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Wednesday, September 4, 1889

Wednesday, September 4, 1889

7.38 P.M. W. sitting in front of the house. Just back from his chairing. "I got to the river tonight," he said, "and how gloriously everything appeared. Look at the evening now," waving his arm—skywards—"a glow everywhere." I said "Yes—'the transparent and shadowy night.'" And he smiled and repeated, "The grand night! The beautiful night!" Then after a pause: "It will be the finest of the year—now for two months, the mild, gentle days—season above seasons!" Off toward south-east the moon—"How it fills the night! I suppose it will last now till 3 or 4 in the morning." I told him I was going out to the country for a walk. "I quite 'enviges' you,"he said, laughingly. "Never a word," he said, "from the World poem. I cannot understand it. The embarrassing point is, the uncertainty: if it was not for that, if they had only sent it back, I should try it somewhere else—should not wonder but I'll do it anyway." I commented—the Register made quite warm reference to Holmes' 80th birthday—gave it editorial first place—but significantly had never mentioned the recent W. W. celebration. W. laughed, and said, "Well?" And went on—"The Unitarians are still in the uncertain stage—they are not sure of themselves—feel they cannot afford to be ungenteel." And that "Japanese missionary business" on the part of the Unitarians, which had always aroused his laughter, came up for more questions.

A man in the Bank much resembling Lincoln in figure—I called W.'s attention thereto—referring to the man's gravity. W. then: "Yes—I should say that at first sight Lincoln would impress one with his gravity, seriously. But Lincoln the man was not basically serious—at least, not to the point of seriosity: he was rather cheery—cheery is just the word." As to Lincoln's laugh: "I do not remember that as remarkable, but I remember his cheer, his story-telling—always the good story well told. His ways were beautiful and simple—how well I knew them, watched them! He delighted in simplicity, ruggedness, naturalness, straightforward nativity—in plain habits, clear thinking, doing. And he was the same man in all relationships—for instance, to the boys—the messenger boys—who came often, he would put his hands on their shoulders—say, 'My son, is there an answer?' or 'Sit down there, my son,' something in that way, with a radiant kindliness, humanity—in a natural tone, as if out of a great heart. Though not slangy—not slangy at all—Lincoln was in current without average life—a great, great presence, in our age, our land." Reference here to Arnold's notion that Lincoln lacked "distinction"—what did he mean by the word? "I do not know, except that I might say of this as of many things Arnold says—that it is a recoil upon himself. Matthew Arnold was not in the abstract sense a damned fool, but with respect to the modern—to American—he was the damnedest of damned fools—a total ignoramus—knew nothing at all. I know Arnold was not alone in this ignorance—even Americans have been slow enough to take in the modern-America. The last 15 years have found Lincoln up—quite the thing—but in those early days, how few there were to measure the man! O'Connor, always, and from the first—and my claim always belongs and there was the curious great Russian Count of whom I have often spoke to you—Gurowski—he was enthusiastic—a keen, profound judge of men. It was curious—in those times—whenever the Count went to the White House he took his hat questioned—in that respect resembled me closely. But I once inquired of him, 'Count'—I always called him Count—'Count—why is it you always take your hat off when you go to the President?' He asked me, 'Do I?' and when I had questioned him further—'Why yes! so I do!—and yet I never knew I did. I cannot tell why I did—only that something or other commanded me to!' And it is of this influence that Lincoln partakes—partook." I interpolated a story of the difference in millhands—the native American always speaking to the Boss with hat on, foreigners deferentially with hats off. W. laughed heartily! "It is a good story," he said—"you must consider it a great possession—as it is: I should say that was something to note—to jot down."

At the near corner from W.'s house (4th St) they are planting an electric light pole. Said W. amusedly: "Little shall I care for it—I always did shrink both from getting into a great light and from being a great light." "Yet," I put in, "did not some anyhow contend he was a light?" To which—"Yes: the sort of light that says, Beware!" Spoke of Phila. papers—and of the New York papers of his early life. "I like the Ledger very well." "In those first times, over in New York, I read the Herald, generally." Detailed ages and precedence of papers. When referring to the Times he explained—"It was in the War I wrote for the Times—wrote letters from Washington." Were these letters signed? "Yes—most of 'em. I signed them, when signed at all, with my last name—Whitman—Whitman alone! At least—I think so—though the flush of those times is past—I find much that then ensued getting—if it has not long been—hazy, misty, doubtful." "Indeed, it was through these letters mostly at this time that I was able to go along at Washington. Raymond made no bones of paying 50 dollars for a letter he liked."

W. sent Ed upstairs to get me memoranda of envelope for pictures. Several papers enclosed in envelope inscribed

"Send me a sample proof first 
  & tell me how much price for 100 
  " " " " 150 
  " " " " 200
make large envelopes 
  White or light handsome  
  cream colored—or some 
  handsome light color what 
  they call undecided color, 
  light blue light rose or 
  something of that kind 
 strong and first class in  
  material and appearance
Size on the piece of brown paper 
  enclosed mark'd*
Style—with a handsome eyelet 
  —bag-form'd (as sample herewith)
(intended to be tied, bound by a string 
  of floss silk)
(the intention of the envelope is to hold 
  (to be sent by mail, or otherwise) 8 or 
  10 cards, pictures—want a handsome 
  job—envelopes will be printed on 
  —must be pretty strong paper—Some 
  will go in the European or California 
inside a white sheet containing directions copied above—a tough brown sheet for size and a square envelope (a Book-News envelope) with eyelets drawn. "Eylet here" W. had written above it—and elsewhere on the envelope: "This is not the size—is sent as sample (bag-fashioned envelope) I want something and handsome and strong—to go through wear and tumbling and the mail and across the sea"

W. said: "I want to tie them up with the floss—don't they call it floss? or have I gone wrong in the name? It is a fine substitute for the ordinary red tape of the law—in Washington put about all state documents to their Nobbses—the tony diplomats, whatnot. A sort of silk tape about a quarter of an inch in width—yellow was my color—I used to get it—took delight in every opportunity for using it—made opportunities!" Then— "I guess you'll find our man. See what can be made out of our necessity."

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