Skip to main content

Sunday, April 21, 1889

Sunday, April 21, 1889

6.30 P.M. W. sat by the window, the Venetian blinds at the downward angle, giving a view of the street. Eminently cordial—spoke up instantly on my entrance: "I have had a call today from Tom and Mrs. Harned"—here he paused, looking at me as if with unusual happiness—"And the baby at last! Herbert at last! Oh! and what a remarkable boy it is, too!—that big, clear, beautiful blue eye—a whole world of him, at least." I was surprised, some little, to find him so enthusiastic. He pleasantly alluded to the usual high opinions of parents, and then of the promise of the boy: "And he is a specimen, too—nobly one; I was much taken, engaged, with him; it seemed to me found in him the eligibility of any future in the calendar—highest, best—a bright, broad vista!" Expressed fervently his "gladness" that "glimpse of him" had been "afforded at last." In regard to health, W. expressed a sense of some relief, but not of any great change. His feebleness clings sadly. Ed reports to me a dark discoloration of the urine. This, if continued, may require attention.

I asked him for a copy of "As a Strong Bird" for Mrs. Fels, whom I went to see this evening. W. said: "Of course—and gladly!" adding—"Go in there; you'll find a copy in Ed's room there in the box"—and calling it "Better still" when I found what I wanted on the shelf instead. He took the book—wiped the dust from it on a robe there on the floor—then took a pen and firmly (though somewhat irregularly, for it was nearly dark) endorsed it; sending it, as he put it there, "With my best wishes"—and advising me: "Tell her for me that that is a hard nut to crack—the hardest nut of all." At my mention deprecatively of "The Mystic Trumpeter," he explained: "I do not mean that—that is exceptional—that is more in the popular vein. I mean 'As a Strong Bird'—that is a great task for anyone to assume to understand." Perhaps the sweetest nut might have the hardest shell? "I do not know—but the poem is a puzzle, anyway."

I noted that he had taken the photos so far selected and counted them off into fifties, labeling them accordingly. "I found I had plenty of the butterfly pictures. I have put aside there, 305 or over; intended tying them up, but had not the right string, which Ed will get for me tomorrow. I counted—discovered I had 150 of the Sarony pictures, which is not enough by half. I suppose it would be better to have the whole 300 uniform but it is not absolutely necessary." I suggested: "I would put them in anyhow, such of them as you have." And he quickly responded: "I intend to—but I have not quite given up the search yet. I had at least as many of these as of the butterflies, but now they are either lost or stolen. I should have had Mary help me look 'em up today, but she went off to the shore with Warren, her boy, to see some friends." I put in—"And are just back—came in as I did." And he then: "Oh! are they? I supposed it was about time. Anyhow, I am sure there are enough of the pictures—or if not these, others—to finish." I had spent the day in Germantown. In fact, stopped in at W.'s on the way home. Book in my hands (a present from Clifford; Gilman on Profit-sharing). W. inquired of and looked at it, but was not appealed to by Gilman. But he inquired closely after Clifford's sermon—the substance of which I explained—an Easter sermon, the like of which doubtless was nowhere else heard in America today, considering generosity and breadth of purport and spirit.

Weather thereupon—the beauty of the day—my description of fields, of early grass-cutting, of hay, the odor of fresh growths. W. alluded to the thunder-storm last night. "It is probably to that we owe the perfection of this day." Then asked me what of trains going seaward, the boats, the grand sunset. "Certainly there must have been a great hegira" and expressed "a great joy" therein—that"the working classes seem more and more disposed to make Sunday a day of freedom." Then he reflected: "I, too, more and more, as the years come and go—as I think, experience, see,—am persuaded towards the confirmation of the Sunday to liberty. I believe in unplugging the day—in inviting freedom—in having the boys play their ball, people go to the seaside, boating, fishing, frolicking, visiting, the whole air one in fact of a grand spontaneity." I quizzed him: "Then the preachers would denounce you for espousing a Continental Sabbath: that is their great bugbear." He laughed, but said: "Yes, that—I do favor a Continental Sabbath, if that must name it." But how about the working men? "It would not injure them. Many of them work anyhow—the boatmen, the car men, the railroaders, the hotel men, others; indeed some of them don't mind it at all—in fact, would rather work. There should be some arrangement anyhow which would pay half as much again—or double—for Sunday work. It is so in the departments at Washington. The government is very liberal in its treatment of the clerks—has been known to pay double, treble, day's pay for night work." I spoke of O'Connor's statement to me that he had done much overwork. W. then: "That is very probable; I know O'Connor so well, that easily verifies itself to me. O'Connor was a worker much like poor Pearson there in New York—a man occupying a great position, knowing certain complicated things had to be done, and persuaded that he, he alone, was the man to do it—the only man who could do it." And his casual reference to Pearson enforced some energetic reflection. "Poor fellow! one of the invaluable officers—the right man in the right place (too rarely the case nowadays)—and so to die in harness! So young, too! only 45. It is the bitterest sarcasm possible on the Harrison administration—Harrison the scalawag who was and is, I have no doubt!—That this man, continued by Cleveland, a political enemy,—purely because he was what he was, fit and honest to the core—should have been removed now at this stage of the new administration. But if is of a piece with Harrison—the shit-ass! God damn 'im!—and no more than need have been expected. I never had any faith in him, in his course!" And he further said: "Pearson seems to have been sensitive, too—high strung, proud: and this removal affected his condition. Think of the man, too, appointed in his stead!—a man appointed for political reasons wholly—a good enough fellow perhaps in this way, but after all of the class more concerned for the 2 to 10 thousand-a-year than anything else: a man like thousands of others." Here he paused a moment or so, continuing however: "I was trying to think of someone here in Camden to whom to compare him. I don't know—the Curley's perhaps. I know them—pleasant enough, good natured, with a hand—even a power—in politics, but of intelligence, information, nothing whatsoever—no real ability at all." America was stronger than the curse of this business and would of course survive it, but it was a lamentable experience enough, anyhow.

Back to top