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Monday, May 20, 1889

Monday, May 20, 1889

I found W. sitting in the parlor, at the window, hatted and cloaked, with the lap-robe duly in its place, and Ed across the room at the other window fiddling away at a great rate. I had written to Burroughs this forenoon and told W. so—who said: "How good it would be to have John come, and who knows but he will? The fellows like once and awhile to tear themselves away—go off somewhere—get into new scenes—shake off the monotony of their usual life. Even John, it seems to me, likes it. And Kennedy would, too. I should not be surprised to have Sloane down here—not at all!" I had told Burroughs it would be more acceptable to W. now than in September, the time of the other trip. "Yes, indeed," said W., "I was in a bad way then—bad—bad." And he added warmly: "And if John would only come—only come! And Stedman, too: how much I would make of that!" And he advised me also: "We would enjoy John Hay too." And after a pause: "I have thought of another, Horace—our ex-President: Can't you send a circular to Grover Cleveland? I am told he has read Leaves of Grass—read it to some purpose." As to the circular, he said in reply to my direct question: "Yes, I like it: It is in perfect good taste —was it Tom's or Harry's?—or did they put their heads together to produce it?" He thought it "quite well-done—well said." I told him Clifford had absolutely promised to speak, and he took the information up with evident pleasure. "That is truly good to hear—that assures us one good thing—whatever else goes wrong." And he asked: "Will Tom take matters in hand? Some one should—he should—so that the longwinded fellows don't get possession of things." I said: "Some fellow who will speak about 'the Camden poet.'" His laughter was great: he is always moved by references to him so couched (and they frequently are so couched).

Said he had been out "enough to keep up" his "reputation"—and that was all today—"out in front of the door a little while ago—for a few minutes only." He had received and read the Critic. "I sent it off to Mrs. O'Connor. The notice is indeed, as you say, weak enough to be namby-pamby: it is only barely saved from that." But he was not surprised: "Joe Gilder gets on with the New York clique—and the New York clique believe first of all in finesse, finish, polish—afterwards in naturalness, elementalism. Joe knows Dick Stoddard too well—I think Stoddard and he are close friends. At any rate Joe is affected by the tendencies that to Stoddard are all in all." Then W. proceeded into considerable quiet statement of his own conception of the function of books in our civilization. "What we want above all—what we finally must and will insist upon—in future—actual men and women—living, breathing, hoping, aspiring books—books that so grow out of personality, magnificence of undivided endowment, as themselves to become such persons, stand justly in their names." I should read Kennedy's piece "there towards the close of Bucke's book" for "it says this—or says part of this—well, nobly well—I don't know but better than ever it was stated elsewhere. At least, I am convinced that Kennedy so far grasps the pith of the lesson. It is a meaning I always invoke—a meaning, I hope palpably in all my work—to be drawn therefrom and acknowledged, one at least of several sacred (oh! how sacred!) commands, if I dare assume to have commanded at all." "The world has had its fill of dandies, ladies and gentlemen, dressiness, smartness, skill, respectability, formalism—in literature: it still waits for the natural man to come—to come nobly, unhesitatingly—in quiet, in composure—and so to take his place and to stay!" W. spoke this in his strange deliberate way, but with the fullness of tone that so impresses on when he is in unusual earnest. "Read it again," he pursued—"read it again, Horace—it is worth while knowing well. I for myself, more and more appreciate its satisfactoriness."

I told him I was to read from "Democratic Vistas" before a circle tonight. He said: "Good luck to you! Tell them how the piece came about—that it was directly stimulated by Carlyle's 'Shooting Niagara' among other things,—by the state of our national, social, affairs at the time. Probably during or just before the war. Before the war was itself war—things seemed more portentous and bloody before the war than during it." Took sheets to Oldach today and he promised to "push" the books. But W. was incredulous. That "push" aroused his suspicion. He had "no idea Oldach could push things even if he promised to give me a list of addresses of his friends abroad who might wish to be remembered for the dinner. Johnston has written Harned that he has been unable to meet Ingersoll or to get a reply to his notes. I shall write to Ingersoll myself. W. expressed pleasure with the idea that Frank Williams would be present and possibly speak. Harned got a few orders for tickets.

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