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Wednesday, May 29, 1889

Wednesday, May 29, 1889

7.50 P.M. W. sitting indoors, in parlor, Mrs. Davis with him. He talked with great hope and cheer, though expressing a weariness from his visitors today and his excursion. "I have been out—just got back." he explained. "We had a good ride—some about the streets—then down to Cooper Street wharves. That river is a never-ending fascination to me. But if the weather continues as it is now, I must take another hour for my outings—a noon hour or thereabouts. It was quite chill on the way tonight."

When I entered I had found W. signing an express receipt. The books were just being delivered. Oldach had not disappointed. W. had sent the box upstairs. I had half a dozen, which I had carried over, to insure against express delay. W. examined them—was well pleased. "Everything seems just as it should be—and there is the pocket, too, just as I wished it! I like the 'lay' of the book much!" He would send a copy off to Bucke tomorrow. I shall probably, indeed, send a dozen off at once. Stedman must have one, and Aldrich too: Aldrich has been kind too: I told you about the twenty-five dollars he sent me?" He will also prepare copies for the toasters of Friday, "but will wait till the last minute for that, to find out just who they are." As to my own copies, he advised: "Take one now—take it along with you": and then jokingly: "It will arm you—more than arm you, load you: for it is not only a weapon but a weapon primed!" And still again he said: "You can have it ready-handed for the encounter with the enemy." He desires that copies be sent to the hall Friday. "There may be some coming there to whom it would be a temptation." But—"I leave that with you, to be arranged as you think best." I read him extracts from a letter received from Salter today. He said: "Why that is fine, sure enough!" And finally: "When you write him, send along my love: such a word as that deserves something!" He inquired after Hamlin Garland, who had promised either to come or send a letter. "I should like him to be here: New England should have a representative." As for his own say, he has written something which is now in the hands of his printer. He will have it produced in slips, probably to be variously distributed. Referred to Clifford's speech again: "I take a great interest in that. I only regret that I have not had a talk with him in the matter (alluding to the Emerson note). There are things I could wish said which probably will not be, people not having the way to know." He spoke again: "There should be something uttered counter to Edward: that was a damnable invention and superfluity. I have long thought of making some statement myself—of finding a way of putting myself on record in this matter—in justification to myself, in justice to Emerson, too. I think no one appreciates as I do the pressure that constantly drove in upon Emerson's high and exquisite nature—it was great—it was, heavy as I know, inevitable. Think of his wife, alone: think of Emerson,—the great, the free, the pure—united in marriage to a conventional woman: yes, a conventional woman and worse, a fanatically conventional woman: that alone is hard to conceive, sad to know." I suggested: "Why can't you sometime dictate your story to me? Then it could be carefully preserved and finally used." He acquiesced as I hardly expected in this: "Why yes—that would do—and wonderfully, too: perhaps some time we may get at it. I have much knowledge—direct and indirect—that would illuminate this whole curious mystery, so-regarded. How much I have suffered from people in their haste—simply their haste! They do not understand 'Leaves of Grass': they do not understand me: something puzzles, baffles, perhaps outrages them: instantly they are in arms and fly at us!" He realized that he but suffered this in common with others who were pathfounders, but "beyond all that might ordinarily be said on that point, the opposition to me seems to have had a property peculiarly, bitterly, its own."

He is now very positive about attendance on Friday. "I shall come, without a doubt, unless the body should assume conditions irretrievably bad. If it should storm, I shall require a closed carriage—but still I will be there: nothing in the ordinary way can now move my determination." And he said further: "I want Ed to go up to the dinner—then come back for me when it is time." He then asked: "And there is something you can tell me, Horace: has any toast been arranged for the brother-poets?—brother-writers? I think that should be—in fact, regard that as a necessary part of the speaking, on no account to be slighted or forgotten." I explained that I had solicited Gilder to answer for American Literature, which in a letter received today he had declined formally but tacitly consented informally to do. 55 Clinton Place 28th May 1889 My dear Mr. Traubel, Yours just received. I expect to be present—& if desired will be glad to speak—but I am sorry to have to decline to speak to a formal toast. Sincerely R. W. Gilder Where is the dinner by the way? 
W.: "I like that." I added: "I have to write to Gilder tonight, to send him some direction. Suppose I make some suggestion from you?" Whereat: "That is a good idea: I am perfectly willing—indeed would request that you do so. Emerson, Bryant, Whittier, Cooper—others of course to be mentioned, but these particularly for me: Emerson (always Emerson)—and Bryant: oh! there is something here that appeals to be said—that always abides!—and Whittier—and certainly Cooper—Cooper, the strong, true, brave, Cooper!" I explained a discussion the other day. Some one had said that Whitman and Whittier were naturally antagonistic. I objected that this was a mistake: that they agreed—only that Whitman accepted all of Whittier and went beyond. W.: "That is very good: I am sure I accept that myself!" And then he repeated his counsel: "This must not be forgotten, Horace: if I may dare suggest anything, let it be for the brother-writers: the occasion certainly could not be complete without that." I spoke again of the passage to be cut from Kennedy's letter and he responded: "I should approve of its being done: without entering into any argument—any reason—I should approve of it." And then he asked: "Can't you let me see Kennedy's letter, anyhow?" And so I promised to submit it to him.

At last there had come a note from Stedman, and a truly noble and affectionate epistle. It comes from "'Kelp Rock,' New Castle, N. H." and is dated the 27th. It justifies my faith—gladdens us both. Walt sat there and regarded me happily as I read it. And passages were to be read again. "Ah! at last!" he exclaimed—"and the good fellow, too—and noble!" And though we lose much by not having him Friday—"we have him, too—for there he is in the note!" Gilchrist had been over again. "Herbert seems greatly to enjoy the affair. You know, Herbert is not only artist, but has a literary bent as well—or ambition: bids for literary place. Of course, you know about his book: and by the way, Dr. Knortz has my book: he asked to keep it a little while longer, and I consented—but that little while was a long while ago." "I am free to say, too—I rather like Herbert's speech: it is perhaps too warm, too extreme—but excusing that, it comes up well to the mark. Besides, I wanted all that said, and said positively." He half-suspected, "it will make Gilder mad." As to his own share in that speech—"There was none of it direct, only by inspiration." The Hotspur speech "may be thought strong"—yet it "seemed in place." "I am very notionate, particular, about quotations: I never lug them in: if they don't come naturally by their place—fit to the last angle—then I reject them." He thought we "must keep the affair as much as possible in the family," not inviting men merely out of their liking for occasions or a dinner. He said he did not understand Herbert's disparaging remarks on Julian Hawthorne last night. "They are a mystery to me—their origin." Had I remembrance of the Lowell-Hawthorne interviewing case? "I do not know it well enough to tell. I know that it was accused of Hawthorne at the time, that he went to Lowell in a private capacity and sold his talk to a newspaper." "Lowell was towering mad—wrote a letter about it: there was hot debate—men argued on both sides like priests over a doctrine. So far as I have known Hawthorne, or been impressed by him—it is favorably."

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