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Wednesday, June 5, 1889

Wednesday, June 5, 1889

8 P.M. Went down to W.'s with Harned, finding W. sitting in parlor at the window. Had but a little time before returned from his outing. Talked directly of the Johnstown affair. "It seems to hang over us all like a cloud," he said—"a dark, dark, dark cloud." And then he asked: "Do you think this Cambria matter interferes at all with the passage of the mails? We all live in Cambria County now. I had a letter from Bucke today. He speaks of having received the pocket edition—but never says a word about the dinner—evidently had not got my papers yet. His letter was written Monday." But in "such a time as the present, any delay is excusable." He asked again: "I wonder if the American people are not the most enterprising on the globe, in history—any land, any age? They seem to be in readiness at all times for all emergencies: places of peril they transform instantly to safeties: certainly a wonderful peculiar gift, in which, in whatever else falling short, they undoubtedly excel, stand at the head."

He was "sure" I would get "responses from abroad"—and he said moreover: "I see that the Transcript copies Whittier's letter—all the papers do or will: his name will carry it along." He had at last "received a letter from Julius Chambers. In clearing up the table I found also a telegram from Irving. I had forgotten about that when I gave you the batch the other day. I shall save and put together for you all I find." I told W. I hoped we would have the poem from Rhys referred to in Carpenter's letter: had already marked out a place for it in the book. I saw McKay today and substantially arranged with him to proceed. I proposed myself to write up the banquet—some sketch of its appearance and events. W. was "pleased," and knew I "would do it well." I told him I would print the telegrams together as a "budget," including his brother Jeff's, and he assented: "Yes that will do, if you think it worth while to print them at all: I can see no objection as they are none of them private: let them come in a bunch: and you will put Bob's first, won't you?" he asked, and when I nodded in assent: "That's right—that is where it belongs." Which would seem to indicate after all that Bob's telegram hit home, in spite of W.'s mild protest the night it came.

Harned repeated to W. passages of a facetious note received from Gilder today, and W. was much amused. "It seems to show that Dick has humor," he said, and then recounted, with us, some of the hits in the little speech at the banquet. Harned again repeated Gilder's reference to Bucke as "that Canadian crank," and W. was as prompt as before to resent it. "Bucke is no crank at all—he is simply individualistic. If to be individualistic is to be a crank, then he is one—not otherwise." As to Gilder's "evidently warm feelings towards me" W. said: "They smack much more of approach than I ever believed possible in Gilder. I am sufficiently amazed—was the night of the speech." And when Tom spoke of Gilder as "genuine," W. responded warmly: "Oh yes! he is certainly entitled to that." Harned shortly strolled out and towards home—left us talking together. Lincoln Eyre sent through me to W. a copy of his lecture on "Fashionable Society," which ends with a warmly commended quotation from W. W. had said at the recent dinner that he had quit writing poetry, whereas there were some would like to ask, when had he ever commenced? W. laughed, and reflected: "In the first place, this fellow invented the saying to get off the wit—if wit it is—and I guess it is." I talked over with W. plans for the book, and he was greatly interested. But so far as I had formulated anything, he presented no criticism. I was in to see Brown today about the reproduction, but in the hurry of the other talk tonight, forgot to say a word to W. about it—nor did he ask.

While we sat there, there came a ring at the bell, and after Mrs. Davis had gone from the kitchen to the door, the entrance of a short, black-bearded man, whom at first W. did not recognize, but who proved to be Browning, once the N. Y. Herald, now the World permanent man in Phila. Browning had a telegram from Chambers instructing him to get from W. if possible "a threnody on the Johnstown dead"—so at least Browning rendered the telegram—stumbling over the word "threnody" and being rather amusingly extricated by W. Browning explained that he wanted it "to send off by the afternoon mail tomorrow"—that was, before five, and asked W. what time he should send over for it? W. had said at the outset: "As they say at Washington, I will give the matter my thoughtful consideration," but would give no promise. Now he said, "You need not send: leave me your card here. I have a young man here with me who can deliver it to you—provided I have anything to send." Browning then said: "Well—I will wire Chambers tonight that you would probably give him something." W. still however, in his quiet imperturbability: "I can give no promise—except to consider it." W. had held a curious little colloquy with Browning. "Are all the fellows gone from the Herald to the World?" he asked at one moment—and again: "What is it that gets you away?—bigger pay?—or do they treat you better?" But Browning would say nothing, only that he was absorbed, which amused W. Browning indicated to W. that the price of the piece was noted in the telegram. W. sent interested queries after some of the men—asked about Foley, Cook, Major Williams. "Who have they got in Julius Chambers' place on the Herald?" And "John Habberton is there still, I know." Gave Browning a rather specific account of his own experience with the Herald last year: "For four or five months there I was very sick—the doctors thought I was going to peg out—and indeed, I thought so myself. Not that I thought much about it—only, that was my impression, gathered of long doubt and dubiosity. There came at the end of one month there, a check for my usual amount—the usual stipend. I had done nothing for it—nothing to deserve it—so sent it back. But in a day or two, they sent it back! Then I wrote quite a full letter to Bennet explaining the case." Nowadays, however, he did little writing of any character, neither for the Herald nor other periodicals.

I afterwards met Browning on the boat and had a short but interesting talk with him. He had some hope of getting the piece. It is uncertain. Spoke of his interesting intercourse with "the old man" in the past. Secured copies of North American of Saturday. Account of the dinner on front page, and leading editorial about W. W. Left paper with him. Kennedy wrote to Bonsall for Howells' letter, and Bonsall replied that all the matter was to be printed.

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