Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, October 30, 1891

     4:50 P.M. W. on his bed. Day balmy, beautiful. "A king among days," W. called it. "Sorrowed" he could not go out— "Everything tempted" except his "own inclination"—that had lost all

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its old back and bone. "But Wallace wishes to go to Pea Shore," I said. W. to that, "He ought to go—ought to." What if I ordered a carriage for tomorrow? W. said, "Chances are against my going," but I was "to order" if I thought best, and Wallace could go with us anyway. Indeed W. wants him to go. I subsequently ordered carriage for 4:45. Little expectation that W. will be able to join us. Keeps fire burning. Still the pile of wood and its aroma. Why was W. on bed? Worse? "No, not worse—though bad enough. But I have had visitors today—am now some worn out. But," he said inquiringly, with a lift of his voice, "Wallace has not been here—where is Wallace?" On which I could give no word explaining.

     I told W. a curious story given me by Brinton. B. said, "I know Knortz—the Rev. Karl Knortz, of Brooklyn—know him well. Yes, he is an admirer of Mr. Whitman—has written about Whitman. And Knortz has written about Longfellow, too." We drifted into some talk about W.'s dislike of personal worship and incense-burning. Brinton remarked, "I understand that. It is a great trait. Mr. Whitman stands supreme in that. That is one reason why 'Leaves of Grass' is for me." When I gave this to W. I put it, "Brinton understands, as I said to him, that you don't like to be incensed!" W. laughed with great heartiness, rolling his head round on the pillow my way, "That's so—Whitman don't! Bright and true! And so Brinton caught on to that? And he spoke of 'Leaves of Grass' as for him? I count that as a distinct cast our way." And I went on, "Brinton said further, when I dwelt upon this trait: 'Mr. Whitman is there—as in many or most other respects—entirely unlike Longfellow. Longfellow liked incense, flattery and praise. Knortz told me that he knew Longfellow, I think intimately—or, anyway, often saw him. And that Longfellow accepted him, or allowed him, so to speak, as long as the praise and applause lasted. But one day, somehow Knortz ventured to criticize or to take exception to something Longfellow had written, and from that time forth the gentle Longfellow had little or nothing to do with Knortz.'" W. exclaimed, "The gentle Longfellow—sure enough. Is Brinton's

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story possible?"
Then, "I have never met Knortz, so of course I had no way of learning that—a thing he probably would not care to write out or have occasion for in a letter." I said, "I never knew before that Knortz was a minister." W. at that, "He is not! He has thrown all that aside." "Yet Brinton spoke of him as Reverend." "Probably—the title has held over, I suppose. I hardly think he has embarked on that sea again. Long ago he was a preacher, off here in some mid-Pennsylvania town. But he threw aside his husks, went to New York, and has since made his money, his living, in literature. He has written about 'Leaves of Grass'—seems to be a solid, sober, learned man, quite of the best German type. We always took to him, and he is to be grateful for, anyway—he has so truly espoused, stood up for, our cause."

     Morris came in at Bank about 2:30—said to me, "Say, I have just been over to see Walt—took Miss Repplier with me. It was very funny, almost ridiculous. There was no particular reason for going except that she wanted to go and I had promised to take her." How had it come about? What was the result? "It came about in a very ludicrous way. I'll tell you." And he recited this: that John Bigelow's daughter, a Mrs. Lawrence, "living in Baronial style here beyond Philadelphia," had recently met a Mrs. or Miss Whitman, leader of a social set or more, in Boston, and heard her read with some warmth and ardor "The Mystic Trumpeter"—thereupon having her own eyes opened to possible power and greatness of Whitman and resolving to examine and know more of his work and character. All which came to Miss Repplier through the Lawrence woman and moved her to wish—yes, Morris says, even to determine—to visit him, or see him, if a formal visit might be out of the question. Says Morris, "Whitman's books have been possible to her all her life, and she knows him and can quote him; yet nothing that she has read, and nothing others have said, has so stirred her as this favorable judgment from a great society woman. It is characteristic of her." So had they gone over, "And Walt received us, kindly, courteously, and in his upstairs room. I guess we were there half

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an hour. He was just as frank and easy as at other times, and showed no sign of wonder, why we had come. But the whole thing is singular enough—was hardly a base for a visit."
Yet they had had a satisfactory talk. Morris says that W. told Miss Repplier that it must have been Miss Whitman's voice that impressed Mrs. Lawrence, and this led to some discourse on vocal gifts, power, what the voice could do—its reach and range. With a good laugh Morris narrated W.'s reference to "the damnable intellectuality of the time"—aimed, or applicable, direct to Miss Repplier, "but I don't know whether she took it." Now that I sit with W. he refers to this visit. "Morris brought Miss Repplier here. We had quite a talk. But I have had in mind to ask: What the devil did she come for? She did not seem to have any errand at all." A bright stroke of intuitional feeling—for what Morris recites to me at length, something in her manner had betrayed to W.'s deliberate but unerring senses. I repeated Morris's story, W. thereupon: "I thought there was a bee in it. And yet it's a small bee—hardly much to count for. But I am glad they came. Morris is always welcome. She is very cute, very intellectual. Yes, with a sharp, sheer tongue—evidently au fait with smart things—of late certainly 'up' in the formal literary world—in the magazines, papers—writing essays, what-not, of the better sort. I suppose I was a curio to her—had such an interest."

     We had some talk of Arnold, "I have a letter from May Johnston. By the way, her note, short as it was, seemed to indicate that John was still in bed—still sick. I wonder if it's anything bad? But I was going to say, she writes to tell me that Arnold came in there the other day—or yesterday—with Major Pond, inquiring about me and seeming to be glad to have such intelligence as May could give him." But whether W. would see anything of him here "another thing," he remarked. Yet, "You will see him next Monday, I suppose, you and Wallace. Morris said he had had a ticket sent Wallace." But I had none (finding one at home later). "Well, you will

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have to go with him—he can hardly go alone—will feel in a strange garret."

     After leaving W. I took haste to Harned's. W. had said, "Give them all my love there—the baby and all. Yes, my dearest love. And tell Tom, anyhow, to come and see me."

     Harned not home to tea. I to Philadelphia at 7:30 and back by 10:45—and from this hour till 12 sat with Wallace going on with the Whitman vignettes.

     Morris took W. peaches today.

     W. said, "Yes, I knew John Bigelow—met and talked with him quite often—a big fellow."


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