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Wednesday, February 20, 1889

Wednesday, February 20, 1889

7.45 P.M. W. reading Lippincott's. Had been well. I told W. I had left Gazette and Echo with McKay who wished to copy off some quotable lines. W. satisfied. I spoke warmly about the Gazette piece. He said: "The Pall Mall Gazette has always been favorable: Stead has always shown an inclination to stand by me: and more than Stead: an attache of the paper there—oh! let me think of his name!"—but he could not, and went on: "Did you not read in the papers, about a famous telephoning incident—wasn't it that?—between Stead and some one of his men here in America?" No: I didn't. W. then: "That other man was my friend: he was in Canada, Stead in England: curious, wasn't it?" W. then: "Stead is gathering round him on the Gazette a strong staff." As to the Echo paragraph: "I did not go far into that—did not read it carefully: it was of quite another character: stereotyped, perfunctory."

No letter from Bucke. "But I wrote him this evening: I hardly expected to hear from him: probably the others who are to come with him are responsible for the delays." Just then he looked at me quizzically. "Why! I guess Eddy's forgot: he has not gone to the post office yet." Took up his cane. Knocked on the floor. Ed up instantly. "Oh!" said W.: "Did you forget the mail?" Handed Ed one letter and four postals. "You haven't any time to spare, Ed." Ed hustled off. I had a letter from Bucke, written on the 18th, before the telegram. Wrote Burroughs today asking him where we should send the big book. "Where did you address him? at Poughkeepsie? Well, I am glad you wrote: John is quite a gadder-about in the winter." Who had written Boston Herald piece quoted by Bucke in Appendix? "That's Baxter's: Baxter jumped right in: was enthusiastic from the start—was what they have called a Whitmaniac." Reference also to Appleton's Journal criticism. W. at once:"Well—does it not satisfy you? Do you not see Stoddard peeping out of it all over?—the Poe piece there in another dress?" Stoddard "is a curious combination." "There seem to be two Stoddards," he added: "they puzzle me: yet both are genuine. We may well ask: Can this man have compassion for prostitutes—the common woman of the town, the low, the vile? the man who on the other hand writes with such devilish venom? Certainly in this one poem—The Woman of the Town—he is sympathetic, generous, to the core: it is certain on the other hand that there is another Stoddard—the snaky, sneaky, poisonous, backbiting, venomous, skunky Stoddard. Can both be genuine? Can such contradictory qualities inhere to the same personality?" I said: "In The Book of the East, Stoddard always sounds true." W. assented: "I'd say that, too, hard as it is to believe."

I asked him: "Did you see John Sartain's paper in Sunday's Press?" Sartain replying to Stoddard on Poe. "Sartain knocks the spalpeen into a cocked hat!" Stoddard said Poe sold The Bells several times over. Sartain said no: only sold it a second or third time after extensive additions. W.: "Yes, I think Sartain is right: and I think more than that: I think anything Stoddard would say about Poe would be open to suspicion." I know Sartain well. W. wished me to talk about him—his ways, his ideas, &c. Then: "A wonderful, a beautiful, old man he is, too: I have met him: he's a man of knowledge, ideals." W. did not know Emily, Sartain's daughter.

Stead came up again. "He is a marvel: enterprising: seems to have an instinct for good heads." Who wrote the W. W. piece in the Gazette? We're still guessing. W. said: "It was able—but where is the author? Mary Costelloe has several times contributed pieces: I considered them very fine, too." What were her subjects? "Oh! some of the women matters: you know, Mary is deeply interested in all that pertains to progress, suffrage, such things." He "classed" her "as very radical indeed—almost along with the Anarchists." Said: "I am surprised, in the first place, that Mary should have gone to England to live: then I am further surprised at the extent to which she has thrown herself into public life there—almost swallowed the whole camel." But then "that should not be puzzling, either: it is just like Mary: just what might have been expected of her impetuosity, ardor, which is of a high order."

Arthur Stevenson just back from Europe. Full of English politics. Repeated some things to W. Then: "You know, Horace, they have recently made a change in governmental affairs there in London? a sort of Home Rule issue bringing about marked changes. Mary Costelloe has a good friend there: they call her Lady Bathurst: this lady whoever she is floated in on the top of the wave. The conservatives, however, will resist the result: don't like the idea of having a woman in such a place: they are protesting: oh! what do we call it when they take office? what's the word for it? anyhow, they claim fraud in the election—will try to throw her out. Mary's husband enters heart and soul into it—is one of the Lady's counsel." Then Costelloe was a lawyer? "Yes, and, I have heard, a markedly good one: he has a large clientage: Mary herself says in writing me that he hardly knows which most engages him—his private business or his political life: he, too, is radical: and, more's the surprise—you will be surprised when I tell you—he is a Catholic." A Catholic in fact or formally? "I think a real Catholic: his mother was one, anyhow: a strict, strong, bigoted Catholic, they inform me—a devotee, in fact. But Costelloe has got rid of the severest elements—has dismissed them." I said: "Every Catholic almost does the same thing these days." W.: "That is so: we are getting beyond some of the old asininities—all of us, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, alike: we can't hold the world any longer to the old weights and measures." Mary Smith, for instance, was "likewise much more advanced than her father: quite a great woman in her way—a true woman of the new aggressive type: though going so devotedly, whole-heartedly into public work she does so abrogating nothing of her wifeliness, sisterliness, motherliness, womanliness: all these remain not less, rather, more richly demonstrated than before. Mary is much like Mrs. Gilchrist—much that style of woman." What was the nature of the political revolution in London? "I don't know: I could not tell you: I know nothing of these matters: what little I have picked up I am repeating to you now out of Mary's letters: I have frequently forwarded her letters to Doctor Bucke: he says they are illuminating even to him—that they are really very clever, throwing significant light on London matters, evolutions, political and social struggles, not made clear to him from any other source.

W. said: "I see Tom has been making a speech: did you read it? last night, I think: there are good reports of it here both in the Courier and the Post. It is clear—very vigorous and clear: I enjoyed reading it: anti-Pratt"—Pratt, the present Mayor, up for re-election—"it will surely do good." And again: "Tom seems to be made—constitutionally formed—for one thing: for a thing perhaps the most necessary, most important, of all: to be in the opposition: he has the genius of antagonism. I should say Tom has not half used his gifts: they are of the positive sort: set free in the right field they would win him distinction—more than that, would do a vast public service. As I read Tom's speech, I found myself saying all through: Good for Tom! Good for Tom!" I said:"Tom might also have said: Good for the people!" "That's so," he said: "Good for the people, too!"

Told W. I wrote to Morse suggesting that he might find out for us who wrote the Chicago News piece. W. said: "It is a noble piece indeed: that man knows, understands!" I wrote Bucke today saying he must surely come by Tuesday as I wished to have him go with me to hear Lawrence Barrett talk about Charlotte Cushman. Told W. "Oh! Cushman! She was a great fellow—a noble fellow!" Had he known her personally? "No—never her: but her acting—oh yes! well: everything probably that she ever did." I put in: "You should have liked her: she acted Scott." W.: "I see: you mean Meg Merrilies? But I did not care much for that: it was too muchly much, as the boys say: her Meg Merrilies made me think of Byron's rum they tell us of: he wanted rum like vitriol that would burn his throat on the way down—not the God damned French stuff for twenty-five dollars a gallon! This was the sort of horror reflected in Cushman's Meg Merrilies: it did not attract me—was not pleasant. Much of Charlotte Cushman's great acting was done in her earlier days before she was famous—some of her very highest flights: but she was a great woman—always a great woman: a genius: do not understand me as wishing to deny that."

His ignorance of the local turn in London politics tantalizes him. "I ought to know: I know nothing: what is the change? That's so or so—what, God knows. They must have a sort of imperium in imperium there—the present new form." Asked me: "Did you see the process man today?" "No: why should I? I am waiting for your decision." "That's so: it went by default today: that's like me: Tomorrow, then: ask me tomorrow." He had "got into Johnson" but "not far." Wished especially "to read the chapter on Chinese poetry." Said: "I looked through quite a budget of papers today: Press, Record, Boston Transcript, Cambridge Tribune." W. had me take this old letter in his own hand. "It's another publisherial item: you have a lot of them: some day, if you put them all together, in order, date for date, you'll have a complete story."

Washington, Feb. 19, 1868. Messrs. Routledge: Publishers Broadway Dear Sirs:

By your note of 18th, from New York, just received, I find that Mr. Edmund Routledge, editor, would like to keep and use an original poem I wrote—three page poem [Whispers of Heavenly Death] sent him from me, but demurs to my first-asked price—that he directs you to offer me 10 pounds—which you can send me, $50: in gold—and that, (the terms being settled, &c.) he will advertise it very largely.

I accept the terms offered—$50 in gold—and you can forward me the amount as soon as convenient. I repeat, that I distinctly reserve the right of printing the piece in a future edition of my poems.

[Passage marked out: Allow me to say to Mr. E. Routledge—I profoundly approve your idea and enterprise of a Magazine interlinking the two English-speaking nations, and, persevered in, I have no doubt it will be a triumphant success.]

Sending best wishes and respects to editor and publishers, I remain,

Walt Whitman.

W. had memorandized the envelope: "Letter to Routledge and Sons, (accepting terms), sent Feb. 19th '68 probably left N. Y. in steamer Feb. 22." I said: "Walt, the paragraph you marked out is the most interesting passage in the letter." He replied: "I think so myself, but when I looked it back it seemed a trifle out of place." And he added: "You know how any moves looking towards a completer understanding, rapport, between them over there and us here appeals to me: not only as with England alone, but with the others just as well." I found myself kicking a little O'Connor letter round the floor. I said: "It seems a shame to waste this." He said: "Why do you say waste it? What is it? let me see." Put on his glasses. Looked. "Oh! William: maybe it's something that belongs in your treasure box: you have too much stuff, nonsense, in that box, but nothing of William's comes within such a category. Read the letter to me: let's see what it is." I read.

Life Saving Service, September 22, 1883. Dear Walt:

I got your last, enclosing MS, on the 20th, and at once, as you suggested, sent the document to the Sun, copying your draft of note to the editor, &c. Let us see if tomorrow's Sun will have it.

I infer from your suggestion that you think the article not so bad. Bad or good, its publication by the Sun will make Fra Diavolo Godkin howl.

I return your Salt Lake City letter about Bacon and Shakespeare, having carefully read it thrice. It seems quite crazy—though maybe only crude—yet has some good points in it, which I took in.

I am in great mourning that I can't get my reply to Richard Grant White on the Bacon-Shakespeare matter, printed. It was certainly brilliant, though I say it as shouldn't. The North American man called it "so very valuable a manuscript," apologizing for declining it on the ground that too much MS has already been accepted—which is all gammon. Fanatical prejudice in favor of Shakespeare, unwilling to allow discussion, is at the bottom of the matter.

I was in hope that Charley Eldridge would get to publishing, so that we might start a magazine, and make it pleasant for the bats and owls and literary carrion generally, but he appears to have abandoned the idea, and gone into law and claims in Boston.

Good bye. Faithfully

W. D. O'Connor.

"Well," exclaimed W., when I laid the letter down on my knee and looked at him: "Well—that is a fusillade, a volley, a charge on the run—William at his vehementest: a nugget too: God knows what not: when he goes on in that mood William is simply overwhelming: he could upset mountains." Then he laughed. "Your right foot became a divining rod that time!"

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