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Monday, September 15, 1890

Monday, September 15, 1890

5:00 P.M. Happening in at W.'s, talked for half an hour with him, he in very bright mood. Had I anything new? No. Nor had he: "We pass through days—like eras—of the commonplace. But the commonplace is grand, too!" How had he got through with his dissipation at Harned's? "Very well. I had my champagne and oysters—a favorite mixture. Clifford was there and a Dr. Gould. Do you know him? A genial, easy-spoken man. I took away a very pleasant impression of him."

W. spoke of longevity, W. saying, "I was just reading in the paper here of Mrs. Polk, the wife of the President, living still at 87 (I think that is the age), and with all her faculties. It is a grand total of years! Eighty-seven! And so often, too, maintaining as they do—these old stayers—a marvellous, astonishing vivacity." I referred to Dr. Edward Buchanan, brother of James Buchanan, with whom I had spoken today at the Bank. W. much questioning me as to his appearance: clothes, manner, voice, etc. "I can see him—he is the type—your description recalls the whole picture. When I was young I met many just like him. One of the traits which you have not spoken of is benevolence; that seems to prevail with all, and a stateliness, a certain fixed courteous manner and modulation of tone. Aaron Burr was just that man: though he is only a boyish memory to me, he is a vivid one. I had access to him through a printer named Hawthorne—a very double to Burr himself," and then described Hawthorne in quick, strong terms. "James Buchanan was only a middle-aged man, evidently different from his brother in that respect, but for all things cast in that old model. It has its attractions." I said, "I delight to meet them. They are reminders to the new generation." W. assented, "I can realize your pleasure. I have the same pleasure myself." I asked him then, "If a young fellow were put in a room full of such men, would their stateliness and courtesy overawe him?" W. said quickly with a laugh, "No, I don't think so. I think his impulse would be to call them a lot of old fogies leftover!"

Question had been asked if Lowell had ever printed any reference, critical or other, to Walt Whitman? W. said, "That I do not know: I would like to be told." And then he said, "Lowell threatens to be another of the old men—he is about my age."

Morris came to tell me today that the Literary World had printed an adverse review of Woodbury's book. W. asked me, "I wonder what was their point of objection?" Adding, "The prime fault of the book is that it does not contain a page which can be relied upon. It bears the stamp of unveracity, and without that, what rudder has a man? It is a dull book, too. It has no movement, no throb." Then referred to Emerson: "He was one of those affable, sweet, magnetic men, whose atmosphere— which was his greatest gift—utterly charmed, captured, compassed anyone, I was going to say, who came near. He was not a man to waste himself on desert beholders, on empty witnesses. He had his great reserves—as who has not who has anything that is worth while?" Emerson was "cold in exterior," he thought, only to those who "interrupted his access." He was not a talker, "yet his voice was a good one—it was neither too high nor too low—pitched nobly for noble ends."

W. handed me what he said were "some more notes for the article," the printed portion cut outright from a portion of John Burroughs' book.

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