words. "They seem to give a music we do not always or mainly get in the English. Amy—that is from a French name—A-M-I-E"—spelling— "and fine, that way, with the e syllabled." I hit upon Marie, and W. continued, "Yes, that too! The Germans use that, and not them alone—in Russia they speak of Roos-see-a, which I think full of music. Italia? Certainly, that also, and the Italian, anyway, top to bottom." Then again, "I believe in adopting all we can—music and all. If I have the trick of music—verbal music—at all, I owe it to the great singers, actors: they were my teachers—I sat under their influence. Have I adopted many? Am I accused of many? I don't think many. There is camerado, and my great word, Presidentiad"—with a laugh— "which some don't think

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so great. Those two—they are our pride. John Quincy Adams—a high-jinks in that, an authority—declared that whether or no, when a nation took alien words into its language, it had the right, or assumed it, to fix its new music as it may—to adjust it to the new connections. And I suppose that will stand."

     We spoke of impressive hours at theater and opera. W. saying, "You know 'Lucia' well—I am sure you do. You remember Edgardo (isn't it Edgardo?)—how, when he has the scene with her over the letter, the promise of marriage—and he grasps her by the wrist, holds her at arm's length—asks her if she wrote the letter. It is thrilling. And she is so frightened by his display of passion, she hesitates—and he then the more stirred, continuing his hold with one hand and exhibiting the letter in the other." Here W. leaned way out of his chair—his gray hair shaken, his eye bright with fire, his voice deep and full of music. "And then he says to her several times—only the one word: 'Respondez! Respondez!' And she thereupon admits, 'I wrote it! Yes! I wrote it!' Then the bag bursts—he turns about and sings the very devil's rage, sorrow." W. ending in a laugh, resuming thus, "But it is so, in a word often, that the whole act is vibrant!" I had been saying that Italian was music even where a word was not understood and W. asseverated, "It is! It is! And no one with more memory and conviction of it than Walt Whitman!" Then I described to him the opening scene of Salvini's "Gladiator," W. exclaiming, as if moved by my recital, "Vital, throbbing, with the very rush, flow, flood—yes, blood of life! Oh! I see it—see it all!"


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