Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, October 3, 1891

     5:10 P.M. W. could not go out. Says at once to me, "I feel blue—bad." I protested, "I thought you never felt blue." To which, "It is as well not to be too sure of that." Going on, "I have been depressed. I don't know for what: for several days, now, in a cloud. Yet the days themselves have been fair and beautiful! But prisoned here—cabined up—it would be hard to see only cheer and light—only the rosy side of things." Spoke of Mrs. Davis as "still under the weather." Again a word of Harned's visit the other night. "I was glad to see him. He is a rush of vigor: stirs me." Then, "Another letter from Wallace,

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this from Fenelon Falls. He goes on at length about Fred Wild—some tragedy in his life, maybe. And part of him left in this place, or there once, and now memoried. The good Wallace! In this letter rather more than in others he gets out of himself: a quite important thing, especially for a strong man."
Then, "Here is the note. You might as well take it"—slinging clear over the table to me.

     I too have note from Wallace, but 'tis merely general—very short—and to about the same effect. W. likewise gave me Forman's letter at last:
46 Marlborough Hill
St. John's Wood
London N.W.
8 September, 1891

That birthday bit in Lippincott is a capital thing and most satisfactory for friends overseas who wanted some direct words, and evidence as to health, etc. Friend Traubel has done his photographing well and deserves our thanks. Conway's is the only bit that reads just a little stilted and as if written with one eye turned inwards and the other one half on you and half on the public. Well, well! now this is not very charitable, and after all it's a jolly, hearty, manly crowd that we see through Traubel's pages gathering around your revered form, dear Walt Whitman. Last time I wrote I was going to the Vienna Postal Congress. Since I came back I have had Bucke staying with me and giving me all the last news of you and renewing old memories (grand times!); and while I was there at Vienna I met "An Americano (not) one of the roughs," but one who knows you. This was William Potter of Philadelphia, who was one of Wanamaker's delegates to the Congress—one of the United States' delegates, to speak strictly. He is a real good fellow: he was the best friend I made at the Congress this time.

The money I'm sending in this letter (about 15 dollars) is chiefly for "Good-Bye, My Fancy!" which I am without, though I have seen Bucke's copy. I want a copy in cloth as issued, with your name and mine in it if the old indulgent mood holds, and two copies of the untrimmed sheets not bound. Then I want, if it is to be had, six copies

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of "A Backward Glance" as printed on thin paper to be annexed to "Leaves of Grass" (pocket book edition). They need not be stitched or done up any way, but on one I should like your name and mine on the title leaf. There are several minor works, or rather separate works, which I fancy you still have, and of which one copy each similarly inscribed would be very welcome: these are "Passage to India," "Democratic Vistas," "After All," and "As a Strong Bird."


Lastly, my youngest son, Maurice Buxton Forman, is likely to go out into the world soon—most probably to Egypt. He is now nearly 20. When he goes I want him to have the big book—Complete Poems and Prose; and if it were attached to him by your own hand in the same way the effect on his mind would be good. He is studiously disposed, and it is about time he began on the "Leaves": indeed he has begun. So I want to buy him his copy, for a part of his essential outfit, whether you write on it or not. Now if it chances that you do all I am asking, and the money does not run to it, as well might be, the mention of the figure minus will bring the rest by first post.

Ever in affectionate respect

H. Buxton Forman


Repeated his notion that its characterization of Conway's letter was not just, yet that the letter (Forman's) was "genuine, noble." And, "You ought to have it for what it says of you—words to remember, keep." To him, "Forman must be a grand companion—a grand fellow to know."

     We spoke of Young (J. R.), W. remarking, "John is a fine make-up: one of the best journalistic samples—German, strong, with a vivid style. He has always made me near his heart—held me close for good words, demonstrations. What I like about his references—well-sampled in that in the piece on Conkling—is his confidence. He makes no apologies—mentions, states, is free and full, says his say, lets there be no doubt about what he means—then stops. Does not appeal, does not argue for, best of all, does not apologize. Which shows not only the true artist-eye, but nature's." And further, "Shows a true appreciation of the situation," for we are "to be received or rejected and the devil take the rest!"


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     Had W. sent the Star to Bucke? I had left copy. "Yes, I sent it. Does he say it never came? Yes? Why, I am sure I have somewhere his acknowledgment of it. And yesterday I sent him the other paper." What other? I knew no other. "Oh! Did I not tell you? I meant to. The Transcript. And I want to say, too, I don't quite get at Kennedy: he is a queer fellow—turns odd corners. Here in the Transcript is a paragraph—undoubtedly written by him—in which he says that the writer has seen a letter written by an American gentleman visiting Europe who had seen Tennyson, etc., and then goes on to give the awful story. Wrong! Yes, wrong! Kennedy is guilty of trespass. It ought to have been clearly understood by my letter and by Doctor's itself that there was to be no publicity given anything which the Doctor had sent us. And yet Kennedy quotes it. It is hard to explain. Not a serious harm, I suppose, but harm—and harm if simply to give a word of it under the circumstances. Probably nothing will come of it—no evil—it may even be buried there. On the other hand we find often enough that some insane little item which never should have been written, travels the world around, into every hamlet, is denied nothing, makes ruin everywhere." And W. reflected, "Kennedy is not a fellow I can understand. At least, not this time. I don't know what Doctor will think of the breach—for breach, trespass, it was. It makes us a caution for the future. In the first flush I was a little angry about it, but I am inclined to let it go now, without a word. It is enough to know the bird is out—escaped—the damage done." Further, "And there was something else in the Transcript—a comment made upon an elegant new edition of Bartlett's quotations—and the question is asked: What is the matter, that Walt Whitman does not appear by a word, a line? I suppose Kennedy wrote that—it shows his mind, if not his hand. You think the journalists favorable to me? A good many, yes. As to magazine editors, they have a dignity to preserve—a professional something or other—and will not unbend to unusual or unpopular events. But the boys in the newspaper clans are of a natural tone, more or less able and willing to say a good word as occasion, freedom, persuades."


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     Did he know Barry, actor? Miss Aiken tells me her father and Barry old close friends. W.: "Yes, I remember him. Not thoroughly, not in detail, but as a person, those times. He was a man fitting well in minor parts—one of the walking gentlemen—indispensable, yet not important. There were hosts, the like of him. And sitting here these later days, inactive, having no outlet, memory panoramas the whole past, finding me a character here and there, to live again, whom I had thought gone forever even from the thought of men. The stage? I suppose there's a sense in which it has gone down—lost caste—position. But stars differ in their glory. And all we can say is, that changes have come—perhaps not all of them for the better."

     Had he ever taken any extensive out-doorings with Burroughs? "None at all." Yet was it "a good experience for anyone who could companion John," who was "like a bit out of nature herself, a wild hare, the flower that grows in the wood, the bird in mid-heaven."

     What had I heard last night about "Hamlet"? And then some talk thereon. Long had curiously said, "One of my doubts of Shakespeare is in the fact that no two men seem to agree as to what he meant by the plays." W. put in now, "Well, that would knock out his Bible, too." I then, "That's what I said, and all literature." And I said further, "Shakespeare did not intend to make Hamlet sane or insane, or to make his characters anything: he simply intended to make them, represent them, cutting them vividly out of life, with all their contradictions. For instance, in Hamlet: to show the conflicting conditions that warred about and in him and his resistance," etc. W. exclaimed, "That is fine, and it is 'Leaves of Grass': it is our doctrine—the doctrine we swear by," and more to the same end.


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