Skip to main content

Wednesday, May 15, 1889

Wednesday, May 15, 1889

8 P.M. I found W. sitting out of doors, in his chair against the side of the step. On the steps themselves, Ed, Warren and Harry. W.'s greeting tonight was—"Howdy? Howdy?" He said he had been "tripping it" again. "We have had two trips today—one about noon—one a while ago. I feel better and better—always more like going." "We went along to the Cooper Street wharf. I have not yet got to the ferry—not that I especially avoided it, but that the spirit has not yet moved me to go. But I shall go. The day will come." I have got models from Oldach today. W. saw the bundle in my hand, asked about it, so I tore it open in the semidarkness. He felt the one book (one was case only) carefully—looked it all around—said that "from what I can judge, seeing it this way, I am likely to be pleased." But "I shall hold them over tomorrow—study them by daylight." Oldach said book would be 70 cents, which appeared to satisfy W. As we talked there (W. with his hat on) Lindell's daughter Maggie came up, introduced a young man she called her brother, and handed W. some flowers just picked from her garden. W. greeted her heartily, held her hand—said: "Thank you girl—it is good of you." And turning to the young man—"Have I met him before? I don't think so—no." Adding: "Well—I'm glad to meet him now, anyhow!" She spoke about his "getting" out, and W. joked of Ed—"I'm afraid he'll go off with me some day and leave me somewhere—never bring me back." Then added: "But somebody will, surely—surely!" Then turned to Ed with the flowers: "I'll ask you Ed, to take these to Mrs. Davis for the present—have her put them in water—then in the morning I'll have them in my room—enjoy them." Adding: "and while you're in, Ed, go upstairs in my room—you'll find there on the chair a little package of letters, fastened with a rubber—letters I wish to give Horace: bring them along." Then, after a few words more, Maggie departed. W. cordially calm, and to her counsel to "call to see us" responding: "I shall, some day—and before long!"

He had asked me when I came: "What have you in the other bundle? Books, too?" And when I explained not, but Whitman dinner circulars which I had promised to send off for the committee, he said: "Have you one for me? I have not seen it." So I went inside to open the bundle and secure one. When I got forward from the kitchen again Ed had helped W. into the parlor. W. had questioned me on my first coming: "Is it too cool out here for me?"—and now seemed to conclude that it was. I gave him the circular, which he stuffed into his side pocket. "Shall I send one to the Doctor or to others?" I expostulated—that we would write to Bucke, as the folks wished a letter from him to be read at the dinner. "Well—I shall do as you advise about that—only I wished to see a copy myself." He said of Burroughs: "John is not a dinerout—would not go to such an affair for the meal—but he loves like the rest of you to get about—to go anywhere so as to meet the fellows—to come into touch and speech with the boys. I should not wonder but he would come." And Ingersoll—should W. feel "insulted" in his presence? He replied earnestly: "No indeed—honored, rather: I should take that as a crowning event." But Ingersoll "shocked" people—and was not he (W. W.) shocked? He laughed. "That is funny to ask. Shocked? I consider Bob one of the constellations of our time—of our country—America—a bright, magnificent constellation. Besides, all the constellations—not alone of this but of any time—shock the average intelligence for a while. In one respect that helps to prove it a constellation. Think of Voltaire, Paine, Hicks, not to say anything of modern men whom we could mention." I referred to my intention of writing to Stedman this week. I wish greatly to have him come over, attend and speak at the dinner, and see W. W. counselled me: "If you write to Stedman, of course, you may say what you choose about the Hartmann matter. But say for me—that is, if you will—say for me, that I, too, was vexed and mad at the incident, but decided, after thinking it over carefully from all sides—oh! almost intensely, and for days—to take no public notice of it whatever. As you say, if we could have Stedman here, it would be a great point gained—if we could have had him at the time, the difficulty could easily have been obviated." "I am sure," he said again, "if Stedman could have been here with us, he would have appreciated our position. We have never in our career so far—I mean I have never in my career, made public explanations, retractions, what not. I know Stedman is hot-headed—but not more so than I am. Not more so than you are. And we were mightily wroth, God knows! But perhaps my Kennedy letters may mend matters some—he probably has the copy by this time—I suppose Kennedy has sent it." And he went on further: "I have been dipping into the Stedman books today again—reading Channing—William Henry Channing"—I interrupted—"You mean William Ellery, don't you?"—and he: "Is it that? I mean the great Channing, anyhow. He is there in the book quite copiously—I may say, satisfactorily, too. Stedman shows wonderful taste in his combinations. He selects them from the best—I wonder often if not the best—the very best—of every man he touches. I am sure if we may judge by his treatment of us—his rare judgment there—if he has gone all around with like discrimination—we are all fortunate in our judge. For I don't believe we were ever set forth so wisely and handsomely before anywhere."

W. said about the letters Ed had brought down for me: "I thought you would like to read them at your leisure: take them along. Put a string about them—include with them the letters I gave you the other day—then return to me. You can finally have them to keep, if you wish. I thought it might be well to have Nellie O'Connor see them. When the heft of this affair is over—and the after-quiet has come—she would like to read. At any rate, I'll keep them by me—if sending to her, will ask for their return eventually so you can keep them together." Then: "Kennedy writes again—writes of the O'Connor article—wants particulars. He will probably be doing something in the matter." In the package were two letters from Bucke, a letter and a postal from Kennedy, and a letter from Barnhill (Cambridge)—the Henry George preacher, I think—who asks of W. some expression of opinion "on the subject which is now cleaving literary Boston in twain," viz—the question raised by Howells whether literature "the old world literature" is not "saturated in the aristocratic spirit and lacks that enthusiasm for democracy which the coming literature must have?" These are Barnhill's words. W. made no comment on this tonight except that he had received it and that it was in the package.

He asked me: "How about the Club last night? Was it a success?" And he asked me if Boyesen "handled the English well"—if he "was much of a fellow in port and manner" &c. I tried to say something about Agnes Repplier's brilliant nothingness in shape of reply to Boyesen, but he did not care to listen and I did not press it. He has little patience with "talk for the sake of talk—talk that foregoes truth, so it can startle or surprise an interest." Harned in to see me tonight and brought me a box of invitations to send off to Club members and special persons.

Back to top