- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 033] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wednesday, October 2, 1889

     8.05 P.M. W. in kitchen, talking with Gilchrist. We stayed till a few minutes after 9—then left together. Gilchrist thinks W. benefited greatly by the good long talk. I wonder? Talked

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 034] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
of many things—W. very free. We found his voice better even than usual. Spoke of Mrs. Kennedy. "She has not gone directly home: is junketing about a little—after a long stay in one place—keeping close to duties, all that." And then of Kennedy: "He appears to be writing a book about Whittier. He did this once before—but the Whittiereans are not satisfied with it, nor was Sloane himself—so he is to make another attempt. There is a publisher up there at Cambridge who employs Kennedy for this—pays him little or nothing yet throws out consideration, even at this, when five dollars is so important a matter to Kennedy." W. pointed to a book on the table— "Have either of you seen the 5th Reader? Harper's 5th Reader? Look at that! I am quite carried away with it! Look at that print, look at that letter on the cover—look at that paper! It is astonishing, the beauty they achieve. Oh yes! they have a poem of mine there! It has been so long since they asked I had forgotten all about it." Gilchrist queried: "I suppose they put it in without your permission?" to which— "Oh no they did not! they not only wrote me the flattering note yesterday—sent the book—but came up like a man long ago and asked my assent. I do not know who wrote yesterday's letter." I showed them a sheet of the paper Dave had selected for the book. Both liked it. W. put on his glasses and examined it critically, expressing his gratification.

     Gilchrist inquired what W. knew of Henry James. W. said: "Very little—very little: I don't think I have ever met him—know I have not." G. repeated several amusing stories of James' visit to Gilder some time ago. W. then— "I thought as much. I knew and know very little of this Henry James, but of the father—the old man—I know very much more. I had a friend who was quite intimate with him. So far as I could gather James was the type of the man in his place—in the universities—a man afraid of facts,—divine facts: not to be better expressed than by the figure of a mirror—with its reflection: and the notion of the man who could be very well

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 035] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
satisfied with that mirror—but with the fact itself—oh no! let us not talk about that—hear none of it—would rather be excused!"
G. spoke of James' regret spoken somewhere that he had not seen W. personally, because a few minutes face to face clears many things. W. exclaimed— "Well—whatever he writes that is false, that, for a surety, is true." Discussed pronunciation of Symonds' name? W. argued— "I am sure it is Sim-monds. You know, it was Edward Clifford, the artist, very closely allied with Symonds—who was here and told me about it." G. said James considered London the greatest city in the world and W. exclaimed— "Well—I guess there's no doubt about that!"

     Mention of Cooper—Gilchrist seemed to be very ignorant of his life and work. W. said among other things: "Cooper is way better than Hawthorne—50 percent better: something in his ways like Scott, though with less sparkle than Scott but having in common with Scott a sort of garrulity. Not that it is really garrulity in an offensive sense. I find as I grow older, I read and read the novels again, then turn to the long labored prefaces and read every word again. You are right—even these escape garrulity in its odiousness." G. had "thought Cooper's works of the Charles O'Malley order" but W. said: "No, they are not: they are not so sparkly, so brilliant, as that, but are of a solider metal." Quite detailedly he spoke of Cooper's work: "His first work was 'The Spy—no—not that—another—'Precaution,' he called it. Then there was 'The Pilot'—then the Natty Bumppo tales—all worth knowing. And still more, one that is not generally ranked as his best, yet always appealed to me—held me—fastened upon me—'The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,' a tale of an early New England settlement. 'The Spy' is not a great book—yet a very good one nevertheless." Described minutely 'The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,' then: "A very good play was founded on this story many years ago—probably fifty—and it made a great impression on me, for I remember it very clearly to this day. A

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 036] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
great French pantomimist—a Madame Celeste—a famous woman in those days—took the part of the lost girl. Her power was great—lasting."
W. spoke of other writers as compared with Cooper: "It is like comparing dimes to dollars—the world seems rather to prefer quarters, dimes, to dollars but I consider Cooper greater—much greater—than Hawthorne, just as I consider Bryant—though the world will not have it so—incomparably greater than Longfellow. But such comparisons, I suppose, are not good, wherever made."

     He then said: "I have received a copy of The Open Court—somebody has sent it to me—and now I think I have an idea what monism is, which I never had before. The Open Court is the great court of metaphysics, in which the fellows beat each other about, this way and that, on questions of which nobody knows anything at all." He said laughingly, "The function of the true reporter of our time is, if he can't make an interesting enough report out of the facts as he finds them, to get up facts to suit!" Spoke of Cooper as "open, free, expansive, if not as elegant as other writers known." As he used the expression "open, free, expansive," he threw his arms open wide and his body back in the chair.

     Gilchrist asked W. if Talcott Williams had been over? W. answered "Yes." Had W. asked him the proposed question about the letters in The Press? W. answered first, "No—I forgot all about it—never said a word"—then asked quickly— "That would be rather a pointed question, wouldn't it?—taking unwarranted liberties, with what are perhaps professional secrets." G. said, Talcott would be able to take care of himself." W. thereupon— "Yes—no doubt: and besides, it would really only be one priest asking another priest." A paper on the wall—pinned there—a newspaper—slipped down as he rubbed against it, and he said— "It seems to have discovered an affinity for me." Complained that Knortz did not return him the Gilchrist book: "I wrote him once about it—told him there was someone here anxious to read it—but he asked to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 037] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
keep it a little while longer—so I let it go. I must write again."
I stayed longer than I intended, expecting after G. went to give W. the samples of mounted photographs I had with me, and proof sheet of bust for book. But finally showed them to W. anyhow—after which G. and I went off together. Ed has finally consented to stay and take the college course. I am to pay his board and pay him twenty dollars per month—he to be with W. mornings and evenings and Sundays—and to stay all day in case of any sick turn in W. That is the agreement. W. pleased when I told him of it tonight. "I wished it so," was all he said, "though I have said nothing to Ed about it myself."


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

Support the Archive | About the Archive

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