- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 28] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Monday, February 23, 1891

     Took manuscript to Ferguson's today—talking with both Ferguson and Myrick. Will start at once, giving me first proofs Wednesday. Received note from Bucke today.

     Walked in Wissahickon and in park with Anne. Then later on to Camden again and to W.'s (after supper) at 7:45 P.M.

     W. in very good mood. Harned came in just after I got seated. W. by no means uneasy, yet said, "I am in bad enough way still, Tom—though not as bad as was." Harned spoke of Scovel. "He was up to the house—wants to get your obituary—says his daughters were here and gave you up." W. laughed. "Yes, they were here—I suppose I was pretty bad. Let him go on with the obituary!" Asked about weather, saying, "I would not dare to go out, mild as it may seem." I left 20 copies of Conservator with W. this morning when I went for manuscript—which he had left with Warren for me. He now reported, "I have sent them all away. When you come again, bring at least as many more!" But "no sign of Lippincott's." As to the proofs, "Oh! They must give them to me as I ask—the full batch of poems. You see, I want to 'make up' with them—they are not now arranged as I wish them to stand. I must arrange page after page, one poem, one strain, one thought, with respect to another. For that the entire batch is necessary one sitting!" I promised him I would have a more thorough understanding with Myrick tomorrow. Harned referred to his trip to Washington. W. advised him, "I want you to go see my friend J. Hubley

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 29] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ashton some day, Tom: I'll give you a letter."
W. referred to some Western paper. "I don't know who has sent it—some fellow out there. It seems somebody declares that Bob not only does not compass 'Leaves of Grass' but absolutely misses it altogether." Harned said, "That is about the opinion I have come to." W. then, "Well, then, you ought to have that paper. As for me, I would not say it that way—I hold to very different notions, very." And then, "I feel in Bob the most magnificent vitality, health: a clear eye, a great soul—such candor, strength—rare, rare. Oh! There is wisdom—wisdom—at last—always—in Bob's cute, always-pressed, never-yielded, I do not know, I do not know! It is the final word!" And still again, "I think it the necessary thing—I almost pray for it—that each age should have its hero—some majestic self to buffet the creeds, show, of the damned preachers. There is nothing else will clear the atmosphere." I gave him this letter from Ingersoll received this morning. "Perhaps this will help you out."
New York, Feb 21st 1891.

My dear Traubel:

I received, and read with great pleasure, your tribute to Walt Whitman, to be published in Lippincott's.

I think it exquisite in touch, and poetically just. The great thing about Whitman is, not that he thought free things, but that he said them. Nearly all the poets have thought them, but lacked the courage to say what they thought. I do not say they have felt them as intensely as Whitman has, but I do say that they would have done much better had they been true to themselves.

It may be that love of public approbation has given us great poems, but I am equally certain that the fear of the public has deprived us of greater.

There is, of course, a great difference of opinion as to what the poetic is. Men who transfigure the common things of life are called sensual, and those who denounce what they enjoy and praise only that which they have never experienced, are called spiritual.

I think great poetry has to be honest. If people will only tell the truth, they lay at least the foundation for the poetic.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 30] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Personally, I would far rather have the society of the one woman I love, than to be the favored of all the gods and goddesses.

Very truly your friend

R.G. Ingersoll

He read it—parts of it twice—and when he was done, looked over his glasses at me. "A grand letter! A grand letter! It has a sage-like tone—some faraway murmur of wisdom, calling us to listen! How life bubbles up in him, unhindered!" Read him this from Chicago Times: Bob Ingersoll, touched by the destitute condition of the children of the late Speaker Witer of the Montana house of representatives, gave a lecture in Helena Friday night for their benefit and added $2000 to a fund being raised for them. The eloquent agnostic refused any part of the proceeds, and even bought a ticket which admitted him to hear himself speak. There are few people who will deny "Pope Bob's" eloquence, but their name is legion who deny that he is logical. And Legion may be true, but a warm heart and a generous hand will go far to make good the lack of a cold, keen, remorseless logic.

He exclaimed, "Bravissimo! Colonel! Colonel—bravissimo! What a ring to all he does!" And then in the tenderest tones of his range, " And they said to the gentle Nazarene—how is this: how may this thing be explicated—what has he done for you? And the reply came—'Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these—my children, O my children!—you have done it for me!' O, the royal man! In all our time he stands alone, in more than minor things the prince of the cluster!" And then to me directly, "And that would be a question for the Conservator, Horace: whether the man who does good deeds, blesses neighbors, friends, the world—speaks great hot words of truth—despises theologians—whether he is a Christian—or whether ministers in pulpits, expounders of views, asserters of doctrines—whether these are Christians? I think we know what we think on that question!" And to Harned, "I think my difference with Bob would be this—that is, be in my assertion that back of all

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 31] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
phenomena is an unexplained something—good, satisfying, lifting all mystery in the end. That is 'Leaves of Grass'—immortality. Perhaps Bob would even assent to it—in part—but however, this seems to me our difference if we have any. In all his other work I assent to him, second him—necessity itself brings it!"

     As to Gladstone's new hit at Huxley about the Gadarean swine, W. was "very curious." He spoke in discredit of Gladstone. "I don't think he amounts to much—especially in this direction." Also, of Gladstone's assertion that he had one by one disposed of Huxley's objections, "He had better let somebody else say that. The preacher over here at the church—Reverend something or other—is always quite sure, and every man, woman and child in the place with him, that no infidel argument has put up its head but he has hit it. My surprise is, that a man like Huxley—superb in every way, making a mere noise of Gladstone—should ever stop to discuss such a question, think it worth while. Who the devil cares about it? It is like the discussions your Unitarians, Tom"—laughing— "make over immortality, the Godhead, whether there is a personal God. Who the devil cares to follow such stuff? After all I go with Bob—I do not know. The sooner the revelation of this comes the better: I do not know!"

     W. read Shakespeare matter (Bob's proposed address thereon): Col. Ingersoll closes the Press Club course of lectures at the Broadway Theatre on March 22d. His subject, according to the Dramatic Mirror, will be Shakespeare. To this announcement Mr. Fiske, the editor of the Mirror, adds: "All through his career Ingersoll has looked forward to the time when, resting from his theological contentions, he should be able to give the best that his lustrous genius afforded to a grand eulogy of the colossal William...."

Mr. Fiske, who enjoys the acquaintance of the Colonel, continues in a newsy and reminiscent vein: "... Did you ever hear why the Colonel strenuously objects to being 'introduced' to an audience when he mounts the rostrum? Several years ago he lectured in Jamestown. The mayor, a worthy man of German descent, and an ardent Ingersollian,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 32] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - was extremely desirous to present the orator to his townspeople. His admiration, however, was greater than his gifts as a speaker. Overcome by the weighty character of the ceremony he stuttered and stammered and looked the picture of nervous discomfort. Finally he wound up his remarks with—'And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have the—er—honor to introduce the orator, whose name is known from—er—from ocean to ocean—that is to say, it is a household word—Mr.—Mr.—Mr.——' 'My name's Ingersoll,' prompted the Colonel, realizing that in the mayor's confusion the household word had vanished from his memory. The house roared, of course. After that Ingersoll put his foot down on public 'introductions' of any description."

[Boston Investigator, February 18, 1891.]

Was much amused. "How funny that last!" And then, "Do you think the Colonel will do it? It would be his best—and his best? Oh! it is high, high!"

     Copy of Magazine of Art on the bed. W. said, "Do not bring your copy: Wallace has sent this, and it is very fine, too: I have had a great delight in it today, especially the Ruskin pictures."

     W. laughingly said to me, "I have some news—Hartmann turned up again today, this time with his wife. He is married—was married about a fortnight ago, and proposes to stay a little time in Philadelphia." No harsh word to say of H., yet I know his feeling on the subject, and when I said, "I hope he carefully keeps away from you," W. laughed and asked, "Do you suppose he will?"

     Have not got W. to say anything positive yet on question of insertion of the Sarrazin and other pieces.


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.