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Tuesday, September 16, 1890

Tuesday, September 16, 1890

5:30 P.M. W. not yet gone out. The weather continues more or less stormy. Still, says he "will brave it."

Said he had "just been reading a notice of the Woodbury book in the Transcript. It is quite generous in length. I think rather inclined to be favorable. They do not quote any passages which name me."

Complained that the Critic had not yet come. "This is the latest yet." I asked if I should write a postal acquainting them with the fact? At first he expressed his assent, but after a pause added: "Perhaps we'd better not. They owe me ten dollars yet for 'An Old Man's Rejoinder' and this might jostle them up, which I don't want them to suppose I would do, for I think them very reliable. If I don't get the paper tomorrow, it might then be well enough to write."

But he had got Poet-Lore. "And did you?" he inquired. I had thought a curious value in the last sentence of W.'s note there: "Then science, the final critic of all, has the casting vote for future poetry." W. smiling and saying, "Well, I suppose I have often enough given utterance to that—written it: in fact, it is probably mingled with all I have written. It is not new, particularly to you, to my friends. But it is one of my choice notes. In music, in the tunes I hear, I like melodies I have heard before—brief strains: the old story—the old song. It moves me whatever else fails. So if this thought on Shakespeare is not new, neither, I hope, is it without vibration." He grew humorous over the spelling of Shakespeare: "Miss Porter wrote asking if I had any objection to spelling Shakespeare their way, that is, the orthodox way, with all the e's and a's. I answered on the proof in effect that I did not stickle for it. Nevertheless 'Shakspere'"—spelling it—"is the latest authoritative way, with all the advantages of directness."

Warren came in with letter from Bucke—which W. read aloud to me. Bucke describes New Caledonia to W., expressing fears that it may be malarious and hope that Sarrazin has a house on a hill. W. remarked, "That is something for us to take note of: if we ever got more into a malarious district to get a house on a hill. If you write to Sarrazin—or I do—something should be said on this point."

7:20 P.M. On reaching home from W.'s this afternoon, found the following note from Johnston, N.Y.:

Sept 13/90 Dear Mr. Traubel,

This morning I got Robert G. Ingersoll's promise to deliver a lecture in Phil or N.Y. for the benefit of Walt Whitman. I believe we can clear $2000—if it is managed right. Please see Harned and let me hear your views whether Phil. or N.Y. We ought to bill it in Academy of Music in either city. I will explain in full when I see you and will come over if necessary.

Sincerely yrs JH Johnston 17 Union Sq. N.Y.

At once wrote J., promising to consult with W. and Harned, suggesting the occasion be in honor of W. instead of benefit—saying my first impression was for Philadelphia, asking him to find out Ingersoll's date, promising to write more definitely tomorrow. Then to W.'s, where I found W. in the parlor, hat on, by open window. "Oh yes!" he said, "I have been out. We slipped home just from under the tail of the storm," looking out upon the rain. Explained Johnston's letter to him, he "much marvelling" and putting one question to me after another. I had my answer with me, but room was dark; I could not read it, so W. said, "Well, let me have its substance," and on my explanation: "Yes, that is good." Then pursuing the question, "The first question to put would be, the use of it all—what was its bottom reason. Is it necessary? I am at first blush decidedly in favor of New York. No, I do not see that my presence is necessary, indispensable. Whether I am there or not might depend upon the humor, condition of the last moment. I do not wince even at the benefit. I do not know but that it could be best to have it understood all is to go in my pocket." As to Ingersoll and the oration: "I should consider that a great plume. Our own claims for ourselves have been toploftical enough, but this would beat them. It would be an honor not to be forgotten. If it would appear that a cluster of fellows had demanded certain things should be said, done, for Walt Whitman—that would please me, relieve the situation." I joked about a delegation of us going over in a special car, perhaps to come back the same night. "Of course all this is problem and problem. I shall need some time to think it all over." He promised some definite word tomorrow.

Gave me three postals: two from Kennedy, one from a New York fanatic. "They will give you notions of how I pass my life."

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