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Wednesday, August 14, 1889

Wednesday, August 14, 1889

5.30 P.M. W. in his room. Had finished his late dinner. Looked well—in color; his eye, too, clearer than often. Asked: "Is it not very hot"—fanning himself—"hotter, in fact, in the last hour?" Called my attention to absence of one of Gutekunst photos. "I sent the small one back—approved that—at least more nearly approved than the others." I said: "Then you think my instinct was right? You would say nothing yesterday"—to which—"Yes—perfectly right—unmistakably. Of the three, the little picture was decidedly the best. Those two there"—pointing— "are all touched out of character—not good anyhow of themselves. I suppose he thinks he had good reason for them, but to me they are not clear." Adding—"I shall get you one if I can—be glad to. I sent Gutekunst a copy of the big book today—sent it as a present." Asked after "news"—what had I "done with the printers today"—etc. I asked him if he had arranged the other plates for me, for printing, at which he exclaimed—"There! I knew there was something: I have frittered the whole day away—several days, in fact—doing nothing—and here this might just as well have been attended to. But my memory! my memory!" I laughed at his manner, and remarked—"Well—it makes no difference—if you are not in a hurry, they are not in a hurry." But he did not accept the solace, responding seriously: "No—no—but that is not the way for me to look at it—in a sense I am in a hurry—one day to all of us—to all of us—" (I could read in his tone the underlying "to me")—"there comes the closing of the doors—the entrances—the exits—so that one may pass no more out or in—so that if there's something to do, it is well for a fellow to do it—to do it without pause." Therefore—"I think I should stir myself: I have this work in view—must perfect, achieve it!"

Asked me about my work at the bank. Then—"It has often been a wonder to me, how great the volume of business—how little the fraud—very little. How do they defend themselves against fraud? I knew a fellow in the mint at New York who would count his coin quick as lightning—yet in the very act detect counterfeits—chuck a counterfeit out so"—indicating with a throw of the hand. "I asked him how he knew it—he said he couldn't tell—and I guess he couldn't—it was an instinct—long accumulations, delicateness, of experience, now residing in the very fingertips." But—"Business is a wonderful complexity, anyhow a marvelous establishment. I realize its grand inherencies—how much it means,—what it requires. Of course we can't do much but wonder at it—rather wonder than explain. I often think of myself—a living person—sitting here now—at 71 years—bridged across experiences, dangers, not to be computed. What a wonder it is—living still—living still—coming here out of the stages of babyhood. What more helpless creature is on this whole orb than the newborn baby—yet I am here, held on and on—from that stage and stage, stage, stage since. Is it not a wonder—a wonder? In my periods of trouble—when I am sleepless—lie awake thinking, thinking, of things I ought not to think about at all—am frustrated—worried. Then I recover by centering all attention on the starry system—the orbs, globes—the vast spaces—the perpetual, perpetual, perpetual flux and flow—method, inevitability, dependability of the cosmos. It excites wonder, reverence, composure—I am always rendered back to myself." How sweet his voice! And gesture, look, were full of grace and expression.

I asked him if he had read the Renan piece. "Yes—that is, looked through it. But you don't want to take it away with you today? I should like to take a more thorough look. It impressed me, as I read it—sort of this way—with something I had often experienced before—: that it seems to be the inevitable result with scholars to magnify the influence of special nations in history—Greece, Rome, Judah. At least, Greece, Rome—and I am glad to see that Renan adds Judah: though that, too, only widens the list a little." I said—"It struck me at once, that such a selection of nations was not ours—not democratic." Whereupon W. said: "You are right—it is not—not at all. It is true it comes partly of the Hebrew notion of an elect people. But what is Christianity itself—Judaism—but full and full and full again of Orientalism—Oriental influences?" I remarked, how in modern days, especially with the Buddhistic Cult was Christianity seen to be allied—and W., "Yes—it is truly wonderful—to me beautiful, signifying so much!" Asked: "And Renan—he is of Jewish stock? It has often caused me to think, how much of the great French literature—of French greatness—comes of Hebraic sources—the German, too, for the matter of that!" I picked up from the floor a piece of paper to which was pinned various newspaper clippings, scraps of writing, etc.—marked—"Hospital notes"—and asked him "What's this?" Before taking it he said, putting on his glasses: "I suppose something or other I have needed some day and not found: as with so much of my stuff, spirited away at the moment I most asked it. You know," he said—waiving his hand down towards the litter on the floor—"I live here in a ruin of debris—a ruin of ruins. This piece was probably a bit I wanted very bad the time I wrote up the Century article about the hospitals. Sometimes things I know very well I possess, turning up after a piece is printed, sold, paid for—make me almost mad—as near mad as I could get over such a matter." Then with a laugh—"But I suppose all this is a necessary part of the critter—of this critter, anyhow!"

He fanned himself as he talked. His shutters were thrown half open: rarely so. Suddenly he added:—"We were talking of Buddha—Hundustan: I found something in the paper this morning—which bears upon that." Reached back to a package of manuscript and took from it an old envelope on which he had pasted an extract preceded by this:

?/add this to supplement "Nov. Boughs" in additional notes about Elias Hicks———fr'm Phila: Press Aug: 14 '89
I pin a copy of the matter to this sheet, taken from my own Press,
A MISSIONARY HERO Washington, Aug. 13.—The Department of State has received from the legation at Peking, China, under date of July 3, an account of the death and extraordinary life work of the Rev. J. Crossett, an independent American missionary in China. His career appears to have been a very remarkable one, characterized by absolute self-devotion. He died on board the steamer El Dorado, en route from Shanghai to Tietsin, on June 21. He leaves a widow, living at Schuylersville, N. Y. In speaking of Mr. Crossett, Ministry Denby couples his name with that of Father Damien, the French missionary, who lately died on the Island of Molonkai [sic]. [The first paragraph only, is given above.]
W. said: "It is from the Press. The Ledger published a fuller account of the man, but the Ledger belonged to Warrie downs stairs, so I used this. I don't know if you are interested in such things, but to me they tell a great story—oh! a great story. And Father Damien, too—the devoted man! These things take you back to the early days of Christianity—the early days of anything, everything—days of purity." I mentioned the Unitarian missionary in Japan, and W. laughed heartily. "That is as if we sent 'em over dead men," he said. "But these Catholic missionaries: these are the men—these of all who go, go most effectively. And this man was very broad—steeped in humanities, liberalities!" Tried to find me "Looking Backward," but it was nowhere to be seen. "Never mind—I shall hunt it up—it will turn up—and at the same time Amiel. I am through with it now."

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