Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 121] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thursday, November 5, 1891

     8:00 P.M. Light up full—W. on bed. Talked with usual voice—seemed interested—yet remained in bed while I stayed. Fire nearly out—room comfortable enough, however. W. asked me to "stir up the embers," which I did, and soon secured a roaring flame and excess of heat. But he had no idea there was any extreme in this, nor can he have felt it. Warrie in and to and fro as we talked. I got copy of big book for McKay, whom I saw and who ordered same; and took it home and numbered it. No numbered copies remaining with W. I am keeping accounts of these books now. W. reminded that a copy sent for a week ago had been sent and no item of it given me. Took now. W. greatly interested in Stoddart's proposed magazine—new one. "I should like to get a fly at it at the new prices." I had a letter from Henry George. W. admired "the simple plain hand," it showing "a direct mind"—bursting then into a laugh, "I would not like to assert that connection always."

     Wallace leagues off. "A good start," says W., "a great lift of sea already passed." Woodhullclaften [?] people have been sending him more pamphlets. "I did no more than open them. I am like to be drowned down by literary odds and ends. Everybody unloads on me." Some news of disturbance in Brazil, but W. says, "I am not afraid it is serious, though to be sure I wince at

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 122] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
anything which seems to set us back. For, Horace, Brazil has now become our cause, and reaction there is our reaction. The people at the South are hot, impetuous—may do many things which we, cooler, Northern, would avoid."
Yet confessed, "I am sensitive to every turn in affairs there—bad turn—having had such hope when Brazil made her change." I talked with Lincoln Eyre Monday at reception. He said some good authority had related in Telegraph how a good deal of the Chilean difficulty was owing to Minister Egan's interest in domestic politics. W. now, "I suspected as much, had a vague notion that there was something to be said on the other side—there generally is. More than that, I never could have trusted anything to Egan. And I am about given Harrison up. I had been wondering if perhaps there was not something in him after all—but much that has lately been happening has disappointed my hope—showed that it had no foundation. I don't think it necessary for a great nation—or any nation, anyway—to make every brawl, fight, mob, difference of opinion, a matter for diplomatic negotiations—fuss, fume, splutter. And it is in this respect Harrison has been lately playing a constant part—a devilish, picayune part—worthy of him—worthy of my original idea of him, unworthy of my hope. O no! Mr. Harrison—I guess we'll have to let you go!"

     W. tells me, "I have read but little of Balzac—practically nothing." I had a volume of short stories. "I should like to see—read it." Told W. in particular of Brinton's view of the Russo-Jewish question—that with Russian ideas of national destiny, the Jews (aloof, not sharing) were not unnaturally subjected to persecution. Russia to be judged from her own situation, not from our ideals. The persecution of the Jews rather political than religious. W. shook his head at all this. "Damnable, horrible doctrine!" exclaimed he. "It is, every word of it, low, mean, inhuman, cruel, poisonous, viperous! I hate it—yes, hate it! Expatriation is never a solution—never was, never can be—neither for Jew nor Negro." I put in, "Why shouldn't the Jew expatriate the Russian or the negro the white?" "Exactly, exactly. It is a poor thing for a people when it has no destiny but must be

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 123] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
carved out of wrong—written in blood. I, too, know, acknowledge the difficulties. I see man, his beastliness hanging to him—see the murderer, why people will steal, the onanist, the weary sorrowful whore—but I do not feel that this explains all. There is yet more to be said—not to condemn persons yet to condemn an event. Poor Russia, poor America, if either must travel the principle (they would call it that) of expatriation."

     Jastrow tells me more about Strong (London)—a co-worker with Müller and Renan—an enthusiastic Orientalist and Whitmanite. W. asks, "And he said Strong cottoned to us?" Clifford remarks the tendency in exchanges got at Times to joke over W.'s tomb. W. says, "It has a grim background. But before long it will justify its builder." What did he mean? I wanted to hear more. He only said, "It is a thing not to be disputed about, of course," and left it.

     McKay tells me Brinton was surprised (upon asking) to find how small was the sale of Walt Whitman's book. McKay wishes to bring his children over to see W., saying W. always asks, "Well, how about the babies, Dave? You have never brought them to see me yet." As to Scott's visit long ago Dave explained, "The reason for his silence was in something I said." What was that? "Oh! When we got there we found that Walt had been in bad condition. Scott at first protested that he would not go up at all, but finally went, on my assurance that he might as well go up and sit there and see the old man while we did our business together." It shows the force and aim of W.'s intuition that he knew something was up with the visitor. Wished me to get an order from Dave and go to Bennerman for a set of sheets of new pages. "I have met both the Bennermans—the father and son. Like the son better than the father—he is more obliging, more apt to look after your comfort. Would give a fellow greater freedom. But both are good: I must not complain." Of Dave and their several troubles over the book, "Dave deleted a couple of copies from our last settlement—declared he knew nothing about them, and I guess he did not. But I am as sure I gave them to him, that he owed me for them, as that we are here together

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 124] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
now. But I feel that we are on the best plan now—for you to keep track of them."

     W. wrote postal to Johnston today. Bonsall writes this in Post: James Wallace, an English gentleman who has just returned home after visiting Walt Whitman, expresses the utmost enthusiasm over our exhilarating fall weather. It was a revelation to him, and to use his own exclamation, filled him with a sense of lightness and brightness he will recall whenever he remembers America. We don't know what good things we have here until strangers acquaint and impress us with our physical advantages.


W. said, "Harry is steadfast—gives evidence of it, day by day."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.