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Wednesday, June 26, 1889

Wednesday, June 26, 1889

7.45 P.M. W. sitting in front of the house, in chair. The evening quite close. He had just been out on his daily trip. Difficulty getting to river, on account of mud, it having rained very hard today. Met somebody along the river line who asked him to go yachting. Did not absolutely refuse, saying: "I guess I'll take his address: that can't hurt, anyhow!" Has not yet been on ferryboat. Wore a pair of bright yellow-brown slippers. They made an odd contrast to the decided blue of the gown. I laughed and he, laughing too, remarked: "You must not laugh at my shoes—I am tremenjuously proud of them—tremenjuously—and should feel slighted if any fellow I knew went past and did not remark them!"

I had inquired after the ink today at Mann's and they did not have it—had no call for it. W. laughed when I told him I had still to proceed. "Yes—and it will be as hard to get suited in this as for me in my shirts. When I go to order my shirts, the man will say to me, with a mixture of compassionateness, superiority and disdain: 'Nobody wears such now, sir.' And then I tell him: 'Never mind—I wear them!—and he will still protest, 'but I'm sure they won't suit you if I make 'em!' and I say, still patiently, 'but they are just what I want and must have'—and again he goes on to excuse—and then I get mad and cry at him—'God damn you! What right have you to protest against my having what I want and will pay for?'—and the man hurries to the other side of the counter, evidently fearing me for some barbarian who needs be given lee-way!" I said to W., "Put on your red tie now, and you'll be in a ball costume." But he protested: "I don't know about a tie: what tie? I have never come to a tie yet—perhaps a handkerchief to protect the neck, but that is all." I indicated the McKay picture. "Is there a tie in it? he said, adding reflectively, "Well, if there is, it was one of the accidents—it was not in accord with the rule—sometimes perhaps worn to protect the throat."

Gilchrist had been in at W.'s after I left last night. W. "wondered" if H. G. was "to be here all the summer"—explaining—"He always speaks of work—work—as if he was working pretty hard." Committee in with 125 dollars surplus money of dinner today. W. said nothing to me about it this evening, and I did not inquire. In the west, running rapidly from southwest, were dark banks of clouds. I remarked their beauty, and W. responded: "I have been watching them for an hour—they are rarely beautiful—vast, deep, slatey masses, hurrying across the sky, chasing one another. See those now!—how they go and go, tireless and without number. It has always been one of my finer joys, to watch the varied, varying, ever-changing, inter-locking, cloud-shapes!" And of the evening in general: "It is rarely and supremely comforting, this evening—don't you think? The very dubiousness of things—the haziness, moisture—add to the fascination. But"—pointing above—"there's no more rain in those clouds—for the present." And a star or two shot bright gleams through the gaps, W. soliciting my attention to "the ravishingness" of the panorama.

Morris had very promptly today assented to the idea of translating the Sarrazin essay on Walt Whitman. W. himself greatly pleased and grateful. Morris had given me a more satisfying rendering of the Sarrazin letter, which now W. insisted I should sit down in front of the house and read again. He appeared more and more struck, and the passage which Sarrazin said would have been the matter of his speech had he attended the celebration W. had me read even more than deliberately, and with the minutest attention on his part. "I detect in it," he said, "a characteristic grandeur and power—just as in the essay itself." He thought this letter "a great acquisition" to the book.

As we sat talking an oldish, rather small man passed, saluting W. as if he knew him formally well. After he was beyond hearing, W. turned to me: "You have asked me about the old Booth? Junius Brutus Booth?—Well—that man there who just passed us would serve for him, except that Booth was more graceful in port and more distinguished in outward expression. Booth was a smallish man—though not small enough to seem stunted—rather well-built, as this man was. I did not know him personally—yet I saw him so often on the street as well as in the theatre, that I can almost claim to have known him as a person." I repeated to W. O'Connor's description of Booth, and W. assented: "Yes, that is essentially true: no one seeing him on the boards, would have called him a small man in any sense." John Gilbert, just dead the other day, W. never knew. "Of course I have seen him—and he must have been a noble fellow—everybody appears to have loved him." But the truth was "the actors are a noble set, anyhow"—and had always entered keenly into his "emotionality and affection." He had been offered benefits—"and they were generously offered, I know and realize fully"—and indeed—"I should esteem it a great triumph to have a clientele among the actors—and perhaps I have? Just now it would be hard to feel certain of it." "And then a benefit for me! That would crown all!"

Referred to review of Rolleston's new volume in Critic—of the Critic's "coldness"—in all respects lack of passion. W.: "That is Joe Gilder to the life—he thinks that being judicial. He has a couple of enthusiasms—for Lowell, for Holmes, for instance—but beyond these he is so much ice—so much marble." And among the Gilders, "Joe is the least—always the least!" Ed brought him some letters as we sat there. W. started to open them—then stopped. "No"—he said, "I won't now: it's too dark—and my eyes are no good anyhow!"

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