Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, November 18, 1891

     6:05 P.M. Half hour with W., during which easiest talk, and he in a seeming cheery mood. Yet he says his "days seem to get duller," that a "completer lethargy" seems to possess him, and Warrie tells me the rubbings amount to less, that W. asks him to let up in vigor and time.

     Was in and had a long talk with McKay. His affection for W. a good deal more than publisherial. Glad to know it. Yet we have always known it, or suspected it. The 12 stitched copies not ready for me yet. Oldach busy on Christmas work.

     W. hears from Kennedy less than of old, and writes him less. Here is the last note (K.'s):

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Belmont
Oct. 30. 91

Dear Walt Whitman's paper rec'd with its saddening news of yr increased weakness. I am whirled on in such a melee of work (exhausting driving work) that I have no time to write or say anything agreeable I fear. I look back with feelings of pleasure of the deepest nature those divine days I spent in companionship of the noblest of books L. of G. & those happy letters back & forth between you & me.

Recently someone in Transcript noticed that jackass Bartlett w. his "Familiar Quotations" had not a line of Walt W. I went over yr books espec. Song of Myself & culled a list of phrases & lines that I offered to prove the classic & current coin already. However, Clement still holds it in reserve. Will let you know when it appears, wh. may be in a year. After all that your sublime & haughty songs are not lozenge poetry for silly boys & girls is something to be proud of. It is a book separate "the words of my book nothing, the (trend) of it everything."

Sadikichi seems to be in St. Louis writing.

O'Connor's book is out I see— "Brazen Android."

Write dear Walt—as of old when spirit moves you and so will I.

[William Sloane Kennedy]






But W. in nowise cooled, "The fires still burn for him." Then W., "I have been reading what Dicky Vaux said at your club last night, speaking about the criminal classes. He seems to think a good deal that goes by the name philanthropy now is damned sentiment—stupid, mawkish sentiment. But I don't know, Dick—I don't know. There are other sides to this question." Referred to Ingersoll's "Crimes Against Criminals" as "pivoting" the subject and Bucke's McGill address as "a touch near it," adding as to this, "It is the best thing, I say again, that our Doctor has ever done." I remarking, "Perhaps because tempered!" Which induced W. to say, "That is good: yes, tempered. It was a genuine scientific piece of work." As to criminals and the evil-minded, "They are only partial—need a brush-up this side or that," and life is so complex—every individuality so complex, "it is hard to determine how or why any man pulls up just where he does." Brinton and Russia adduced. "You tell me, Horace,

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that Doctor Brinton has a defence of Russia. Well, I suppose there is a defence, but to me the question seems very simple. Yes, have Brinton come—I should like to have him any time. But"
—with a laugh— "I guess we won't agree!"

     I had a letter from Ingersoll, written yesterday:
Nov 17th 91

My dear Traubel,

I have been away in Chicago & Cleveland—returning yesterday. Found your good letter. I will send you the Shakespeare with the understanding that it be kept private as it is not finished. I had it put in page form and have not yet corrected the proof. I expect to add greatly to it before publication.

I do hope that Whitman is better than usual. I want him to live many years to enjoy the harvest of the seeds he has sown. I hope he will sit long by this cheerful fireside of old age, by the blazing hearth surrounded by friends and admirers. Good luck to the brave old poet. I may be over in Philadelphia shortly & then I shall call and pay my respects to Whitman and yourself.

I am sorry that Dr. Bucke has the Bacon bee in his bonnet.

Yours always

R. G. Ingersoll


W. remarked, "It's as bold as a lion. That handwriting alone ought to make the world stop and read! The Colonel is easy, flowing—dashes away at a letter—throws his whole moment's life in it—then lets it go! It's a rare faculty—no man seeming to have more of it these new days than Colonel Bob. All that you tell me of him through Baker is interesting—is rich, significant—increases the light!" And at the more personal part of the letter W. exclaimed, "Good Colonel! Sure enough, I am rich!" And laughed at the wind-up, "That bee is in Doctor." And as he returned me the letter, "That reminds me of my letter to Bucke today. I spoke in it of the Bacon business, said in substance this: that I had read all that Donnelly has to say on the question—that I felt the staggeringness of much of the

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evidence he brings against Shakespeare as an individual, but as for the Bacon claims—no, no, they are too thin. The attempt to trace identity between Bacon and the plays is too thin. Would not excite respect—deserve it. That in fact 'it is probable,' 'it is likely'—such—would not pass muster in science—in the real trial that the appeal must undergo. I am quite conscious of the embarrassments of the situation. It is no new thing to me—indeed, is a very old thing—it came to me, almost, in my youth. But of late it has grown upon me—grown more into pressure that I can't shake off—that there's a great grave mystery lurking in the plays—unseen (I don't know if unseeable)—a something not casually apparent—a suspicion, a breath—indefinable, as some hovering, lingering presence. As for that cipher, cryptogram, I think it all humbug. I have no faith in it at all—none. I advised the Doctor to go slow about the Baconian whirlpool, to not dare it imperiously—it is the Doctor's danger."

     We spoke of poets and prophets as human, not partisan: but W. after saying, "I guess you are right on the whole—yes, indubitably right." Asked, "But how about Wordsworth?" I responding, "He was great—had great traits, but was one-half Puritan as well." He thereupon, "Admirable! That probably hits his whole case off." Brotherhood of man: "Leaves of Grass" its supreme modern exponent. W. asks me, "Do you say that?" "Yes." "Do you preach that?" "Yes." "Oh! Proud day! I hope it is deserved!"

     Soon out and home. Met Harned on street, just on his way to W.'s. Tells me Moore not yet in to see him.


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