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Saturday, August 17, 1889

Saturday, August 17, 1889

7.55 P.M. Went to W.'s with Lychenheim. Sat in parlor, and talked for 25 minutes. W. in very good humor, and talked freely, though saying he did not feel extra well. His hearing bad. I asked him six or seven times in the course of our talk if he had got out in the early evening, and not till I was about to go did I get an answer. "No—it is too cool—isn't it? We did not get out." Said: "The Odenheimer girls have been in: you know them? Lou Odenheimer? They brought me tiger-lilies—leopard lilies, they called them—and how curious a flower is—how subtle, beautiful—graceful! Do you know anything about them?" I spoke of the wild lily—and he said, "I know nothing about them—at least, don't remember them. Perhaps years and years ago I may have known, but I doubt—I doubt. How more than ordinarily involved, curious, this flower seems! I have examined it."

Handed me Clifford's letter, and said he had sent the book off—"addressed it to Clifford himself." I said—"You certainly have a constituency, if you could but reach it." He laughed and responded—"That's the point—to reach it. I don't believe Dave is the man to do it—perhaps no publisher is. To reach it: that brings in the story of the old woman," he said—adding explanatorily—"she insisted, every woman born, man born, had his or her mate, somewhere—if they could but find out where! I suppose that should be the whole matter of life—the whole story: to find the mate, the environment—what to be,—then, adjustment!" Still we talked about constituency, and to my various remarks he rejoined: "There may be—there may be: the natural thing to do would be for me to go about myself—go from city to city—New York, Chicago, St. Louis—take quarters—locate for a few days, weeks—see the publishers—sell: what about, solicit, bargain myself." Then after a pause: "But of course that is impossible now—all out of the question. I can hardly go upstairs now without assistance—never without fatigue, danger. So, going away is not even to be considered." And yet—"I do not suppose I should complain—I ought to be thankful I am here—that I am listened to at all—as the boys said, when I was young there in New York, have got my hookers in." As to any big constituency—"That is altogether doubtful—doubtful!"

I inquired of him if he had looked over the proof sheets—he then: "Yes: that is to say, I am reading—have got well along. I have read your description—then along into the speeches as far as Hamlin Harland's"—he always says, Harland—"and it has struck me—the wonderful continuity of the thing—that all these fellows—writing, talking away—talked, wrote, without crossing each other." Had he yet written me the page I asked? "No—nor do I think I will: at least, it don't come to me now as if I should." But— "I will let it simmer—let it simmer—then see what results." I asked if he saw any impropriety in the insertions of the circular announcing the celebration. He shook his head—"No—I thought it integral—as really an important part of the affair." He said further—"I did not think it necessary to write—I find on rereading your introduction that you have said about all I should have suggested—written." I asked, "Then you are satisfied with that?" "Oh yes! perfectly—perfectly; it seems thorough, inclusive, conclusive." But then he went on: "I was going to suggest something that came to me today—how do you think Dave would regard the proposition to add the Sarrazin piece as a supplement to your little book? Would it be proper? Would it be in place there?" And as to the blank page I held for him—"I was going to advise that it be given to a Whitman forecast—dates of birth, writing, and so on, so on." I replied that I had not thought of that myself, therefore could not answer his question—"How does it strike you?"

As we talked, a couple went past. W. regarded them quietly. "Thank you!" he said, more as if to them, than to us. "It is so good to have them look in here that way—the young man, the girl, together!" Billstein had closed up today by the time I got to his shop. Hence we are delayed in ordering. Morris brought me today a copy of circular of the Deerfield "Summer School of History and Romance" in the program of which Charlotte Fiske Bates was announced to speak of "Walt Whitman's Works." W. said: "I knew nothing about it: it is news to me." Inside was printed a poem from George B. Bartlett, I think of Concord—one verse of which read: Walt Whitman stands a boulder grand in senses more than one, And graceful lady tries to rub the spots from off the sun, But stars should shine with light divine down from the cloudless skies, And books read best for which no friend needs to apologize. I had forgotten to bring the circular along with me, but repeated this in part from memory, and W. laughed heartily.

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