Skip to main content

Monday, June 17, 1889

Monday, June 17, 1889

7.50 P.M. W. sitting indoors, at the window. We had our inevitable shower early in the evening. Temperature much milder in consequence. But in reply to my question, without at all enlarging, he said his condition was "only so-so." And he laughed: "No mail, either—at least, mail of importance. Of course, the autograph man: he comes up smiling whatever else fails!" I left the speech with Bonsall this morning with the request that he excise the objectionable paragraph, which he consented to do, averring, however: "But it is true, all the same!" But this W. says is "impossible." W. expressed his gladness that I had "so frankly indicated to Harry." I secured proofs of portraits from Hunt and left them with Walt. He said: "And I wrote to William Carey yesterday—a postal merely—asking if he, or Coxe, would assent that we use the negative for processing. It is a copyright picture—the copyright probably Coxe's. I described it as 'the laughing philosopher.' I don't know whether they'll now it by that name—it is a name I gave it. They had 'em numbered, but I have lost track of the numbers."

I received today three letters from abroad in re the dinner. One was from Dowden—quite full of meat, and the others (quite short) from Edward Carpenter and Pearsall Smith. I read all to Walt, who listened with the greatest interest. He remarked of Dowden's letter: "That will make a fine addition to the cluster—a wonderful, effective addition"—adding, after some remark I made, "It is a noble letter, indeed—and he is a noble letter, too, from top to toe!" Why was it Gilchrist seemed more to affect Rossetti than any of W.'s friends abroad? "I do not know—I cannot explain it. A few years ago, when John Burroughs was in Europe, he went over to Dublin and saw Dowden, whom he liked very much. Afterwards, at Herbert's instance, he consented, in London, to be taken to see Rossetti—spending an hour or so with him—and did not like him at all." W. was very affectionate in speaking of Carpenter's note. He consented that I use Carpenter's previous letter (to W.) except passage giving amount of draft, in the little book.

To my question whether John Burroughs was always as silent and subdued as when here last fall, W. said: "Oh no! John has always been a jolly good fellow—and full of heart." I told W. that Dave had in press an edition of Taylor's "Views Afoot." He asked quickly, "Has he had a snaking for that?" Then spoke freely of Taylor himself. "I met him—he came to see me—talked—but I never took to him, and I shouldn't wonder but he saw it. Towards the last Taylor was not imposing—not good-looking: eating and drinking—beer, everlasting beer—was too much for him—spoiled him. Oh! when you saw him [1876] he had already declined in appearance: but he was a handsome man ten years before that—rather slender but well. As shown in Stedman's book Taylor is very flippy indeed."

I asked W. how Stedman had dealt with Cooper in that book? "I have not noticed," he replied, "but treated well, I guess. Everybody is treated somehow there—nobody is excluded. Cooper was a great light. Cooper, Bryant,—these were the two supremely good fellows, as good as any of any land or time—any! Cooper, Bryant, and the portrait painter, Chares Elliot, were the great American geniuses fifty years ago. Elliott—he was a big character, though nobody seems to know him, to have heard of him, to care for him. But surely there will come some time—I could not say when—an Elliott rebirth, when men will learn what a rich nature his was—what he contributed to the common stock out of it. Rebirth must come: such quality does not really die, though it may appear to." And then he talked in high estimate of Cooper. I alluded to Lounsbery's life of Cooper as "labored" and W. responded: "It is that—Lounsbery was not worthy of his subject. Cooper was a curious paradox—very hard to deal with—possessing great shining qualities—some harsh ones, too—perhaps in the direction of a too severe individualism if that can be; but breathing the open airs—never, never the odor of libraries! The life of Cooper has not yet been written. The time will come for it, without question. Cooper was one of the first-raters—had a vein of asperity which sort of cut him loose from the literary classess—perhaps preserved him—who knows?" On a reference to Whittier: "No one more than I could recognize and state the splendor of their light. I hold to the faith that, having all, we have room for all, glory in all." No sign of W.'s poem in World as yet.

Back to top