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Wednesday, April 24, 1889

Wednesday, April 24, 1889

10.30 A.M. W. reading paper. The day fine and much warmer. His fire burning brightly. Did not seem conscious of a too-great heat. Reported his condition: "only so-so." Yet looked well, acted well.

Said: "I notice that the Captain of the Missouri is being much feted, celebrated. Last night there was even a poem for him—and a good one, too." He looked up his Press and pointed lines out to me—a plain recitative, with no pretense of art—its human touch taking hold of him. "The Captain sails away for Baltimore today, don't he? I am glad to see he bears himself well—worthily." Then he proceeded: "The caves of ocean bear many a gem—many a poem as good as the good,—perhaps the best—and never seen!"

"And what news have you?" he asked, after a pause, and to my "nothing" he added: "nor have I anything. My mail was small enough: a letter from Bucke—a short one—in which he says his two brothers are still there. But not a word from Washington or anywhere else!" I picked up from the floor a brick-colored pamphlet; "The Church Catholic," by B. F. C. Costelloe M.A. I asked W. if that was our Costelloe, and he said: "Yes—that's the fellow. He's a good Catholic. Take the book along. I don't want it—I have not read it and never shall—I never read such stuff." And again to me: "Don't bring it back again—I don't want to see it again." "I never did read matter of that sort—never cared a paper of pins for it—it seemed to me of no importance whatever." He was sure Mary Costelloe accepted nothing "the like of that." "She is free of it—must be much like us. But the man, the husband, accepts the Church. I have seen him, like him.""I suppose clergymen—even the most liberal—read very much like that—all sorts of screeds." I stayed there but for a few minutes.

Evening 7.40 W. sitting in his room, the fire burning brightly, the odor of wood-smoke pretty thick. It is hard to comprehend that anybody can without suffering remain in such temperature. Yet neither heat nor smoke were obvious to him. He asked me: "Is it too warm?" and of the smoke: "Oh—is that so? That should be attended to—I know it is not good."" He had been reading. Did not, I thought look very well; but said there had been no change, that he felt reasonably good, that at any rate he was better than yesterday.

He had made up the dummy for Brown. "I was going to propose that you go to Brown yourself and see that he understands it all, but I suppose you intended that anyhow." As I had—my engagement being for tomorrow afternoon. "the corrections," W. said, "are very few indeed—not more than 3 or 4—really a mere pretense, so to say—and none of them urgent." I sometimes get a little anxious lest the book will not get out by the date specified. W. has had such a bad time the past month our work has been often interrupted. The photos for mounting still remain half-collected. A few more days cut out—a bad spell of some kind, disabling him—and we are done for. He remarked this in effect himself this evening. As to "news" today, he said he had none. Everything unwontedly quiet.

I went to Von Bulow concert at the Academy this afternoon. A great, more of less fashionable audience, but the performance wholly simple and unique: The curtain down, Von B. appearing unattended—appearing with hat (a sailor flat hat) and gloves on—these nervously thrown off on a small round table against the curtain. Two or three times in the course of the 2 hours that followed, Von B. got up, took hat and gloves and left, returning in a few minutes and resuming the programme. The whole subject, Beethoven, and the playing absolutely without note. To me a marvellous and beautiful occasion. I described it to W., perhaps with some enthusiasm. He seemed greatly attracted: questioned me till I had imparted about all the details I had to give. "Was it as informal as that?" he asked at one moment. Afterward: "It must have been a grand performance." Then: "what sort of a personal appearance did he put on?—was he young or old?" W. talked of orchestral concerts, too: of what he knew of them in his youth. "They were not so big—not so elaborate—as ours, but produced, I should say, the same emotionalistic, artistic, results." He felt that "much of the old music was written with reference to small bands, anyway." Still, "I do not sneeze at the big bands—at mass: it is not to be dismissed; the spectacular is not to be sneered away—it has its own effect to secure. Indeed, our modern performances are very great—very great." He added: "I can see how it would be advisable—perhaps indispensable—to have the Wagner music produced through the powerful resource of a great band"—but "the old music was written for small groups and these strings, mostly." "The best orchestral performance—at least one of the best, hitting for me the utmost point of excellence—was by a band of 7 or 8—Gaertner's band there in Philadelphia—a Beethoven night in the foyer of the Academy. This was not in the big audience room—not to a great audience." He discussed the question "only on the side of its necessity." He doubted if it was "necessary to the proper rendering, interpretation, of a great work" that it should be submitted to "aggregated instrumentalities." We talked a little of Beethoven's 7th Symphony—its first movement—its probable greater rendering by a great force of strings than by one instrument such as a piano. W. acknowledged: "There is force in that—great force."

I did not prolong my stay. W. not in good talking mood. In such cases I never linger. He asked that I come down tomorrow forenoon to get book for Brown.

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