Skip to main content

Sunday, July 14, 1889

Sunday, July 14, 1889

7.55 P.M. W. in bathroom when I arrived, but shortly out. I asked, standing upstairs, "Up or down?"—he replying—"Down, of course" and so struggled down, Ed in front of him, and W. saying—"You there Ed? I suppose you'll catch me if I fall?—though I doubt if you can catch a good 200 lbs., which I believe I still weigh, in spite of my emaciation." But he got down and into his chair in the parlor and neither of us touched him. Has been better today, though not decidedly so—not enough so to get out. But digestion very poor—has to hasten it every two or three days.

He had examined the proofs I left with him yesterday and put them together for me on the parlor table. He said of Clifford's address—"It is a wonderful piece of Transcendental, Emersonian work! 'Tis Transcendentalism all the way through!" He took what I thought an erroneous meaning out of C.'s reference to Emerson—"Clifford is wrong in one thing," he said, "Emerson never took it back—never retracted his endorsement; or, I should not say endorsement—that perhaps is not the word—but he certainly never budged an inch—there is nothing to show it and everything to show the charge of it false." I said, "I do not read it that way: to me he seems to say—Emerson did not retract, but if he did, then alas! for prophet's faithfulness to prophet! Meaning that even if he did, it would make little difference." Said W.: "Well—I am sorry it is not clearer: I am certainly eligible to be deceived by it if it means that. It is a pity to have the general public get it that way, too: the general public, you know, wants everything explicit: we know well enough by long experience—you know, I know—that if there are 301 different ways of interpreting a passage—300 right, 1 wrong—the great mass will hit upon that wrong interpretation, insist upon it, dogmatize." "Even the intelligent public goes off in this way—and it is to be supposed that anybody who reads this book will be intelligent—that the book has no attractions otherwise." He added laughingly then, when referring to those who close all controversy by saying "that is a difference of opinion""That is a very prevalent fashion, especially in America, when a fellow gets completely stumped, he takes refuge in that—'It is a difference of opinion!'" Said he knew Gilder had an aversion—"an extreme aversion"—to being set down for a toast and yet it was a toast—if not that, what? But of course such a thing is not debatable—it is as if a fellow tells you he don't like turnips, potatoes—you don't argue the point, he don't like them! That's enough, that's conclusive."

I told him I had orders for two big books, for the Lychenheim boys. W. queried, "Hebrews?" then to my affirmative response: "If I keep on in this way I shall by and by have a Hebrew clientage—and I do not see why I should not—I see every reason why I should: for am I not a Biblical fellow myself—born and bred in Hebrewism—the old forerunners, teachers, prophets?" And he said still again: "And all my Hebrew friends are turning out to be among the young—you would call that an omen, wouldn't you?" He talked regretfully of not getting out, still his voice and whole air was more inspiring—much stronger—than any day for a week. Not out since last Sunday.

Back to top