Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, October 6, 1891

     7:50 P.M. W. reading. Good color—warm hand. "It is almost winter's chill—eh?" he asked. Yet, "I stand it pretty well, supported last night by a good sleep." Then, "Now tell me the news!" I laugh at that question always, say to him, "You bring me news from the eternities: report for that today!" But he shakes his head, "No, it's time we want—the news of our own

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daily life—the history that is being made day by day about us."
Told him then of my letter from Johnston today. Did he wish to read? "No, I guess not. Tell me about it." As to George Humphreys' book, "You were right in your guess. I sent the book yesterday." (I had "guessed" this in a letter to Johnston today.) "I held back, hoping to send him a copy of the final and complete edition. But as things hang fire, and threaten to go on doing so, I thought it better to send what I had." Then, "I have written Johnston, too, today. But no word comes from Wallace. Have you heard? He will be along before many days, no doubt, linger a few days—then, exit. And for me the last of him!" W. said this solemnly enough.

     Book sale, at Thomas' today (Philadelphia). Copy of Bucke's "Whitman," presented by O'Connor to Appleton Morgan, on list. W. said, "I know nothing of Appleton Morgan, except what I gather from O'Connor. But he may have been some shakes among scholars of his kind." What of Winter's new book on Shakespeare? W. said, "I am reminded by it of what Carlyle said of modern poetry. He called it a raking over of old embers. Describes the poets—these times—poking at the old dead or dying fires—inviting them to burn—turning over and over the old ashes, for the spark of life left—finding little, perhaps nothing—chill, north-wind. That was Carlyle, and not to be too severe I would apply it to studies of Shakespeare—to Winter and his degree in particular. The critics of the great dramas all occupied to prove unprovable things—to stir up passions, fires, long gone out—the deceptive embers instinct with nothing. Oh! it is a lifeless sort of business! Yet a fellow hates to be too general, to make the mistake of being unjust. For often life comes, where we had thought of nothing but death."

     W. afterward, "I have laid a letter and a paper out for you. I felt you would be interested. The letter is from the nihilist over there in London—the editor of Free Russia—and the paper will show you what sort of work he is doing. And anyway, keep both. They have an interest and value—show which way the wind blows."

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Henhurst Cross
Beare Green, N. Dorking England.
Sept. 26 1891.

Revered Comrade

You will be puzzled at the strangeness of the name subscribed to this letter, but you know well that democracy includes all nationalities and therefore though foreign, no name will be alien to you.

Since I have been a political refugee in England, after going through America, I have met with many young people of your race, whom I admire & esteem, & who have told me the same thing—that Walt Whitman is the man who has done for them what no one else has done, has formed their character in accord with democratic ideals. And I understood this better when I became better acquainted with your writings. I also understood that the cause of justice & freedom in any country whatever could not be alien to you; and therefore I have decided to write you this letter & to send you the paper, intended to plead among English speaking nations the cause of freedom in Russia. I hope that you will find a moment to look through it & to kindly send in some lines from your mighty pen to be inserted in it.

If you can aid this cause by introducing the subject among your friends & admirers & the general American public, you will do a good deed.

Yours fraternally,

Felix Volkhovsky


Spoke of Stepniak's reputed friendship. "It is the rugged first-handers we are after." Would read "Underground Russia" if I brought it.

     Left him—went downstairs—loitered with Mrs. Davis. While there a ring at the bell—Longaker admitted. After greetings we went upstairs together. W. seemed very glad to see Longaker, even said he was. And when asked how he had been said, "I have had the devil's own time with neuralgia, Doctor, for ten days past. All down this side of the head and face," indicating the left. "The night before last was a very bad night: it hardly let me sleep at all. But last night I slept well—enjoyed the peace of the just. Indeed, had an unusual sound long sleep. And stomachically I'm nothing to brag of either." Thence to questions

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and answers about digestion, "evacuations," as W. calls them. W. showed bad memory. Longaker tripped him several times (said to me when we got out on the street, "His memory is perceptibly failing"). Had not been downstairs today, "nor disposed to move anywhere." Longaker felt his pulse. "Is it about right, Doctor?" "Yes, just about, just." Longaker said, "I like to see you here nights. It is the time you show to best advantage." "Do you think so, Doctor? These days, to show to advantage any time is victory." Longaker said he had intended bringing copy of New York World (Sunday's) over to show Walt. A story of Kipling's there, started with quite a quote from W. Longaker "had not known Kipling was disposed our way." And W. laughed out his words, "Anyway, it's another straw on the winds: gives us a hint we won't dismiss, ignore." Longaker picked up from floor Johnston's photo of the Isle of Man, W. too much admiring. "Doctor seems to follow up the trail of beauty—gets his subjects always at the right moment."


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