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Tuesday, September 3, 1889

Tuesday, September 3, 1889

7.45 P.M. W. in parlor—had been in but a few minutes from outing towards the river. Reached out his hand for me. "Where have you been? We missed you much," he said. Then to my questions, answered, "Yes—since you were here I have been reasonably well—as well as I have a right to expect to be. On Sunday I was up at Tom's, dinner-time." And did he eat? "Oh no! but I made it up on the champagne, which did me a deal of good—oh! a deal!" Then went over such events as he thought would interest me. "There was a letter from the Doctor—from Bucke. He has got the picture—Flynn duly reached London—and Doctor likes it much—likes it much—is even enthusiastic over it—thinks it the picture of the future. And I have had a nice letter from Nellie O'Connor, too, in which she says she is very grateful to you. She has Poet Lore—it came at last—but she says she knows nothing about the Critic—does not believe it ever arrived. Yet I am sure I sent it. She mentions some number of the Critic—July 8th, June 8th—in which she was told Lowell has something to say about William. But that is a mistake, I think—I should have seen it if it had been there." And as to Lowell and W. W., W. laughed—"We long ago decided that we were not to fraternize." "Now it is Holmes' 80 years," W. said, "they have been celebrating that—there were quite a number of accounts of it in the papers. How the fellows are getting along!—and Tupper, too." Here I laughed ans said, as he looked round at me, "Yes—that other representative, with you, of the artificial in poetry"—whereupon he laughed heartily. "Yes—that's so! Poor Savage! Bright idea! I wonder if he comes about many ideas as bright as that? They must be a burden." Here a mention of the Sarrazin piece—W. remarking: "I have read it—and Morris' letter, too. I liked the first part of the translation much better than the last—there was a freshness about it. But it has been very generous in Morris to persevere with it—and his letter is flattering and kind." I expressed my liking for a translation not so literal—one more bathed in the spirit—and W. said—"I see—I see how justified you are in the preference." And when I further said, "It would be hard or impossible for a distinctively literary man to render a man like Sarrazin," he answered—"You are right—it is impossible, in any strict sense." Adding—"Morris says in his note he would like to have the sheets back, for possible slips. You can take them to him any day—it might be well. If we should conclude to publish it, it would be but justice to him."

I told him of Jake Lychenheim's removal to the country—and his desire to have from W.'s hands (and to pay for) a picture, to hang up in his room. W. at once said: "Yes indeed—he should have one—have it without pay." But I said he was anxious to pay. W. however—"No—I should prefer to give him a little token—say the McKay picture, with my name on it—wouldn't that do?" Finally saying—"And he shall have it tomorrow, if you wish. I'll make it up for you. The boys must be humored—Oh! we all love the boys!" Asked me: "Do you think you could find me an envelope-marker, somewhere? I must have an envelope for my pictures—a good strong capacious white envelope—capacious, for the pictures are quite large. I have the memorandum, specification—all made out for you to take any time you choose." Asked me about proofs of book. I got plate proofs today. Sent Gilder's off at once. He said: "I want 200 of the bust pictures printed—and would it not be well to let the same superscription there go through the entire printing—for me, for the book? It needs some explanation."

So we talked—and by and by Tom and Frank Harned came in and were heartily greeted. Tom asked him how he had fared from Sunday's champagne and he said—"Good! Good! Felt all the better for it—always do, Tom!" And to the question "Are you now out of the Doctor's hands?" he laughed heartily and responded— "I hope I was never in—was I ever in?" Tom inquired after the Gutekunst pictures—W. saying—"They are upstairs, tucked away somewhere or other. If you wish it, I'll go and hunt 'em up"—offering to rise from his seat, but on Tom's protest, leaned back again. Harned asked if the pictures were a success. "I understand one of them was," he said, upon which W. remarked: "I suppose they all were, in a way—in fact would be considered very fine—in their smoothification—the quality that never pleases me. There is one which I call an eminent success—which makes it worth while to make the trial." He said of Anna's picture—"Beauty—beauty! I should say, almost the most beautiful I have ever known." Gilchrist also came along by and by. All hands then settled down, and it was 9.15 before we were all departed, Frank having gone first. W. was very talkative and vigorous. Harned had asked Gilchrist how he was progressing with his Cleopatra picture—and he reported, "Well." W. asked, "What is the story you wish to tell—or don't you want to tell it now?" and again—"Is she aboard anything?" and still again—"In order to represent the craft, you must have had to go into a devil of a search after information—ships, what-not—of those times." Gilchrist explained his counsel from Murray (London)—on the question of habiliment—how much less was luxury a part of Cleopatra's make-up than might be supposed. W. said: "Yes—that is generally the case: when we get at the truth of a thing finally, we are always impressed with what a devil of a plain matter it all was."

Reference to the London strike—to Burns, who leads it, and is a great admirer of W. W. Then of free trade. Gilchrist spoke of how rapid movement would be when once our workingmen here got over their British scare—dwelt upon the English workingmen's greater friendliness for America. W. exclaimed— "But Herbert, there's great and good reason for this: your men over there look here out of their necessity—they must: America is their forerunner—without America they would be without a foot to stand on—would not be justified in their own claims—would, as it were, be without an anchor—at sea in all this radicalism of modern days! I have been reading today again those workingmen letters in the Press—they interest me beyond any other thing of late. But I have a suspicion—it is especially strong a suspicion today—that the Press tampers with the letters—cuts out any information which miliates towards free trade. You know," he said vigorously, "they're a villainous bigoted set!" And to a reference to Talcott Williams—"I have known Talcott Williams now ten years—in a sense intimately—and I should say that at hear—at heart, I say, for he may be unconscious of it himself, as happens—he is a free-trader." W. is always contemptuous of the Press—but spares T. W. "America has settled, will settle, many problems for the British workingmen—your workingmen know that well. Not, of course, that there's nothing to be said on the other side too." Frank quoted something reported as said by Carnegie the other day—that the tariff is no longer helping the iron business of Pennsylvania. This led to discussion of Carnegie. W. said to some deprecating remark, "Look out—you fellows"—laughingly—"Carnegie paid a handsome price for a seat at my lecture, and I won't hear him abused!" At another moment he remarked—to do so or so "is like writing of literature—the literature of our time—and leaving Carlyle out—without Carlyle there would be no literature." And as we sat there and discussed labor, etc., he was quiet for a while—finally rising from his chair, taking his cane—slowly going to the door—stood in the doorway, his back to us—his face turned—the light of the gas playing with his hair—body bent (grand!): "Don't you fellows be too quick to dismiss Carnegie—take in the whole man—think of what Carlyle was with all his sourness, irascibility, scolding—the grandeur and glory of our time—but for whom the literature of an age would have been a bank!" And he had said again to my offers of help: "No—all keep your places—I am going off only for a minute—I'll be back again." And so into the hallway and laboriously upstairs—nobody following him. Shortly returning, with the Gutekunst picture, himself turning up the gas in the hall and saying, "Here it is, Tom" etc. Gilchrist did not like it—complained of the monotony of color etc., and got into debate with W. on the point as he said that "photography is not art," that it was rather science and that he would rather have an indifferent oil than a fine photo etc. W. admitted that "of course color, warmth, all that, is inestimable" and would "always yield painting its value"—but he still said: "I should not myself, Herbert, allow such a sweeping classification. Indeed, what is art? Is it one thing or all things? I think, all—the Italian laborer on the street, the woman with her child, the curbstones out here—all is for art. No—no—we must not be too quick—even science cannot spare art—this art. The human expression is so fleeting—so quick—coming and going—all aids are welcome." G. somewhat misunderstood W. at this point, thinking he had said this as derogatory to photography, but he had not, as he afterwards explained. Talk on both sides greatly interesting. W. said: "Bucke counts that the best picture yet—says that is the picture which will go down to the future." But this was combated and W. made no fight for the idea himself beyond saying—"I take it to be a first-rater—one of the best, anyhow."

The talk was variously in this strain till we departed. W. had said to me before the others came: "I have a letter from Pearsall Smith, the father. He is off—I think in Surrey—has distinguished neighbors—Tyndall on one side, Tennyson on the other." And, among other things—"and still no sign from Liberty! Have you?" Said to me also, "Tom should now get a picture of little Tom. He's a great institution—he's not to be slighted."

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