Skip to main content

Monday, April 15, 1889

Monday, April 15, 1889

10 A.M. W. stirring up fire. The day fair but rather more chilly. W. had arisen, not at all well, the "torment" of his recent days fully upon him still. We talked little. I had stopped, more to see how he was than for any other purpose. He spoke somewhat disappointedly of continued absence of word from Washington. Referred to a letter from Bucke, "but one without anything particular." I took him down a copy of the Register, in which I had marked for him a passage in one of Augusta Larned's Venetian articles. Also pointed out to him therein article by Brooke Herford on John Bright. W. said: "Someone has sent me a copy of a Manchester paper containing a full report of the funeral." Said: "I suppose to-day will give us final proof of the preface?" He had hoped things would progress much more quickly than seemed the case, but he was still not despairing but that we would come out in time.

Referred to Walsh's review of "November Boughs" in March Lippincott's. "If I ever saw it," W. said "(and I suppose I did) it did not impress me, for now even the remembrance of it has flown. I don't know what I did with the magazine: it certainly is not about here now. Lippincott's is one of the affairs I bundle up each month and send out to the Blackwoodtown insane asylum. Perhaps this time I sent it to Doctor—come to think of it, it should have gone to the Doctor anyhow!" Had read papers. Absence of news still of Danmark passengers and crew a painful fact to him. His allusions brief but pathetic.

Evening, 7:10. W. sitting composedly at the middle window, his face towards the west. It was decidedly chill out of doors. The western sky a cold bronze and grey. W.'s hands linked, his eyes subdued, his whole manner grand and at peace. His head was proudly held and grandly outlined. Ed had told me already downstairs that W. was still as he had been—not at all bettered—yet not complainful. W. is wonderfully candid with himself at all times. Said to me, after his cordial welcome, "I am not having good times any more," then turned the talk by asking, "How is the night out? Chilly, isn't it?" As I have said before, always when W. feels particularly ill, he seems to face the probability of serious issue and is eager to push his work. When better again will say, "let us keep a leisurely pace." Tonight urgent: asked after proof anxiously—seemed disappointed when he found I had only brought him a part of it. "Not the preface?" Well, "waiting in content"— herein his task—"and often a very hard task, too!" I met Clifford in town today—made arrangement by which, if weather is good, he will be over to see W. next Monday, with Hilda along. Had sent his remembrances to W., who said: "Oh the good fellow! the good fellow! thank him for me!"

I told him I had seen good news of Morse. He "must have it at once." Therefore I went over toward the window, stood in front of him, and in the waning light read aloud this from Unity:

Chicago.—The Unity Club of All Souls Church had a peculiarly delightful evening when Sidney Morse talked and worked before it. It was the Kenyon evening in the Marble Faun studies, and the sculptor molded a Miriam so full of beauty, power and poise, that when he proposed to change the features into those of a Hilda, the large audience protested, and it is hoped that it will soon find its way into plaster, that others may enjoy it. Mr. Morse has almost completed a bust of Theodore Parker, heroic size, for this church, and has orders for the heads of Channing and Martineau, also, uniform in size with the Emersons and Parker. It is hoped that these heads of the Four Great Masters will find their way eventually into hundred of churches, to add dignity, honesty, liberality and ideality to the worship within.

When I reached the point at which Kenyon is mentioned W. asked, "Who's that?" and when I explained, said he had never read the Marble Faun. Was greatly happy over Morse's seeming good condition. Several times as I went along he exclaimed: "Good for Sidney!" "The best news yet!" Afterwards adding more fully: "If those fellows out there—enough of them—throw their panoply over him, I don't know but that's the place for him to stay." Then tenderly dwelt upon Morse's long ambition to get West, and its "seeming fruition at last"—his longing to look at the new heads, the enjoyment he would have if he could sit there in an audience and "see Sidney at work." He did not wonder that "Sidney was liked and is"—for it inhered to the man "to make people affect him." A little talk of Blake—then a drift into other matters.

Tonight another lecture from Davidson. W. asked, "What about this time?" and when I said "Bonaventura," he asked again: "Is that sometimes used geographically? Isn't it a phrase somehow signifying, good luck?" Of the man Bonaventura "he knew nothing." Developed then discussion of common terms of greeting and farewell. W. mentioned So long! What did he think as to its origin? He said: "It was very prevalent when I was a boy among the lower orders, so-called, in New York—the laborers on the wharves, stevedores, boatmen, the street boys, particularly the sailors: So long! So long! So long! It was prevalent, too—and this would rather detract from it for some—among the prostitutes, the loose women, of the town." Whether strictly English or not—what its derivation, if any,—he had no idea. "It seems to be the equivalent of the French-Italian exclamation, au revoir!—and very tender and beautiful it is, too! So long! I like it very much—whether from old uses, what, I do not know—but like it. So long! It is full and full!" W. spoke of "its great beauty"—and said more fully: "The significance of au revoir seems to be, till we meet again." I repeated, "Auf wiedersehen," which W. endeavored to and did pronounce correctly after me, he inquiring then: "In your reading, have you ever come upon a poem from Mrs. Barbauld—it is a poem of her effusion—something with that thought uppermost, the thought like this, (I know these are not her words): we will not say farewell, we will only say, good night, and will meet in the morning again. It seems very excellent. There appears to be in the intrinsic man a disposition to turn the back on phrases which signify absolute partings, deaths: he will not yield the whole case—he always feels there is more to be told, more to come, beyond the little he can put his hands, eyes upon!" And then he said again, his face still to the west, his hands still reposefully interlinked, "So long! so long! I like it much! It is a memory! it is also more than a memory!"

Then said as to Davidson: "Give him my best regards—tell him, if you get the chance (for me particularly) that I think things are as good as they can be—all right as they are"—here he paused and exclaimed— "including the agitation, including the agitation! especially including the agitation!" He always qualifies his criticisms of the too-eager reformers with a phrase at last that encourages and sustains them, as above. "Indeed, I might think agitation the most important factor of all—the most deeply important: to stir, to question, to suspect, to examine, to denounce!" It is the docta of the universe, he considered. I told the story of Ingersoll's visitor and his everlasting "yes, yes"—and after W. had ceased his laugh over it, he said, "But I guess we have plenty of the 'noes,' too—plenty—under whatever circumstances."

Rosendale today gave me some interesting account of meetings with Ingersoll—depicting his modesty, brilliancy, fullness of information, scholarship. This I repeated to W., who was greatly interested. Then away, with promise to stop in tomorrow forenoon on my way to Philadelphia.

Back to top