- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 139] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, February 13, 1889

     4 P.M. As I entered, World reporter passed me at the door. Ed said: "He was up but a minute." I went to W.'s room: found him poking the fire—complaining somewhat of the cold. Very raw out today—a strong wind, strangely, from the S.W.

     W.: "Sit down—sit down." Then: "How are you today?" I said something about the reporter. W.: "Yes—he was here—he came from my good friend, Julius Chambers, now on the World. The World folks are getting up a collection of opinions from various men—opinions on the question, what is the foremost problem or problems with which the forthcoming administration will have to deal? I was to give an opinion on that!" "Did you do it?" "Yes, in a way: I said I knew little about the problems ordinarily uppermost—the tariff, civil service—but that it seemed to me the great question for the new administration to tackle would be, how to bring the South back into the Union—bring it back sympathetically, emotionally, spiritually—not merely as a share-holder of political aggregates, but as a living, acting, coöperating factor: words to that end." "Did he take them down that way?" "He listened—wrote—sat there: I said no more—had nothing to add: indeed, I am surprised I said that much:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 140] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I didn't know I had anything to say."
This Southern matter, he said, had always been near to his heart— "overtopped all others."

     He did not feel well today. "I have a bad cold—have had it for some time: a sort of headache—yet not hardly that: rather a severe cold in the head that sets my head in a whirl—so and so"—indicating with a gyrating motion of the hand.

     W. had no word from Bucke today. But I had heard. In a postal dated the 11th B. said: "It looks well for a start East next Monday, the 18th." W. laughed. "It tickles me to hear that: but the question is still, will he come? I will believe it when I see him here." He stopped short. Looked over towards me meaningly: "I have something to tell you: I have had a note from Washington, from Nellie O'Connor: it is not very satisfactory—not the note I had hoped for: it does not relieve me at all. There is no change in William: he remains just as he was." I suggested: "Perhaps no change for the worse means a change for the better." But he was dubious. "No—no: I'm afraid not: O'Connor is near gone: the clouds thicken: I try to think not but can't get away from the figures: I read more in Nellie's silences than in what she says." He was sorry "Nellie is so reticent." Said Bucke would "go to Washington as 'his' ambassador" and "report the real state of the case." He looked towards the fire and poked into it a little getting the logs into position. "I sit here doing things, reading, seeing the sky, dawdling along, always with my mind fixed on William."

      "Something new," W. said: "I received a letter from The Critic this morning—from Joe Gilder: he says they are to have a Lowell issue—that of the 22d: invites me to some criticisms, some elucidations." Well: was he going to comply? He laughed outright. "Give them? On Lowell? I rather guess not: no indeed: I never reply to such requests. I took the letter—enclosed it to Bucke: let him make out of it what he can." "Then you have no opinion of Lowell?" He said quickly: "Yes I have: a very decided opinion: but not for print." "What is it, anyhow?" "My opinion is that I have no opinion! I recall a little matter that comes up with the end man of Christy's Minstrels: it seems to me very good—very fit, cute: a question is given him: what does he think of this or this? or, was this so? that so? and then the end man—oh! I have always thought it so funny, so deep, so like my own experiences often: the end man exclaims, so helplessly,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 141] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
so niggerly: 'I'll not answer it: I'll not refuse to answer it: I'll not give it up: I'll have nothing to do with it!'"
W. most animated, gesticulatory. "Such words, only in the nigger lingo: he wouldn't touch the question: he wouldn't say no, nor yes, nor no-yes. That's how I feel about Lowell: I'll not touch him." He asked me: "Is it true that Lowell is to make some speech at the dedication of a statue to Marlowe?" Then, before I answered, said: "He is in great demand in all well-dressed literary circles: he turns up in all the moves on the board."

     A box of books—twenty-one copies—came over today. Oldach charged more than his estimate. I had to see him about it. First he said: "You men are quarrelsome." Later he said: "I guess I'm a fool." When I repeated this to W. he laughed heartily and said: "I guess I'm a fool, too: tell him I said so." I am to start numbering the books. But W. will confuse it. He'll give copies away on his own hook and destroy the count. I am only doing it for Dave's sake. W. said: "Let us please Dave wherever we can consistently with our own principles." McKay is now doing New York and Boston. Returns Friday. I instructed Oldach to send McKay twenty-four books. W. said: "That will make twenty-five Dave will owe us for. My God! we'll be lousy with money if this thing keeps on!" Returned W. the Cherry poems. He said: "The first piece is best: it's called The Answered Prayer: it contains some genuine stuff." He asked: "This E.T. Kirschbaum: who is he? He says he's a workingman." He has not read much today. "There's a little something the matter with my head," he exclaimed: "it's the first warning I've had since December: I'll have to watch myself." He has sent out no copies of the leather bound book yet. "There they are in the pile just as you left them the other day." W. gave me a letter from Richard Colles, Dublin. I asked: "Who is Richard Colles?" He hates to have anyone fire a fast question at him. So he said: "That's so: who is he?" I said: "You know who he is: who is he?" W. said: "Read what he says: then you'll know." I read.

Dublin, Feb. 12, 1888.

My dear Sir,

Yours of 27 January, and Leaves of Grass, received. Please accept my sincere thanks for your kindness in sending me the book and for

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 142] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
the gratification you have given me by writing in it as I requested. I beg to enclose P.O. order in your favor for One Pound—No. 2044.

I hope that you did not consider my request for your photograph impertinent. My only intimation that you had had one recently taken was the published letter to you from Tennyson and therefore my allusion to it. It was a very deep disappointment to me that I failed so signally in my endeavor to prove to you how many in Ireland would gladly avail themselves of an opportunity to show their gratitude for such a gift as Leaves of Grass. But the reason is readily given. The chief men in connection with the University had contributed through Mr. H.H. Gilchrist, and such men as the Lord Chancellor and Sir E.C. Guinness resemble Gallio in that they care for none of these things. Professor Edward Dowden I have the honor of knowing for the past eighteen months—indeed, it is to my love of Leaves of Grass that I am indebted for my acquaintance with so lovable a man—and he is aware that I did my best—however—perhaps I soared too high—in addressing Barbarians. I had told Dowden of my not having received any reply to my cards or letters and my apprehension that you might be ill, and I have therefore all the greater pleasure in conveying (to him at least) your "best regards."

The two volumes I mentioned as having been sold by me were purchased by the National Library for one pound.

With every sincere wish that you may enjoy health, which is happiness, I am, dear sir, yours very gratefully,

Richard Colles.

     After I was through W. said: "Now you know who, what, Colles is." I said: "Walt, you often make light of my determination to preserve these records. I don't wonder. I don't expect you to know yourself. But it's my theory that the world will want to know all it can about you after you're dead and I'm going to do what I can to help it do so. That's all there is to my hoarding up these records—as you call it. I don't have any sycophantic regard for you. I don't worship the ground you tread on or kiss the hem of your garment or discover something oracular in everything you say. But I think I know how you are bound to be regarded in the future—not as a man above other men but as one of the spokesmen of a new movement of the spirit." When I stopped W. laughed approvingly: "Why, Horace,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 143] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
that was quite a speech: I like what you say: I am willing you should have your way: be sure you don't 'master' me—but I need not advise you on that score."


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.