- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 484] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tuesday, January 8, 1889.

     8 P. M. W. in room sitting up, reading Carlyle (early letters): probably a third through. Was he interested?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 485] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"I don't know so much about that, but I am in the stream—the Carlyle stream—and take what glimpses I may as I go along." I read to-day Darwin's Estimate of Carlyle: in Darwin's autobiography. Repeated things from it to W. W. said: "Does he say that? It brings back to me a story I heard once: perhaps it is printed somewhere and you have read it: I am not certain, but it seems to me some one told it to me—that I got it that way: at any rate it was something like this." W. did not go on directly: asked me some further questions about Darwin. Then: "It wonderfully fits with the like of the old devil—if we may speak so of a great and venerable man—oh! how wonderfully!" He could not "recall particulars—all the circumstances." But this was as he knew it: "Carlyle was off somewhere, travelling with someone, some stranger—perhaps had met him. It was a calm beautiful night—a rare night anywhere: the stranger was intensely moved: he thought, here, surely, is a sight to inspire the most unimpressionable, the most dissatisfied, man: the stars shining, the moon out in all its glory, the air stilled, the waters flowing at their feet: everywhere, all about them, grandeur, beauty, solemnity. I can imagine the night myself: I have seen such nights: many a time we would go walking—walking—walking: late—under the illumined sky: two of us: sometimes others!" W.'s voice intensely emotional—deep, earnest. He looked across at me. I sat on the sofa directly opposite. " 'What do you say to this—this?' the man asked, turning to Carlyle. Carlyle lifted his head"—W. threw his shoulders back and from left to right as if sweeping something out of the way— "scanned the heavens, looked down at the stirred current, dropped his chin on his breast, so"—W. showing how— "said:'It is a sad, sad, sad sight!'" W.'s manner was indescribable: a sigh indicating the hopelessness of Carlyle's pessimism: his voice musical, intense. "How capitally that describes Carlyle!" I said: "It must be true in effect: it is like Carlyle—too like to be a pure invention." W.: "It is both: it is literally true: it

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 486] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
is Carlyle in and out: I know nothing better illustrative of the man: I accept it just as it stands."

     W. spoke of his health—its change for the better. "I suspended the rubbings: I shall resume them now I am so greatly improved. To-day I had a good sunbath—sat in the room back there by the window: it was very helpful. I don't seem to get about much better but I seem stronger—less actively ailing." But progress was so "slow-so slow." He had given me the manuscript of the Note at Beginning. Intended also to give me Note at End but could not put his "hands upon it." "I am not certain I can: I barely rescued the other: I am half persuaded it got burned up."

      "Perhaps you can help me out in this," he said, producing a letter: "some one writes me here: he has had a copy of Drum Taps sent him: I don't know who sent it: writes me to know: I can't give him the least idea." Of course not. Neither could I. Was it a play for an autograph? W.: "I was half tempted to answer it: but I won't write a word." What would he do about the poem asked for by the Easton soldiers? "I have done nothing at all with it: it rests just where it did." He did not feel inspired. "If inspiration" did "not come," &c. Showed me a letter from Knortz, "at last." "He sent me a German paper: somewhere in it is a reference to me: I don't know what its import may be." Pushed his feet about the floor near his chair but the paper did not turn up. "I put it down there almost on that spot: Bucke will know about it: he reads German: he will solve the riddle." Was he curious? "No: these things do not arouse or disturb me." Was "most glad to hear from Knortz." Had not seen a word from him since 1885, when Rolleston wrote W. a note which was forwarded to K. and elicited a reply. "By the way," he said: "here are the old letters: by some sort of coincidence they came right into my hands to-day while I was looking for something else." W.'s note was bluepencilled on

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 487] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rolleston's. Knortz had returned the R. letter with his own.

Fairview, Delgany, County Wicklow,
Ireland Aug. 4th [1885].

My dear Walt:

It 's a long time now since I 've written you, and I owe you thanks for the many papers &c you have sent me containing verse and other matter connected with you. I asked you the last time I wrote to let me have one small poem which I felt especially stirred by in your handwriting. I don't think I 've heard from you since then. Will you remember this now if it does n't trouble you too much? I don't possess a single line of your verse in your own handwriting, and should think it a very precious possession. The poem I meant is that on the Artic snowbird.

I send you herewith a magazine of which I have made editor. The article signed "M. Rowlandson" is mine. It (i.e. the review) emanates form Trinity College Dublin and aims at introducing Nationalist thought among the upper classes in Ireland. We have to go forward very cautiously in this enterprise, political questions here are so fiercely debated, and at present we can only reconcile the landed interest and conservative element by opening our columns to both sides alike. To get Nationalists admitted at all to an audience in Trinity College is a great step. We publish an article by Michael Davitt in September. I have been getting acquainted with him and other prominent members of the National party here since I came back. The best man I have met in Ireland is John O'Leary, formerly editor of Irish People, imprisoned in 1865 for Fenianism. He has been living in Paris ever since; let out after five years on condition of remaining abroad till his sentence (twenty years) was out. This expired in Jan. 1885 and he is to the fore again now. A good looking man, long white beard, aquiline features, keen eyes—spare, sinewy frame, full of restrained passion and energy.

What about Dr. Knortz? I have heard nothing from

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 488] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
him at all about the translation of the L. of G. that he should have revised and read long ago. I think of writing him about it. I fully expect it would have appeared before May.

We have gone into a house of our own now, at least one we have rented for several years, and so are pretty well fixed. All of us well, especially my two little boys, who enjoy the country life very much. We have a good garden and a little land which I work myself. On the whole, like this sort of life very much. We are about three quarters of an hour by train from Dublin, and have easy access to libraries, &c., there.

I hope you are well and hearty. I am sorry to hear the sale of L. and G. has not been so good lately. Wish we had fairly opened it in Germany. Will you send a line to Knortz? I was to give him twenty dollars for the work—am only waiting to hear that it is complete to send it—but don't like sending bill till I know that he is going in for the thing, as I have n't yet even heard that he had begun for it.

Cover of our Review is old Celtic design.

Yours always

T. W. Rolleston.

Camden (328 Mickle) Sept. 10.

Dear Sir:

I send Rolleston's last letter to me—please look at the parts marked in blue—Did you get a note from me about two months ago?

Walt Whitman.

540 E. 155th St., New York.

My dear Mr. Whitman:

Please excuse me for not having answered your letter two months ago. I was very busy, as I had to prepare a series of lectures for the coming fall and winter. I have not been able to find a publisher who will print the German and English; but Mr. Schabelitz, of

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 489] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Zurich, will publish the German text at his risk and pay all the expenses. This is as favorable as may be expected. According to the wish of Rolleston I shall add a few of my translations and send the Ms to Europe within six or seven weeks from now. Of my German-English anthology I have no proofs; but my publishers will bring out a new edition (revised) this fall and I shall not fail to send you a copy. I shall answer R.'s letter to-day.

Yours truly,

Karl Knortz.

      "That adds a little more detail to your data about editions," W. said: "we had our ups and downs—our advances and halts and breakdowns. Rolleston was a knight-errant: the real Irish stuff: like William: radiant, forible, illuminative: I fell that he has always been more than my friend—has sworn his big oath in my interest and battled for me without reservation. We had special extras of trouble getting out that German translation: it went slow: it was done, it was n't: we could n't get a publisher: we could: so it went for a long time. Knortz must be an adept in rendering things in the German: he stands high: I feel as if I was in good hands: as if Rolleston, Knortz, were an efficient team. When the time comes for you to write about these things you must emphasize my words in repeating that I have said about these men."

     Contemporary meeting to-night. Frances Emily White to open with The Evolution of Ethics. W. exclaimed: "Oh! that is a subject! If anyone asks after me, or even if they don't, if you can get a word in edgeways here and there, say this: say that Walt Whitman would only have this to put in on that question: that however they settle it, whatever origins, what not, they hit upon—however they warm up, discuss, get wrothy—things will still go on the same—not a tremor even of the balance!" He spoke half jesting, half seriously. I quoted a humorous poem in refrain, "it still rolls on." Saw it in Bryant's Library of Poetry

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 490] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
and Song. W. very much amused: "That is extremely good: I never have heard that before: and it is more than mere wit." Whose was it? I suggested: Perhaps Orhpeus C. Kerr. Did he know O. C. K.? He looked at me astonished. "Orpheus C. Kerr? I should say so: why, I worked with him: closer than you and I are now: day by day." at Washington? "Oh no: in New York. I was editor of The Aurora at that time: Kerr was exchange editor: scissors editor we all called him." Was W. managing editor? "Yes, you might call it that: The Aurora! tremendous name, was n't it? Kerr was not his name: that was his nom de plume: he was a typical New Englander—keen, dry, a good fellow: I liked him: I liked 'em all: all the fellows I met: how good, even noble, many of them—the boys on the papers!"

     I left McKay's book at his store early this morning. Asked W.: Was McKay over? He had been. Did he like the inscription? "Oh my yes! it tickled him immensely. He paid me the bill: paid it just as you figured, I think: I did not like to look while he was here: see if he did n't." He produced receipt: of course all right. "We talked of the big book: I told him I wanted to give you fellows carte blanche—at least with that copy: consult together: do what you agree is best: you, Dave, the Swiss. Dave said he was at your service any time you found it convenient: to—morrow if you want to go right ahead with it." He had told McKay "he could have the book for four dollars—a third off": could "have some of them now" if he wished. I said the public that bought might want a soldier cover. But W. protested: "That may be: but this book as it stands is essentially the book, irrespective of expensive binding: it has the portraits, notes, title page-all the guarantees of my personality: it is as clearly the book as anything could make it. In short, the price must be kept at the standard—six dollars." He "would not restrict" us in the choice of cover: would "simply suggest half calf in green, gilt top, rough side and bottom." "Even there I

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 491] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
may yield: I take no pledge"
: he knew "a thing done, even unexpectedly done—a variation often"—was "the very thing we wanted done but could not direct." He had a notion "this Swiss" would "know better than any of us how to go about the job: he is right in the field—has the tools." "The book must be substantial, rich, without making a show, a glitter: rich not after the binder's fashion or the booksellers', but on other rules, manners—ours." Talked freely with Dave. "I told him you understood me and would stand for me in the arrangements."

     Something got us going about Baldwin's and locomotives. I alluded to our army in the Rebellion. "It was an army of mechanics who could reconstruct as well as destroy, differing in this way from all armies known in history before." W. said: "That is true: I know all about that: I was there—realized all that it signified: the Southerners were good at destroying: especially railroads, locomotive: while our boys would put them up again—were rather proud they could do it. Destruction is easy: the Rebels were easy destroying: a few minutes, an hour, would rake up a whole line—miles long: demolish everything. It was, as you say, one of the unique qualities of the Northern soldiery: no one had more reason for seeing it, glorying in it, than I." After a pause he went on: "We can't get on with a world of masters: we want men—a world of men: backbone men—the workers, the doers, the humbles: we want them. The ornamental classes make a lot of noise but they create nothing: you may crack a whip over men and you may be useless nevertheless: lots in business that passes for ability is only brutality: don't forget that—you masters: you are not so damned clever as you think: you 're only coarse, cruel, wanton: that 's all: that 's all." I said: "Walt, you 'll be a revolutionist yet!" He was grave over it. "I have been: have n't I been?" Then he shook his head: "I see a stirring time coming but I won't be in it: but you 'll be in it— you 're in it already: you 'll have to fight big enough for us both: I'll steady your right arm: you 'll feel me

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 492] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
with you."
It sounded so fine. "Walt, Leaves of Grass will be in it: it will not be like one man, either: it will be like a thousand men: after all, Leaves of Grass is you." He was fervently affirmative. "I do hope all that may be true: that I will contribute to the great result: I sit here now physically lame, almost done for: it takes something extra out of a man to feel so helpless as I do: it is a great joy for me to hear you say what you do: that there will be enough of me left after I am gone to assist: that the Leaves will perhaps go on doing a little here and there to nerve men freshly for the fight." Then he added: "I do not forget what you drove so hard at me yesterday—the day before—that what you want I want too: I never had it driven at me in just that way before, but now that you have done it realize that you are nearer right than I have been in some of my suppositions."

     Bucke (5th) wrote at length about the meter. They have been making some successful experiments. W. "not at all interested in that": did "not care to read it." "Maurice is naturally enough interested in his speculations but never quite seems to see that they don't appeal to me. I don't care whether he makes money or not: the more he makes the less a man he is likely to be: making money don't seem to go with the other thing: you have to choose: if you choose money the other ideals must be abandoned. Many men say: Money will make us free: Maurice says it: but that is an illusion: money never made any man free—only enslaves men: some of the finest, noblest fellows have walked right into that dirty ditch—have headed (strangely) with their eyes open right into that stench: let Maurice beware—tell him to beware: say to him some time for me (in a letter, or when he comes): say it for me: it 's the sort of fire no man can play with and not be burned: no one—not even the strongest."

     W. sent a note to Harned to-day asking for some wine. Spoke of Dave a second time. "I was glad he liked the

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 493] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
book-enjoyed having it come: he deserved it: he had been kind to me."
I said I thought Dave wanted to become and remain personally identified with W. W. said: "and I with him: he not more than I." W. in more like his old spirits. Everything seems momentarily serene. Renewed insurance to-day on sheets at Oldach's: one month more. Morse has written to have two of the W. heads shipped to him for the Ethical building. Is to lecture in Chicago: will require them. "Good for Sidney!" exclaimed W. who watches all his doings fondly and is happy over any good reports. W. had a couple of little "page things" laid aside for me. He handed them to me as I left. One was an 1873 portrait which he had autographed. The other was the original notes ( "some of them": he said: "I think there were more") of the To the Year 1889 poem. He said: "You understand I give you these things on your own valuation, not on mine: to me they are useless bits of paper, which, once done with, might as well be burned as not so as no longer litter up a man's environment." I said: "These things—seeing them, having them—give your friends great joy: it is not fetich worship: its 's only simple everyday love." W.: "When you put it that way I accept it: for a long time I had a little pen-knife that belonged, they told me, to Lincoln: I lost it: I felt as bad as if a dear friend had died."


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

Support the Archive | About the Archive

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