Skip to main content

Friday, August 30, 1889

Friday, August 30, 1889

4.50 P.M. W. in his room, eating dinner. I had intended staying but a few minutes—went in merely with the bundle of pictures I had secured from Billstein (Medallion and 70th year), but W. was in many respects so inquisitive—talked so freely between bites, that I stayed half an hour. Talked somewhat about the Gutekunst photo. Copy of it—sample—on chair, face down. I took it in my hands. On face had endorsed in ink with his name, and on reverse lead-penciled his opinion, describing day as "sunny" and Buckwalter and Ed as his companions—and that he greatly enjoyed the three hours. I looked at the picture a long time and he at me. "It still impresses you favorably?" he asked,and on my acquiescence—"So me, too. I think it one of the best—the very best. Curiously, yes, even the coat is fine, natural—the creases, fold, texture, all three— I conceit I can even see the color!" I said, "Doctor Bucke will love this." But he looked doubtful—"I don't know—the Doctor is very whimsical—it would be hard to say what will please him. But then we may declare, whether he likes it or no, that it's good—good: its goodness, excellence is inherent." He had sent Ed over for some this morning, and got them. The copy he had written over was a sample. A number of the card photos were on the floor. He said he cared little for them. The fine version contained the history of the past year or two—for that I like it—all the pain and doubt and the rugged fight against both. "Doctor's is on the road now," he explained—Flynn came in the other evening and took it away in his arms.

As we sat there talking, my eye lighted on a manuscript sheet on the floor—which I picked up—found it an early draft of "Yonnondio." He asked—"What is it? Let me see!" And when he had got it in his hands—"Yes—I remember. Didn't you want a piece from me for some-one? Who was it?" I named our man—Bryant, of the Maine Historical Society. "Oh yes! Now I recall it. How would it do to give him this?" The sheet much trodden—rumpled—stained—no doubt long thrown about there—since publication several years ago. W. took his big pen, wrote a headline for it—"Yonnondio"—and off in the corner—

"printed in book 
  'first in 'Critic'"
and handed it to me. "If you will, then—send that to him." This has lain over since last year. Aroused talk of "Yonnondio"—the word—as I said— "full of music and meaning even in itself" to which W. fervently—"It is! it is! Oh! I have felt it all! So often a word, a sign, more than all attempted explanation—all!" Adding: "My use of the word has been contested. Did I ever tell you about the queer old fellow who wrote me several years ago—at the time I printed the piece—saying no Indian significance attached to it—that I had gone all wrong? Yet I am sure of my correctness. There never yet was an Indian name that did not mean so much, then more, and more, and more—then more beyond that. For the word 'Mannahatta' I believe I have the best authority ever was, Judge Furman, in Brooklyn—and Jeremiah Mason. I doubt if better philologists—knowers of the Indian tongues—ever existed than these men. I knew them well—many years ago. How this word clung and clung!" As to gutteral Indian dialects, W. said—""That is a great deal fiction—just as the fiction of the Russian tongue—yet what is finer than this?—where we say Russia—the Russian himself says Roo-see-a—soft—melodious, fine." "You know I very fondly use Mannahatta—I doubt if anybody ever used it as advisedly as I have done. Do you know what Mannahatta means? The Indians use the word to indicate a plot of ground, an island, about which the waters flow—keep up a devil of a swirl, whirl, ebullition—have a hell of a time. To me it is all meaning and music!" W. had thoughtfully laid out on one of his chairs for me, a proof copy of "Robert Burns as Poet and Person." "Take this," he said, "to peter Montgomerie—perhaps it would interest him—or even you by the way." He did not get out last evening, but thought he might this.

Back to top