Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, October 29, 1891

     4:40 P.M. W. yesterday said to me, "Yes, go to the Ledger building—take Wallace—meet Childs if you can. I won't give you a letter, but you can say you are from me—and you may give him my good word and tell him he is often in my thoughts as I sit here in my den."

     Today as I entered (his dinner finished) he was reading local papers. In very good mood. Wallace had taken lunch with Morris, Anne and me at the Bullitt Building—there telling me he had been in to see W. in the morning and found him not very well. Enjoyed dinner every way—Anne and J.W.W. leaving

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Morris and me to go out to Tioga, where the Fels will drive them out.

     But now no trace of W.'s evil appearing, I felt willing to stay and listen to the flow of talk he let loose. I had brought him a pear, a sample the like of which would serve to defy augury or comparison. It had a blush on one cheek and down the neck. W. took it and dwelt upon its beauty—turning it over and over—putting it to his nose, "What a wonder that is—a ravishment of beauty—a revelation! What if you were to send a load of these to England—would they not be a marvel, a gift out of the heavens? Oh! the beautiful, beautiful pear! A light to the eye. 'If you have two loaves of bread, take one, sell it, and get you flowers in its stead—for while the bread will nourish the body the flowers will stay the soul.' So, or like that, Jean Paul—and I add to it, fruit. Oh! the fruit and flowers—they bless, they re-create, the old earth! Look at the blush of this little effervescent red, and"—turning the stem down— "the balloon-shaped pear! What it means to me!" I said, "Mrs. O'Connor told us that William Henry Channing had said to her, or to William, that he was rejoiced to find that the American threatened to become a fruit-eating nation." W.: "And when they do become a fruit-eating, wine-drinking, music-loving nation, then they will produce things worth talking about! And they are on the way, no doubt. But one of the dangers is in the damnable law-making tendencies of the time, democracy: the malice to throw everything into the legal scales. It would ruin us, if continued. But it won't continue—something will break the strain. Take this Tilden case. Yes, I read the papers—the will is broken. You think the niece will yield the money or a part of it? We shall see—the reports are reports—they may be no more. We speak of jurists, the law—but if law could do no more for us than this, it can't begin to pay its debts. I say, damn the law, juristry—it is a sham. Warrie finds that Wallace wants a box in which to pack the books he will take home with him. Wallace would go to a carpenter, but Warrie steps in—volunteers. Now today Warrie takes one of my boxes here. I was willing enough, did not need

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it—and asks me—if I do so and so, would it not suit Wallace? And I tell him—ask me no questions—take the box—obey your own instincts—you have handled boxes—you know what Wallace wants: and so I leave the rest with him. In most affairs we have to invest individuals with discretionary powers—should, too—their work is like to be better done for it. Apply this to the Tilden case. The ruling of the court seems to have been that too much was left to the discretion of the executors, yes, too much, damn 'em! as if Tilden—wise in his day—didn't mean, intend his after-workers to use their judgment in the particulars which the big job would include. Now, if that's what law can do, then law won't do much, though it is good at undoing. What I said to Warrie about the box is what Tilden substantially said about the will—the principal thing is that a certain this or that is to be done, there is no doubt of the intention—a thing to be done! Gads it! But the court steps in and says, you shan't dispose of your goods that way, there's only one way—my way—and if you won't travel that, the devil's in you."
I put in, "Why shouldn't Tilden have vested faith in his executors?" W. quickly, "True, why shouldn't he? Nor has the court answered that, though it has answered a hundred other useless questions. It was the wonder with Queen Elizabeth—always established, proved her—that she knew enough to select great ministers, to know how and who to fit—man, place. So that great events, trials, found a great hand ready to meet them. In government, trade, anything, that is a first quality. And these judges—these laws, anyway—seem wholly lost to the most important facts of their case. It is one of the discouragements—this legal fiddle-de-dee. But we will get by, and yes, live through, triumphantly issue at last." He had set much heart on this Tilden bequest: it was "a great hope for New York," he says—and threatened to give it needed things. "Now all shattered, spent, lost." W. asked further, "Wallace seems quite determined to go next Wednesday. I suppose you have sounded him for that thoroughly?"

     Had I yet seen Dave about the new pages for "Leaves of Grass"? "I am very anxious to see them—to have a look—to

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know, at last, that they are in practical effect!"
Miss Porter regrets (so she tells me) that Miss Gilder was in town and they could not meet (have never met). W. says, "They may meet. The Gilders (or Jennie, anyhow) will stay at Bordentown this winter." We spoke of Wallace—I mentioning his extreme modesty—indisposition even to order a dinner on his own part. "No dogmatism." W. then, "I suppose it is all right—right for him to be as he is—right for Colonel Bob to be as he is: they may do their own work, each according to his nature." Gave me letters to mail—H. B. Forman and Funk & Wagnalls.

     Brinton back in town. In to see me this morning. Hearty and happy. Came on La Gascoigne—hard voyage, storms, etc. Arrived two days ago. Says he has the pamphlet from Johnston and at once acknowledged. Very concerned about W. Had not yet seen the August Lippincott's. As to his own speech, "I could not give it to you. I had no note, no preparation—nothing; and I could not have written it up, even, perhaps, as to substance. And I do not like the notion of giving out speeches I do not make—though to some people that is no great matter." Wishes to get over to see W. Arranged with him for us (J.W.W. and H.L.T.) to call Monday night—eight to nine—at which last hour he goes to the reception for Arnold. Is now at home in city again—2041 Chestnut. W. greatly interested in all this. Brinton had asked, "Would W. wish me to call? Would he see me?" W. when I told him responding, "See him? Yes indeed, and only too glad! He belongs to the tribe, 'Leaves of Grass'—is one of its best lights. You will tell him to come?" Some further words of Arnold, but W. seems less curious than on some other occasions. Had he seen curious laughable ridiculous article in today's Press: "Walt Whitman's Tomb"? "What was that?" he asked. And when I restated, "It could not have been in my copy—must have come in a later edition." Just then I spied the Press among a pile of papers at his feet and picked it up, finding the big piece (more than half a column) under its big display head without trouble, he exclaiming, "How odd that is! I look into every chink and corner of the papers—pride myself that nothing escapes me: yet this is new to me

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this very minute—eluded me altogether this morning."
I spoke of "the lugubrious birthday present" and he echoed me, "It's that, of course—or would have been, if there was any present about, as there was not." However, "But if there's that missed, I have a note in another direction. The French periodical, the Nouvelle Revue—published in Paris (I think Madame Adam edits it, has charge)—printed a piece in its August issue which it headed, as I understand it, 'Poe-Whitman-Browning.' It is by a man named Sheppard: J. H. or J. B. Sheppard—I forget which—but Sheppard. I have not seen the magazine—Oh no! only heard of it—otherwise I would not ask you to hunt it up. I remember, months ago, the man Sheppard wrote to me—some application, and I sent him a copy of the big book—sending it to his Parisian address. But I never heard anything from him or of it from that time to this. This article may be one of its effects—though it would be hard to know." Desired me to look up a copy of the magazine. I referred to place at Third and Walnut—an old store (kept for many many years)—where such odds and ends or infrequent literary bits could be secured. W. said at once, "I remember that place—it has a kind of fame. Forney told me he went there for all his special purchases in the periodical line."

     Then away—later on to Tioga (the Fels) where I found Wallace and Anne—who, with Mrs. Fels and Mrs. Gilbert had quite a drive from which Wallace was much exhilarated. Home and to bed midnight. Wallace showed me yesterday's notes. Very interesting. We talked matters over—for instance, this: whether we would say anything to Johnston about my notes—thought he would, yet having some doubt still. I gave him caution. Wallace wants to have W. drive out but considers it doubtful. Desires to see Pea Shore. I shall try to take him.


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