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Saturday, July 6, 1889

Saturday, July 6, 1889

7.55 P.M. W. at window. Just in from his ride. Sat with feet planted against the table. As to health—"I suppose I am some better, though I have been bad enough all day." Sent Ed over to Dave's today for copies of Dr. Bucke's book. "There seems to be a demand for them!" I remarked, but he responded, "No demand—only that I have given away quite a number recently." Wrote a letter offering McKay the morocco book for 3 dollars per copy. Also inquired if he wished to take 25 copies at $2.50 now, as he needed money? But McKay did not. I saw Myrick today and gave him definite directions about the book. Will start his printers with it Monday morning. When I spoke of Myrick's good qualities—his readiness—W. said, "That is a fine thing—a propitiating fact." Then mention somehow of Oldach, his absolute knowledge of binding—his intention to send one of his sons abroad to see what could be seen in the great binderies of Europe. W. said—"That is the meisterschaft business, as they call it—isn't it?" Descanting then on its virtues: "Yes, not only good from the trade side, but good for men to get off, see the world somewhat—see what the world is up to. This much of virtue it has however it may compare with our present system." He referred to "George Sand, Madame Dudevant"—he nearly always gives the name in full that way—"she treats of it in one of her novels—if I remember right, treats it nobly." I said, "And Goethe, in Wilhelm Meister." To which W. "Yes, tis very good there, but not as good. Madame Dudevant's story was an extra fine one—I read it—oh! what was its name? Its subject matter is quite plain to me—the title is gone—'A Journey Through France' or something like that was the sub-title."

"I wonder," said W.—"that America—as would seem so natural, so fittingly the case—does not raise a race of publishers the finest, the broadest, the world has so far seen—publishers typical of our life here. Instead of having done this so far—instead of having raised one such man—we have had to get along with the most miserable, mean, tricky, circumscribed, hedged-in specimens the world has known—specimens I doubt if the outside world can parallel." I said "The Osgoods for example," and he laughingly—"Yes—they are typical, undoubtedly—they are typical of the whole tribe." I said something about the Critic notice this week of Burroughs' new book. W. said: "Yes—Joe Gilder is one of them—I know Joe well and I can imagine what that review is. The Critic, all our literary journals, are wanting in power and warmth—to use Herbert's great and powerful word—they lack 'guts.'" As to Osgood's again—"I have it from O'Connor that their desertion of me was the beginning of their downfall—he had it on good authority." Jennie Gilder was "more disposed our way, but she is making money—at least that is my supposition (there is no money in the Critic) and has more or less resigned her place on the Critic: that, at any rate, is my explanation."

Then mention of O'Connor's opinion of George Sand, at which W.—"O'Connor never had a chance to put forward his principles—his literary principles—yet he had principles and they were of the most remarkable character. How he could have written of Byron! And on the Shakespeare controversy, which he would consider the most important of all—even in that he has never printed his best things—never given the bottom reasons for his faith. And think of his knowledge of the Elizabethan cult—what he could have made of that! But though he has not printed these things, I know them—he has told them to me. For instance, this: when we would discuss the Shakespearean writings—particularly the dramas, I would sometimes speak of them as being the mouthpiece of feudalism and he would retort—'What of that? is it merely that do you think?' He held the ground that Shakespeare merely used to state the facts, plans, events, as they are, not to argue for them—make them more. And so would say at my mention of feudalism—'does it do feudalism any good to have it presented in such a habit, such terms such an atmosphere?' For to O'Connor, Shakespeare did not introduce the villain because he believed in villains, but because he believed in nature: 'here the villains were and here they must be represented,' and I confess his reply always staggered me." As to O'Connor's great admiration for Byron—"It was natural with him—was a part of his nature. As to Byron's obscenity—"It seems to me to make its own case—that Byron deserves one great point to be made for him—this point, namely—that his alleged wickedness, queernesses are no more than the doctor's enumeration of diseases. The whole spirit of the persecution of Byron is the spirit of the town police—just as the spirit of the obscenity hunter anywhere (in mails and whatnot)—the spirit that will ignore all the gigantic evils—steal a way down to the shore—lay low—pull in a lot of little naked boys, there to take a bath—snake 'em in! It well pictures for me what is too commonly called the greatness and majesty of the law."

W. asked me—"Why should I not send Mrs. O'Connor's note to the Doctor? I generally write him Sundays. Is there any particular reason why I should refrain from enclosing this?" It seemed to me an odd question. He "found it difficult to decide." Returning to George Sand W. discredited "the frivolity of the French." I told him of the recent Labor Congress in Paris—that the French speakers were reported the most effective of all present—and solidly effective, too. He assented, "I can well believe it—it must be so: I never took any stock in the ordinary disposition to cry down French life. I have no doubt French life has much to teach us yet—and it has taught us plenty already, Lord knows! Every nation has its glories." W.'s condition one of weakness: "I would be a bad fellow to be in charge of a brigade now—or even a ferry-boat! I am over with the disposition to work—don't want to do anything at all." McKay made a remittance by mail to W. of 75 dollars. I sealed a contract with McKay today for royalty of 5 cents per copy beyond Harned's 25 copies to be given me absolutely.

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