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Thursday, July 10, 1890

Thursday, July 10, 1890

5:25 P.M. Again in by the way, ere going home. W. reading afternoon papers. Stayed full half an hour. It struck six, the whistles lively out of doors, as I left. Gave me letters to mail to Ed Wilkins. Also three copies of the "Memorandum at a Venture" sheets, one of which I promised Mrs. Baldwin for use with a Whitman doubter. W. thought, "It's easy, I don't know but the proper thing, to be on the fence about Walt Whitman."

Asked me to give Warren a letter from Harned about an affair the two of them have together.

Morris asked me today about a paragraph in a recent Athenaeum sent him by Gilchrist. This probably Buxton Forman's. Will bring it in for me. W. knew nothing about it.

Quietly told me Hartmann had been here today. Expressed no distaste—no indignation: accepted it as a matter of course. "He told me of some new book, published in Florence, I think, written by a professor or something there—Enrico Nencione, he called him," spelled it out. "I have written Bucke about it. It appears to contain a chapter on us." Perhaps Morris could hit upon it in the libraries in Philadelphia? "No, I hardly think so. I don't think it likely the book can be found in Philadelphia. It is on 'American Poets,' I think he said." Then further, "Hartmann appears to be journalizing in New York. He is very Japanese in his looks; otherwise as thoroughly anglicized as you or I, his speech perfectly in conformity. He was for a time back in Japan, but it seemed inexpressibly dull, flat, stale, there, after his life here, so he returned. That seems to be the usual experience. I have met a number who have passed through it. First, the yearning to go back, then the dissatisfaction with the old things, the absolute necessity of returning." Said he had asked Hartmann who edited the Tribune now but H. did not know.

Reference to emigration. I described Cooper's early influence over my father: that Cooper's books had much to do with my father's coming to America. W.: "That is very significant. I take that to be very valuable. Yet I can easily see how it is. Cooper at his best is always the best: very inspiriting, vitalizing. In some of his later works he is more prosaic, dull, flat. 'The Deerslayer,' for instance. It is inexpressibly dry to me; full of dialogue, full of long impossible speeches—at the end leaving you nowhere. It was as much so with Scott, I suppose. Take 'Robert of Paris,' where the scene of the action is laid in Constantinople—flat, flat, flat—flatulent, flatulent, flatulent—dull, dull, dull—tedious past all a fellow's patience. Scott was, I know, open to this charge from the start, but in his later days, old, sick, moping—going off for his health—grinding this out somehow, because he felt he had to—the result is not astonishing." Yet was not Cooper a better influence than Hawthorne? "I should answer that decidedly, yes! Cooper was always an outdoor influence: he is perennial fresh air, pure seas; a living accuser of our civilization. Our civilization is anyhow a morbid one—introspective, consciously sinful. But Cooper maintained his independence, manhood, from the very first. 'The Spy,' all the sea tales, Long Tom Coffin—what a creation that! Cooper was fiery, I suppose from a very young man, up to the last, yet generous, large, free, exciting respect everywhere. Used to servants, rich, served. Yes, a truly vigorous physiog, too: a sea-dog's face—yet more than that. You know Sam Grey? Well, Sam Grey with something added: say, 20 years, more physiognomy—rather more port." I said that Susan Fenimore Cooper once wrote me that the New England writers of the second class never liked her father. "No doubt that is true," said W. "How could they? They never could have taken the measure of such a man." Then, "Bryant was an outdoor man. We must not forget him." But if some failed Cooper, he failed others, too: "Cooper probably was not able to take in the peculiar gifts, strong points, of New England—the best New England. In intellectuality, New England leads America. Emerson, I feel, would be called an outdoor man, too. Everything he says, every sentence, has anyhow an artificial outdoors, if no more." Used Gosse as illustrating the other extreme: "He is to me the perfect example of what culture may do for a man. In the technical sense he is without a flaw; yet in vital quality empty to the very bottom." With a laugh, "But these men are used for their emptiness, if nothing else. They are part of the scheme. Gosse utterly lacks oil, blood, pulse," but "Scott, taken in his strength, is one of the resistless forces of the century: so, too, Cooper. I should give both the full benefit of this belief. These days have not brought their superiors."

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