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Sunday, May 18, 1889

Sunday, May 18, 1889

7.50 P.M. W. sitting quietly in his chair: saw me approaching, held out his hand cordially. On the step next him was a bunch of daisies and several papers. He did not look well, was rather pale and wearied. Hat on—the red handkerchief about his neck. During the first few minutes of his talk with me, he seemed confused, his mind not keen. But he afterwards woke up and was then himself again. But this advised me that something was the matter with him, and I asked about it. He then said: "It is my head—I have not been at all well today, though not giving up entirely. This is my first outing—this, now, in the evening; though," and he said this rather triumphantly, "I have signed the one hundred sheets—every one of them!" And he added: "They are ready for you when you want them." In a few minutes Tom stepped up and they engaged in bright talk. W. spoke of his head again: "It keeps up an awful buzzing, sawing—keeps me deaf full half the time—oppresses, threatens, discomposes: so that my comfort is short at least!"

I spoke of the O'Connor notice in the current Critic—its lameness—its milk-and-water reference to O'Connor's great Whitman letters as "certain articles on the genius of Walt Whitman." Had W. ever know those letters so tamely referred to before? He thought not, but—"It is no more than we have a right to expect. But there is a notice in the Transcript of the 16th—I have a copy of it upstairs. Kennedy sent it on—sent a postal with it: says it was written by a fellow named Heard. Do you know him, or about him? I know nothing at all—it is an entirely new name to me. I was going to send the paper at once to Bucke, but it struck me Nellie might like to see it, so I put paper and postal together for you to examine and then will send the paper to her, she to forward it to Doctor." When I proposed mailing it, he protested: "I think I shall do it this time—because I'll take advantage of the occasion to write to Nellie explaining that—explaining other things too." He thought I would have to wait for morning for it—"for I don't think Ed could find it in the confusion upstairs, though, if you want it now, I'll go up myself and get it."

Harned cabled Tennyson today about the dinner, soliciting some word, but expressed doubt of much if any reply. W. said: "No—Tennyson is old—he is lazy too—and, I understand, delegates a good deal of his work to his wife and daughter." Tom expressed determination to rescue the dinner from local color merely. W.: "I would not, Tom, at least not too much. But limit the speeches—don't let any fellow go on as long as he wants to: except of course, the big guns, who must take their own time." Tom said: "Clifford, for instance"; and Walt responded: "Yes, Clifford—Clifford should speak—we want a speech from him—and he must not be restricted, for Clifford will know just what to say." I wrote a number of letters this evening to Gilder, Stedman, Whittier, Garland, Bucke, Cary (the Century), Mark Twain, John Fiske, Larned (Chicago News) and Bush (Canada). Yesterday I wrote to West (New Ideal), Morse and Kennedy. The day before to Gannett, Salter, Blake, Carnegie, Adler. W. spoke of Cary: "Yes—and he likes me well, I think." And as to substance of my letter to Stedman, which I gave him, he said: "That is good: and if he comes!" Advised me in several cases of people he thought might like to come or to be advised of it. As to Lowell: "I would not write to him: it would seem out of place—he would not appreciate it." Then suddenly: "What is this I read in the paper today about the dinner—that the rule excluding women had been rescinded?" And when I explained, with my arguments with Bonsall and Harned against it, W. exclaimed: "Good! Good! Why—some of my best—in fact, my very best friends have been women." Then: "I should like my friend Col. Cockerill, of the World, invited—Col. J. Cockerill, I think it is. And there is Frank Williams, too—and the wife: Oh! the wife has been very good to me! And have you sent word to Sanborn? Sanborn should be notified: Frank has done nobly by me! Address him at Concord—a letter so will find him. You have not forgotten Julius Chambers?—nor Elizabeth Porter Gould—there at Chelsea?" And so ran over a list: Mrs. Spaulding, Mrs. Fairchild, Walsh, and others. If he thought of others still, would "note them down" for me. The short notice cuts off many possibilities of correspondence.

W. evidently had suffered from heat today. Asked us, "Isn't it very warm?" It did not seem greatly so to me. His condition no doubt aggravated it. Harned described the lecture of Gilchrist last evening—one sentence thereof touching "the unknown" art of England & W. greatly laughing thereat. "I think I should report upon such an expression by telling a story—the story of the old man who was writing a history of Ireland—came to one chapter—chapter seven, say—headed it 'Snakes of Ireland' and put into the chapter but two lines—that the whole measure of it—'There are no snakes in Ireland!' That would seem severe perhaps—but taken with a little allowance, would be strictly true." But he asked: "So he spoke of the Rossettis? I suppose of Dante? That must have come in." I reminded W. of our long promise to Morse to send him a copy of the big book and he assented to the duty of sending one shortly: "Sidney ought surely to have one" he allowed. Tom described a George meeting he got into after Gilchrist's lecture last evening. W. greatly interested. For some time we discussed the matter. "The raw material of the earth," said W.—"that, I suppose can be no one's man's—isn't that true? Hasn't it always been true? And yet, what a man puts upon it—the direct result of his own personal labor—isn't that his—and always?" Roughly stated, this was the single tax theory exactly. Yet W. has never read a description of it with care—confesses—as he asked again tonight "What is the single tax?" Then Tom gave me a warm description of what he took to be the theory. W. said: "Edward Carpenter's piece to the Duke—wasn't that the same thing?"

It was very funny to listen to his joking banter with Tom that followed. T. invited him to lunch tomorrow at one or dinner at 5. W. said "I think it best I should make no engagement, but if I can, come!"—and he laughed heartily at the prospect of it. And he would have to take something to drink too—"Indeed, that would be a great point on the visit." But Bucke's prohibition? "Oh! that must not count—the little drop, now and then, I take, would hurt no one." Tom spoke of claret, but W. was dubious: "I don't care for claret," but Madeira, "that might do," though after all, "sherry and champagne—these are my favorites—these I shall never surrender! Indeed, Tom, nothing but a bottle of champagne will satisfy me!" He went into paroxysms of laughter over a story I told him of a late car the other night on which a young fellow invited the car out to take a drink (20 persons responding)—taking off the driver with him—and anxious even for the conductor, standing on the step of the saloon and calling after him as the car rolled off. Tom said: "They were all drunk!" and W.: "Yes—that's so: but it was so funny! I should like to have been there!" And to me: "That's a good story to keep. The young fellow must have been a drunkard!"

Harned spoke to W. of Donaldson's treatment of us in the fund matter. W. told a story of Jim Scovel: "He would quote somebody who said 'money'? Oh! watch the money!—for money is sacred!' " And to Tom: "Whatever we do Tom—we must look after the checks!" I got him his model copy of the pocket edition L. of G. from Ferguson's today—the copy sent to guide the printers. Secured from Ferguson also his bill: $9.00 for composition, &c., $27.00 for printing. Ferguson is very sensitive about the bad result of Brown's printing. Then of the dinner again: "I have so many good friends abroad, too!—and the biggest too! But we will get along with the second or third raters!"

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