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Sunday, May 12, 1889

Sunday, May 12, 1889

7 P.M. W. sitting in front of his house in the big chair surrounded by children. He was attempting to take a splinter from the finger of one of these. I went quietly up, took a seat on the step in their midst, did not say a word. Finally, he did see me, and extended his hand with great heartiness. We were there a full half hour together. The children continued more or less with him most of that time. He had his arm about the waist of a little boy, who seemed content with his position for a long time. The children would come and go. W. greeted them—called them by name. "Here's little Leoni," he said to me of one of them, "the nicest little girl in all the street!" And as she ran off, her light red curls floating on the wind: "See that hair—its transparency—can you beat that?" And he would take part in the interests of the youngsters. Says to one "and is this the little one who don't like Eddy?" adding to the tiny body remonstratingly—"You must not dislike Ed—he's one of the best fellows alive!" He would ask their names, joke with them. "Danny," an old-clean-shaven ferryman, now weak enough in the legs himself came up. W. said: "Ah! Danny! is that you? Give my love to all the ferry boys—all of 'em! And how are you yourself, Danny?" And Danny said: "I heard you were out—I am glad to see it. We all want to live a long time if we can, don't we? I know I do!" And went off muttering something to himself. Mr. Button the architect, living next door, was another to accost him. "I had never expected to see you out again Mr. Whitman." W.: "And this is the second time, too!" "So I heard—so they told me." And then W.: "It is a great victory—a great comfort. And how is the Madam? Tell me that?" Asking again: "And she holds her own? That is good, anyhow!"

The chair was up by the step. W. said to me descriptively: "I have been out a long time. We took quite a stroll. I saw Ed Lindell today: went down towards his house. Ed pulled the bell, and Lindell himself came to the door. He appeared much surprised, but glad—very glad! Of course I had to receive him sitting as I was. I wanted Ed to know Lindell, the other Ed. Lindell—you know it—is a great fiddler. Maggie came in, or out, too—she too is a great fiddler. They will be good for our Eddy therefore to know. I think Lindell is one of the best—perhaps the best—fellow, on instrumentation in Camden. That would make him important to Ed. you know what I mean by instrumentation? A sort of apportionment of tone—what part the clarinet, trombone, flute, fiddle—any other instrument—is to take—can sustain in the harmony. Ed is great on that. If I were a young man, still with hot blood, I know I should fight him—know we'd have many a tussle, for Ed does not believe in expression—thinks it humbug—while to me expression is everything." Lindell also impeached the importance of the human voice, its musical quality &c. "But then he don't know—I doubt if he ever heard a voice that justifies what we call the vocal powers: the great, overwhelming, touching, human voice—its throbbing, flowing, pulsing, qualities. Alboni—or that strange, awkward, obesely, ridiculous figure, the Italian who recently died—oh yes! Brignoli. Such voices—do they not justify all—explain all?" And the voice—"It is the extreme height of heights: what instrument can reach it?" Then we went on about his trip. "We did not go to the ferry, but southwards again. I tried to get a position somewhere down there on Second Street that would put us right on the river, but it could not be found—I could see the glisten on the water—see beyond—but could not get down absolutely to the bank. We must take everything by degrees. I started out late again—the spirit did not move me till towards evening." As to trips: "We must develop into them—into long distances: must not attempt too much at once. I have thought—what do you think?—that early morning would be a good—perhaps the best—time. How does that strike you? I don't know—it may not do at all, may be just the thing. I had an idea of stopping up at Tom's today, but hesitated, finally did not go: was afraid of the champagne—I know too well the temptation of that champagne. Some other time we'll attempt it." Spoke of the remarkable good the thing seemed to do him already. "It were a great victory if there never come another trip on it—though we hope for more and more. Some years ago the Critic fellows wrote me for an article or articles. I replied that I was sick—that I was not disposed to write. They wrote back that they must have something—must have something over my name. So I wrote a little piece, starting with some statement like this—that after books, writing, medicine, home, everything else, had failed, then take to the open air, get out under the sky, on the green fields, under the trees—into nature itself. I have thought that of myself today—failing in everything else, came this—came the chair—came the trips out into the sweet sun: and already what a blessing this has been!" And he had met as yet "no reporter on the road—thank God!"

Said he had had several visitors today. "Grace Johnson was here—she was here while Mrs. Harned was here. And there was Tom, too—and a young man he brought along with him. I was glad he came—oh! what was his name?" I knew—Callingham. W. then: "That's it, I guess." "And quite a Whitman man," I said, and W. laughed. "Poor fellow! I wonder, does he know what he invites upon himself?" W.'s color was exceedingly fine—perhaps with more suggestion of delicacy than of old, but strong still, and true.

Said of the Emerson book: "You can have it tonight, if you want to take it along. How grand it is as a book—as samplifying—the book art itself! It is one of the most striking samples of bookmaking I know—simply beautiful—as good as anything they send us from abroad: the paper, type, inking—rich and grand—a joy merely to look at." He thought he would not "include the binding" in this "specification""that does not strike me so fully, satisfyingly. Horace, you ought to take the book over and show it to Ferguson—to him of all men. It so impressed me, I have felt like sending word up to the boys who did the printing—the printers—sending some word by Kennedy indicating that I had seen and applauded it. Houghton surpassed himself in this." Dave had evidently imitated the cover of some of Houghton's recent books in his production of the "First Series." "But Dave's books come nowhere near this." Then W. proceeded thoughtfully, as he looked in a fixed way at me: "But, Horace," he said, "this book quite revises, recasts, my idea of Edward Emerson. Biographically it has no value at all—it is not skillfully constructed, strongly stated—it really adds little or nothing to the stock of what we know of Emerson. But it is interesting, nevertheless—anything about Emerson, even repetition, is interesting. The notes there, for instance—the extracts from Emerson's Journals—and here and there little incidents—appeal to me; they will to you. But of Edward, as I said, I catch quite another conviction—yet one I should have realized before, from the first—which I should have acknowledged to myself long ago." I knew then he touched upon the explanation of the Whitman foot-note. "It is a lie!" he said vehemently, as he looked straight at me, "it is the concoction—I know unconscious of Edward, of Ellen. The two put their heads together—produced it. Ellen hates me like the devil—always did. This note—this was never Emerson!" And then W. quoted contemptuously—"or words to that effect"! "But," he then said, in his same kind way—"it is of no value. Would you like to take the book back tonight? I am through with it—read it through today." He spoke again: "Edward is a stoutish, good-looking fellow—I remember him as such. This book puts a whole new face on all actions with me—his words—invitations—there at Concord. Yet he seemed to feel generously at the time."

He had been reading the Tribune today. "Tom brought it in. They have quite a piece there about the 31st affair. They enter largely into it—tell even who is to be there: have about every big name in American life except the President! And the President! Oh! the president! No—he is not my man. There are several elements which we reckon indispensable to the make of a big manly man: these are surrendered to bad substitutes in Harrison. Think of it—Harrison, on the one hand is deacon of a church—on the other an advocate of extreme protection." Anticipates that Mrs. O'Connor will "be alone" probably some day shortly. "Did you know that O'Connor lived over the river in Philadelphia? He was editor of the Saturday Evening Post—or Morning Post—that's the name." He advised me to "collect and use" the details of O'Connor's life. "The most noteworthy person I know of to inform you is now in California. I mean Eldridge—Charles Eldridge—but he is so far off. Yet it ought to be done: I even want to do it myself. I wrote to Mrs. O'Connor today—sent the letter off tonight. I suppose William was buried today or will be tomorrow! The grand O'Connor!"

I reminded W. that it seemed getting chillier and he said: "Yes, I shall go in." And called Ed. "I feel greatly better for getting out—slept last night like a top—awoke with all sorts of new ambitions!" W. leaned very heavily on me when he went in. "I shall stay here a while," he said, edging off towards the parlor, where he went ponderously into the chair. "This seems natural—seems just like old times—is just as if we were made for each other—this chair and me!" We discussed the pocket edition, W. eager for it: "I am anxious to have a few of the five-dollar edition. In the first place, because a few five dollars' would be very helpful to me just now—then I have been determining to send copies to those people—the group—a few—who have been very kind to me—whose kindness I feel bound to recognize." Then off and away, leaving W. there in the room, his hat on still and talking to Ed in brief snatches.

Dined today at 5 at Harned's. Discussed the dinner. Circular herewith had been issued. I fought the principle of exclusion against women, and Bonsall and T. B. H. decided that the objection was well assumed and promised to see the plan to that extent revised. I argued its gross inconsistency—that it neither comported with the modern spirit at large nor with W.'s, to put up bars against anybody on such an occasion.

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