- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 053] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thursday, October 10, 1889

     7.10 P.M. W. reading. Looked extremely well, and said he had greatly "raised" his "mood." He talked with me for half an hour—tone, eye, emphasis, all marking an improvement over the week past. W. handed me a letter of Bucke's. "It came today. He has quite a spasm there. Doctor gets 'em now and then—gets 'em with me sometimes." I opened it as if to read, he then: "No—take it along—read it as you go. Doctor is there in the Asylum, much harried, I should say, by cares and cares, some of them very petty—hence this impatience."

     Remarked that Tom had just been in. On the table a basket of fruit. "That is from my Marlton friend, who was also here today." And still again— "You see, I have been visited. Johnson, from New York, was here also. Johnson was on his way from or to the Knights Templar celebration at Washington—was in high spirits." I asked W. if he had ever been in secret societies? "Oh! no—I should say not—I never believed in them: their damnable nomenclature if nothing else would have been enough to scare me off. As Mrs. Gamp would say, I despige secret societies—nomenclature and all—particularly the nomenclature. Sir Knight this, Sir Knight that—imported sounds, with no significance except to excite contempt. Every man you meet is one of them. I have no doubt the fellow who takes away our slops, our ashes—who is dusty at his work sweeping the streets—belongs to a couple such

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 054] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
societies, has his dignities, is duly named. The best fellows at this—the best of all—were the niggers in Washington. I remember my old washerwoman—a good woman—who told me about it—had membership in three or four societies—insurance societies, I think—one of them, anyhow, which guaranteed a decent burial—a good send-off. It was quite the thing for the niggers to go into these shows."
Then spoke of Johnson again. "He looks very well—very bright. His store, the new store, has been a great success—he has made money out of it. Johnson is never a small potato—is a keen business man—a man who sees enough to send 15 cents after 5 dollars. Don't always get his dollars, but enough times to pay. A typical American. And Johnson is a radical—has great notions of reforming the world—contributes his share towards it—whatever is advised—money or whatnot, and is glad of the chance. I don't know about the reforms but I do know about Johnson."

     W. started in another strain by way of acquainting me with the news. "I had a letter from Kennedy today, too. He writes from Belmont still—says he is working away at his Whittier—confesses it is great drudgery—does not seem much inspired by the task. I can see that Whittier should not move him greatly. Kennedy asked me if I had any word, thought, to give him on the subject, I should send it on—it would help boost him up to continue. His letter came in the noon mail—delivered about 2—and I was sitting here—felt particularly in the mood—had a pencil in my hand, a pad near—so wrote him a page, just out of mind." Here W. paused, twisted his chair about—reached towards the round table—taking a sheet therefrom. "This is the paper—a copy of it: I thought I would read it to you—it will take but a minute." Putting on his glasses then and reading as follows:

     Whittier's poetry stands for morality (not its ensemble or in any true philosophic sense) but as filter'd through a Puritanical and Quaker filter—is very valuable as a genuine utterance and fine one—with

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 055] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
many local and yankee and genre bits—all hued wih zealous anti-slavery coloring. All the genre contributions are precious—all help. Whittier is rather a grand figure—but pretty lean and ascetic—no Greek—not composite and universal enough (don't try to be don't wish to be) for ideal Americanism. Ideal Americanism would take the Greek spirit and law for application to the whole, the globe, all history, all ranks, the 19/20th called evil just as well as the 1/20th call'd moral

     At the sentence "Ideal Americanism would take" etc. he said: "This may sound very egotistical, but it is not meant so." At its finish I asked, "Will Kennedy print it?" "I am sure I haven't the least idea—that was not in my mind at all—not till you mention it now." I put in— "I thought, if not, I should like to take a copy of this." Whereupon he said: "Take this itself, if you want it. I don't know whether this would be my elaborate opinion, made up of malice prepense for print, but it expresses in some sort of way what I felt this afternoon when Kennedy's letter came. I feel that not Whittier, not Longfellow, not any of them, are to be sounded lightly, in an hour, for all they are. That not only is one great test of power, greatness, in what men stir up in others, but that in order to rightly—largely—measure men, we must consider the whole story—what went before—what adhered to them. That is to say, the great fact is, what a man takes along with him, all that he takes along he is entitled to. It is so with Christianity, with the Bible: they are greatest, not for what they contain of themselves, but for what they imply, what they take along with them, cause. We have had many such books, institutions—perhaps almost as good—now forgotten, buried, utterly obscured. As I often say, we must not consider one limb, one organ, but the whole body, the entire man." "Considered in such a way, it would be hard to say Whittier has been stated yet. I do not see my idea spoken of at all: yet it seems to me the first necessity of judgment."

     W. added at another moment: "Kennedy also says in his

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 056] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
letter that Brinton, our Dr. Brinton, writes in the last number of Folk-Lore that he had asked an Indian he had met some question about the actual meaning of word Mannahatta, and that the Indian had told him it was a word used to signify where bows were bought—bows and arrows, you know. But that seems to me improbable: according to the definition I got of it, it meant some center point about which the waters whirl and storm with great vehemence. As I have told you, I feel confident I have the highest authority for that explanation. Judge Forman and the Dutchman, Jeremiah Johnston—were great men in their day in such matters. Oh! how Brinton would have feasted upon their conversation! When I was a young man, these men were interested with others in educating Indians. They reasoned: we will select samples out of the tribes, put them in the schools, colleges,—inform them—use them to our ways—then send them forth among their people, to enlighten, to reform them. And so they persevered—sent out many men in this way—with the usual result: one out of a dozen would come to a little something, the others almost totally relapse."
"I am sure, now, of these men—authorities: they came much in contact with chiefs of the Six Nations—there were five of them first, then another asked permission to come in—hence the name, Six Nations. Mannahatta meant to these, a point of land surrounded by rushing, tempestuous, demonic waters: it is so I have used it—and shall continue."

     I called his attention to the fact—in re Indian missionaries—that Pepper, of the University, was having much to do with a project to place Hindu young men in factories in Philadelphia to get an idea of our industries, with the end in view of modernizing the industries of India. W. at once said: "That is a fine notion—the very finest—has my entire commendation, it makes for demoncracy, solidarity—therefore is good—at least, good from our standpoint. I remember the talk with Dudley that time: he said, 'No, I have not got so far that I

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 057] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
consider the pauper population of Europe.' But that is not Leaves of Grass: if we have not got that far we have indeed gone a short ways. Leaves of Grass considers the whole earth—not a soul left out, poor, king, any. If I were young I would preach this with a loud voice: but I am not young—yet I can give this to you as a starter."

     Spoke of the Morse picture again—how it grew on him. Asked me to send Bucke a copy of the New England Magazine. He was very much disappointed because I had not been able to secure him sheets of the book. Made some amusing comment on "the disinclination of some men—even the printer boys, usually so good—to accommodate." He seemed if anything unwontedly affectionate tonight.

     Till I had gone and was on the boat I did not know what Bucke's letter was all about—then read this:


8 Oct 1889

Yours of 5th enclosing Kennedy's of a year ago came to hand last evening. Was glad to have the latter—in fact am always glad to get anything on that subject. So the presswork on "Dinner Book" is done—that being so Horace ought to have sent me a copy without waiting for the binding—he promised to do that and I am disappointed he did not. Tell him if he has not mailed a copy to please to do so right away. If you or H. have a spare copy of that "New England Monthly" please send it me. Want to see what the magazine looks like. I am real glad to hear that H. will write on you in it he ought to (and I guess will) get up a first-class paper. He ought to know his subject pretty well by this time!

No, I was not much interested in the Pan-American business though it is worth interest—do not see why Canada is not represented—she ought to be. It will all come right in the end only it takes time—good heavens! what a group of nationalities there will be in the Americas some day. Shall you and I see the show, standing together perhaps on Alcyone?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 058] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By that time you will be feeling better but I wish you could be a little more comfortable meanwhile I fear you are not having a good time

I am your friend

R M Bucke
Tell H. to send the book sure at once if not sent already R M B


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.