Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, November 14, 1891

     8:05 P.M. W. on bed. "I am getting lame and halt," he said. We shook hands. How had the day passed? "Dully, dully—it has been a dull day. Yet all days are dull days here." And then he asked, "Have you come to tell me the news? What have you seen today?" At that, "For one thing, I just had a cablegram from Wallace. He arrived about noon today." This pleased W. "The best news you could bring! And now for the new life! For his life henceforth will be a new one: he will enter new places, realize new meanings. His trip was a brilliant scheme, beginning and end and middle. Every way a triumph. It will bring with it to him a glimmering of the unexpected—open up fields untouched. The whole affair has been marked and significant—will so appear to him, more and more, as time goes, as scenes shift, when I am gone, no more here with you to speak, be heard." "That time will never come, Walt!" "You think not! Ah! Horace! It will come—and soon! Even before the spring!" I still insisted, "That time will never come, Walt!" Then his whole face lighted up, "Well, I see. I hope it will not come!" And we talked away from that mournful theme.

     By this time he had got up, sat on the south side of the bed, his back towards me. I said to him, "I wrote to the Colonel today!" "Ah! and what did you say?" "I gave him your love—told

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him your love and admiration always attended him!"
"Good! Good! They do! They do!" "And I told him more." "What more?" "I told him that while you often found yourself differing with his ideas you never differed from his heart!" "Bless him! Bless you! It is so—I do not! But, Horace, I differ a good deal less with his ideas even than you suppose—anyway, than is generally supposed. In fact, I almost wholly accept him. And at the most I would not dare to say our differences were serious. He is so vital, so near the heart of things, I would not dare look up differences anyway. In the Shakespeare matter, my sympathies are with the fellows who are disturbed, chaotic, off rudderless at sea—who question, don't see enough to believe—the men who riot with accepted notions. Every week I read Shakespeareana in the Critic—Rolfe's admirable page. It is superbly done. I can conceive nothing better of its kind—nothing, nothing! To the literary critter it would be perfect—a gem (that would be their word), and carry conclusion everywhere. But for my part I go with the sinners who are not so damned sure—who do not feel willing to swear we know all's to be known."

     Tomorrow I go to see Baker. W. gave me a card to take him, the "Laughing Philosopher," above it writing "To I. N. Baker" and below "Walt Whitman." And as for a message, "Give him my dearest love. Tell him we think he has scored a great triumph. Noble Baker!" I picked up a copy of a stenographic monthly—made some comment (I forget what), W. then resuming, "Yes, they send me everything, but this happens to have been pretty interesting. Take a copy—see what you can make out of it. They sent me two."

     The disturbances in Brazil and Chile watched by W., as he says, "with the greatest anxiety." Was republicanism for Southern peoples? "It is all experimental—all in air, all wait, wait, wait—till finally we must know results. I am not sure myself either way."

     In Bazar big double-page picture from Frans Hals, "Portrait of a Young Man." Very powerful—broad. W. always delights in these pictures. Today, now, enjoyed this "after a huge amount"

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as he laughingly put it. I said, "We speak of breadth, but which one of our fellows beats these Dutch painters?" "Which one to be sure! Not one of 'em—not one—not one even to touch the edge of 'em!" And again, "No, they wouldn't paint that way now. In the first place, they couldn't do it—wouldn't do it; then, society don't want such. Art now is all made with reference to social conventions—the notions, instincts, of parlors, gentlemen, ladies. It does not come direct from nature, but through media: receptions, carpets, elegant, showy outsideness. And Hals, none of these old fellows (broad as breadth) could have worked, done, what they did, from such inspiration, background." He turned the Bazar over. On the next page a fashion plate. "One surprise is that a paper which would print this would care to print Hals at all. I suppose that is something in the direction of good." And in a tone exclamatory and musical, back at Hals again, "What careless power! How this breathes! How the blood pulses in this fellow: I can see the man, see him walk, sit, joke, drink, live his natural daily life."

     I had been in to see Wilson Eyre about estimate. He referred me to William Gray, special granite expert. W. satisfied. But I must refer it first to Harned. W. remarks, "I now have the key of the tomb. Anyone you have to go out can come here and get it." Quoted to W. remark of a Unitarian preacher West who says: Take from man personal immortality and the universe is imbecile. W. exclaimed, "Shame on him! Shame on him!" Schiller mentioned as holding "grander ideas than any such." W. speaks warmly of Bucke, wishes "we could oftener see him," but as "there is an inevitable about affairs which it is folly to protest against," any rebellion would in this matter, as in others, be "stupid and childish." Has been "looking still further into Young's two big volumes," but finding it "generally not very bright work."

      "Would like to see Baker over here, but I suppose that is impossible." Spoke of modern scientific men—how cheerfully they accepted the universe, good and bad. "That is 'Leaves of Grass'—that is what we mean."


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     W. recently gave me a note of Oct. 27th from Bucke, which he thought had "universal interest," and wished or thought ought to be "noted and preserved." Likewise a letter from Johnston (N.Y.), "quite a long one for John," which he felt should go among my "archives" and be "produced by and by when the proper day arrived."

     Johnston's English letter (28th) very interesting. I showed to W. who thought it contained points "of significant moment." Postmaster Delaware, Ohio, writes W. No money order there. Sends back W.'s own postal. Evidently did not appreciate the value of the autograph.


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