- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 516] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sunday, January 12, 1889.

     7.45 P. M. W. sitting up. In pretty good condition. Reading and writing some to-day. "I started a latter to Bucke which I shall finish and send off to-morrow. I mailed him one of the Heralds you left yesterday. I have had a letter from Bucke myself too: he says he has the book back from the binder: the sheet is in: he would defy any one but a specialist to detect that it had been inserted. I was careful in making up the sheet: I had some of the paper here: I used a piece: tried as nearly as possible to keep the writing within the page." Gave him The Stage. He took it gratefully. "I can say of this that it is the only paper on the list that I read right through, top to toe." No visitors to-day.

     I am reading Life of Darwin. Especially hit by the autobiographical chapters. W. listened intently as I went on about it to-night. He said: "I guess I must read that book: I know from what you say—I can almost always tell from your manner—that it will attract, hold, convince, me."

     Asked me as usual: "Whom have you seen to-day? and what? Tell me." He listened attentively to my descriptions of going about and said: "Good! Good!" many times as I told him how I write and read on the boats and cars and delighted in being with people—on cars, in crowds, &c. That had been his training, too. W. had taken up Symonds' Greek Literature "with the old interest to-day again." Questioned me concerning big book. Is getting anxious: wants to see it: knows a model is being made ready. "Will

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 517] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
it be by Wednesday, do you think?"
Talked bindings. He commended Oldach's "good sense." "After all he is a very good man: what he does appears to be well done." And as to the common stint policy of publishers with binders: "That must not be our style: we must go ahead—do our best: stint nowhere: make something honest, appropriate, prepossessing"—and enjoined me: "See that that is secured: it is essential: nothing other will serve." Oldach quite a settled quiet slow German: was figuring out an estimate for us yesterday. McKay smoking his cigar—I with my book under my arm. Beguiled the time with talk. McKay related the story of a drive he took once in the Park with Bucke and W.: Bucke's abstention from drink when they stopped up at Smith's (at the Falls): W.'s elaborate instructions to the waiter how to prepare his punch. I said W. had extensive personal experience in the preparation of punches at Washington with the soldiers: then at my sister's: then in his own home providing for the sick in his neighborhood (drinking nothing of that sort himself any more). Oldach had thought W. "fussier." When he heard these stories he stopped his figuring and beamed on us. "Did he do that?" he asked. W. said: "That is very interesting: like him, too—thoroughly. It is very funny too: I am glad you told it: some of the little stories—the seemingly insignificant—are the best." O.'s estimate for the book was a dollar twenty-four a copy. W. said: "I am in favor of one hundred copies at the start if this suits." Found one of McKay's receipts in the wood box. Did n't he keep such memorandums? "Mostly—but not that: I am not particular: besides, it seems to me I come across that account everywhere I look: it is paid, anyhow, and so—done with it!" "I got my check from Gilder in the morning's mail," he said: "that sets things to rights." Then with a laugh: "And if it had n't I'd lost no sleep." G. could not have had W.'s return note.

     I took another copy As a Strong Bird, he writing Nora Baldwin's name in it, and "from the author" with date.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 518] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I thanked him. He said: "No! don't thank me for it: take it, and both of you welcome! You can have as many more as you choose: they are right in there: I have plenty of them: any time you want a couple, come, get them." Then he broke into a hearty laugh. " It 's a terrible nut to crack!" I asked: "You surely are not dubious about The Mystic Trumpeter?" He said quickly: "No—not of that: I was not thinking of that: I had the first piece of mind—As a Strong Bird: it 's tough bit for anyone to attempt to chew upon." Usually he gets up and hunts out the books for himself. But this time he was willing I should. Knowing I would see Clifford to-morrow morning W. sends his love to C. "and all others." They are to have a book reception. Have asked me to read a paper there. W. said: "Do it."

     Reporters frequently come here—have a good talk: W. very free with them: yet the printed results are wretched—often misrepresentation. I spoke of these as "lost opportunities." He nodded: "They would seem to be lost somethings." Bacon wrote half a column for the Christmas Record, but all except the bare statistics was cut out. "Perhaps just as well: better nothing said than more or much ill said." W. himself would rather be left alone. "Every now and then something bobs up in the papers, going here, going there, attributed to me: something I never in the world said—never!" The Stage was on his lap. His eye caught the name below the picture on the first page—E. H. Sothern. "So this is the son? He is new to me." He had "seen the father." W. queried: "He created that character—that Dundreary character— did n't he? It was always my impression that he did—that he was the first. Some one told me—I don't know if it is true—told me something about the way it happened." W.'s manner animated, inimitable, as it generally is when he is thoroughly awake over a story. "Sothern was coming on the stage one night from the wings: tripped: almost fell: caught himself: passed off the accident in a sort of lisp or whatever. Sothern, then,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 519] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
had caught on himself, or some bright girl did (the girls are always up to that) and, from that time on, Sothern, adopting this fugitive mannerism, this accidental idiosyncrasy, was successful in creating a stage illusion. I don't know that that story is literally true, but it illustrates how such a little turn is often the making of a man's life."

     W. asked them: "Did you ever come much in contact with actors?" I had not. But described to him the Greiner restaurant round the corner from the Arch Street Theatre much frequented by actors—men and women. Went down there much with Eugene Kemper and Fred May. He was greatly inquisitive. Why did n't I keep a record of those days? "You seem to hit upon some little incident every day: jot it down! jot it down!" "gone once they will never return." Dwelt upon his old habit. Then back to actors. "I have always had a good deal to do with actors: met many, high and low: they are gassy: you 'll have to beware of that, to take no account of that: but after that is said, there is more, and more important, to their credit. I have always had one question for actors: a question they have never answered, however: I put it to them this way: How is it that whatever the conditions—sick, worried, fagged out, grumpy—they can turn their backs on the common life, away from distractions, and engage in the new role at once: everything thrown off but the tragedy, comedy, whatnot of the moment." I asked: "Irving has been here to see you?" He responded: "No—he has never been here but I have met him: but I never put the question to Irving." He "felt that none of the actors had even been able to explain." "I suppose that 's the art: that 's the secret of the profession: perhaps all the greater, surer, more significant, because, though felt, realized, it cannot be defined: if we knew that probably we should know all." Said more critically of Irving: "I have never seen Irving on the stage—never witnessed a performance—but I have heard, read, much, thought a good deal, about him. My impression is that he would not satisfy me—would not fill me—would

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 520] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
not fill the bill. All my ideals have been made up by long study of the elder Booth—Edwin's father."
How was it with Salvini? Had he some impression of Salvini too without even having seen him act? "Yes: and that is quite another impression, too: I think he would fill the bill: from all I learn—long study, reading, hearing—I am certain he would at least answer—perhaps more than answer." I discussed Salvini. W. full of questions. Likes to get me going about S. He said: "I feel that must all be so"—and: "as you say, the attitude of actors towards him is in itself significant—sets him apart."

     Dr. Furness, William Henry, though eighty-five, still preaches occasionally: preached last Sunday at Clifford's church. W. remarked upon "his wonderfully preserved body": "no one more able to appreciate that" than he (W.). "I have met him—talked with him: I never heard him preach. I do not think he takes to Leaves of Grass. The Doctor's theories are all arranged with reference to Dryden, Bryant—as he was tutored in his early days." But of Horace Howard Furness: "I am persuaded he is an absorber, a considerable reader, of Leaves of Grass: more radical: has newer ideas: friendly not only as a person but professionally, so to speak." Then: "Curiously, I have never found his deafness a bar: I have talked with him now and then: we seemed to get along very well together." Boker also "friendly."

     I told W. that Dick Stoddard had traveled through Philadelphia the other day. Had he stopped at 328? W.: "No: oh no! he would not do that: Dick Stoddard does not see me: would not see me better by getting nearer." W. had me read him an 1867 O'Connor letter. He said: "It is in William's best hand and best heart: it is wonderfully fine: then it contains a beautiful picture—pen picture—a sentence or two—of my mother that I wish you to have. It is so very tender and brilliant, so like William at his best, that I'd want to keep it here by me, if it was not for my fear that it might in some way get lost. At this juncture I think it

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 521] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
more important that you should take these things along with you—arm yourself with them than that I should continue to hoard them here. I might say the same thing of William that I did of Mrs. Gilchrist—that it 's a shame his wonderful talk has not been somehow preserved. We at least have William's letters: there are many of them: they may console us in some part for what we have lost. It is because I have such feelings about him that I regard even his simplest letters, notes, postcards, as in a sense scriptural, holy, sacred—that I seem to want no harm to come to them."
I read:

WASHINGTON, D. C., May 9, 1867.

My dear Walt: I duly got your letter of May 5th and was glad to hear from you. I sent you a letter which came for you Monday, and which I hope you got, and herewith enclose another which Ramsdell left for you.

I earnestly hope George will be better when this reaches you. We all felt distressed to know he was so badly. The turn in the weather to-day, I think will be good for him.

I can well imagine how you must have felt to see him so, and how sad it must be for your mother.

I enclose a letter I got from that child of a burnt father, Allen, which you can bring back with you when you come. It is truly Pecksniffian, and seems to have been written on all fours. You will see that it ends the matter of publishing the book, and he doesn't say a word about John Burroughs' book, but of course that is understood to be declined also. I have written him, saying that John will at once put the book to press himself.

I had another letter from Raymond yesterday, very kind and friendly. He evidently does not yet know of the Allen-Carleton decision. Part of it is about my coming upon The Times—a sort of hankering treatment, but no offer, which of course he could n't well make, not knowing exactly how useful or available my talent would be to him. He has not heard that I was in New York. I shall write him— to-day if I can.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 522] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I think, on the whole, it is probably altogether best that Carleton should have nothing to do with Leaves of Grass, though I would well enough like him to publish the Notes.

I write in a hurry, nearly on mail time. Nelly charged me to send you her love. Your letter was very sweet. I think a young girl finding herself beloved or admired by some one unsuspected before, must feel as I did when I read how the household thought of me. But I did n't lay myself out at all, as you say, and moreover, the evening I was there I had a shocking headache.

Give my loving remembrance to all, especially your mother. I have not yet succeeded in telling you (you know we were interrupted each time we began to talk of it,) how deeply she affected me. Her cheerfulness, her infinite gentleness and tenderness, are like the deep smile of the evening sky. As I saw her that night, with the children on each side, and each leaning a head upon her, I thought of the Madonna grown old.

[ "Dear dear mother! dear dear mother!" Walt interjected fervently.]

Charley bade me send you his love. He has been in the most extraordinary jolly humor this week. It is as if the Cheeryble Brothers were rolled into one. The Times has done him the decent honor of copying at length, and devoting an editorial to, besides, one of his late letters to The Standard, in which he comes the bloody Roman centurion on a batch of politicians, sparing not one.

H. Clapp will end by becoming a respectable citizen. When once a man enters upon the downward path, &c. Like De Quincey's warning against the practice of murder, on the ground that it leads to procrastination and Sabbath breaking, so we can see as the guilty result of Bohemianism, a place in the Common Council or Board of Aldermen!

Good-bye. I hope George is better to-day.

Your very faithful

W. D. O'C.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 523] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

     W. said: " That 's a home stroke— 'it is truly Pecksniffian and seems to have been written on all fours.' O William: you can hit a thing like that off with absolute finality. 'Seems to have been written on all fours!' Why, Horace, I think that nine-tenths of the literature of the world seems to have been written on all fours!" He also repeated the phrase applied to his mother— "like the deep smile of the evening sky." "My darling darling mother!" He further said he wanted me "to notice that Carleton was once imminently" his publisher. "That is an item to go with all the other bibliographical matter you have." Also gave me "a Nelly O'Connor letter" to "take along and put away." Said: "If there 's anything to be said about it let it go till to-morrow."


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.