Skip to main content

Tuesday, July 2, 1889

Tuesday, July 2, 1889

8 P.M. W. sitting at the parlor window, reading papers. He had not been out today. Rain was prevalent—violent showers. Said, however, "I seem to be a bit better—not enough to boast of, but better!" He had read the Unity piece. "And I can easily say I like it better than ever—even better than in the manuscript. I have sent away seven or eight of the copies you left with me one to Mrs. O'Connor, one to California, to Charles Eldridge there, one to Burroughs; did you send one to John? And there was another for Kennedy, then for Bucke—and Stedman ought to have one too: if you will send his, I won't worry about it. Stedman knew O'Connor well—yes, was intimate with him—and he would like to have this. By the way, the last number of the Book Buyer has a portrait of Stedman, a colorless sort of picture, a photo-engraving, perhaps." Was it anything like? "Yes—something—Stedman, with all the animation taken out, which is not Stedman at all. People generally, I should judge, would regard it as a great piece of work: I have my doubts."

At this he reached forward to the table. "See this—a picture of the baby"—taken from envelope—"Tom sends it down from the country. Perfect! Perfect! After all, Gutekunst is on the top of the heap, don't you think? There's no better picture than that!" I urged, "And you'll go soon to let him get you as he wishes?" To which—"I shall try. Someday when I feel in first-class condition I'll venture over—perhaps get a cab down here at the ferry." Then he ruminated, "Nothing can be predicated of a photo—it hits if it hits, not otherwise. It seems true of all photos, that you can't start out to produce any certain effect: you must submit to circumstances!" At this, mention of Gilchrist's criticism of bust. W. said warmly, "I did not fall in love with the photo of the bust: I did not dislike it, but it did not warm me. But the bust itself? Oh! that was no humor in me: I think the bust a victory—that it has not been surpassed." As to G.'s feeling that W. "knew nothing about art" W. said laughingly: "Had he said that to me I should have acquiesced: I do not: that is an easy way over that point; but then I should have added, though it is true I know nothing about art, it is sufficient for me to know this:—I like it—I like the bust—it possesses me!" In this attitude "I could not yield," he said, "anymore than you could." "But at any rate," he went on with a smile, "this picture," picking up the baby again, "this picture is a great success. Tom don't write much—only enough to say he likes the place."

Explained that he had "sent a big book to Edward Bertz today," and further, "I addressed it to Potsdam, where it may find him or may not. Do you know the lay of Potsdam? How it stands, with reference to Berlin, for instance? I have no idea. Know it only in a dim uncertain way, chiefly for Frederick the Great's connection with it." Fumbled in his pocket, drew forth a crumpled envelope, addressed simply "Horace Traubel." "Take this," he said, "you may be able to use all or a portion of it in the book. The German piece is there—I have made some few changes in it." The envelope contained also the piece from the Post of last Thursday containing account of visit of testimonial committee to Whitman and payment to him of the money. He had interlined this report at one place to say: "he was averse to the public dinner at the outset, but said he should 'let the boys have their own way.'" He had likewise interlined the translation of the Bertz piece somewhat, but not markedly. "Whether you can use this depends, of course, upon how much space the general matter fills."

Morris had said to me today that Sarrazin was "extravagant." W. laughed to hear of it. "The word is just the one I should myself use—yes, extravagant—grandly extravagant—damned extravagant, like the sun that shines, the seas, nature's always liberal, spendthrifty self!" Proceeding then: "It is a good word—extravagant: Napoleon Bonaparte was extravagant: don't you remember the German general's protest: Napoleon was extravagant—he violated all the rules of war—'but sir, don' he win his battles?' 'Yes, God damn 'im! he wins his battles—wins 'em!'—but he violates all the rules of war in doing so!" And so of Sarrazin, "he gets there—tells his story: I don't know that we need trouble about his way of doing it!" Then, "Tell Morris to take his time: we can wait." I saw Dave today cudgeling over plate proofs of E. P. Gould's Whitman book. W., interested to know about it, made it matter for joking. "I do not feel at all responsible for it: I gave it lean support—so they cannot hold me, whatever the result. But wouldn't it be funny Horace, if the book should be a success—should sell? After our own experience, that would almost be irony: a funny result, surely!" I asked him for a copy of the first fold of the pocket edition, so I could get Bucke the copy he wished specially bound. W. promised to put it out. "And I'll put out a number," he said, "say 15 or 20 or even more. We can have them all made up. I am curious myself to see if I should not like them."

Asked me about Amiel. "I am resolved to keep a sharp eye for him," W. said, "I have seen hints of him here and there which have raised my curiosity." Inquired what was the "appearance of Tom's brother John?" And when I described him—"Oh! I think that's the fellow! There's somebody comes down on the wharf—has passed us a number of times while we sat there—goes out into the stream in a boat. Always accosts me pleasantly, in a way which says, 'I know you well!' I set him down as Tom's brother from the first." Frank he knows—John very distantly, if not at all. John rarely makes much of the social life at Tom's.

Back to top