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Wednesday, October 8, 1890

Wednesday, October 8, 1890

7:45 P.M. W. in best of moods, talking freely for full half an hour. I found him writing—as he said—"matter to fill up the envelope you brought me yesterday." On "just such size sheets." "Pot-boiling?" I asked. And he said, "Yes—these articles, I'm afraid, will be much of that order. I am writing two—one on 'Old Poets'—then another on the theme Rideing set. I don't know how they will go: they do not come easily." He would have it to know "the news" of today. I showed him letter from Baker, which he much enjoyed, at one moment calling it "model"—then exclaiming, "So, too, it is the Colonel's show," and so on. And he still would smilingly tell me, "Well, I give you Richard's words again and again—'May God prosper you in all your good intents!'"

New York, Oct. 7th 1890. My dear Mr. Traubel:

Yours received. I have just telegraphed you. Make it Lecture and not Address. A lecture means more. An address may simply be a short talk of 20 to 30 minutes. This will not draw the crowd to hear the Colonel. Of course, with all your unabated love and admiration for Walt Whitman, you know that this is the Colonel's show, for and on behalf of Whitman, truly, but the head and front of the occasion is Robt. G. Ingersoll—and not for him, but purely and generously disinterested—for Whitman, that we may pull a purse out of it for the dear old meritorious philosopher-poet Whitman. You know. I need not write to you about this. Therefore, in the advertisement, let the Ingersoll lecture be the thing to put most prominently forward. The topic, as I wired you, is "Liberty and Literature"—a splendid title, don't you think.

Now, whenever you can, correct the misstatement as to the date. Write the N.Y. Sun, particularly that the date that the date is Oct. 21st and not 31st, as they announced it—and send them the title, which will be an add'l reason for their making the correction. Numerous inquiries have already been made by New Yorkers as to the date, and subject, and when and where tickets can be procured.

As soon as tickets are ready, we will let the N.Y. public know how and where they can get them. I approve the suggestion of Farson that we reserve the whole floor at $1.00 and part of the gallery.

I did not want you to publish the fact that I was formerly Editor of The Sunday School Times—but it is all right, if it will help along the good cause and this occasion.

The suggestion that Campbell, on Chestnut Street, sell the tickets, is a good one. It was because I did not know the hours box office could be opened at the Hall, that I wished you to see Farson before stating the place and hours of sale of tickets on the 3-sheet poster.

I am this minute called away—can't conclude—write me fully.

Yours always, I. N. Baker.

I wrote Baker this evening, sending proof of ticket. Have also passed on proof of poster, which is to be printed tomorrow.

Bulletin yesterday contained editorial headed "A Foolish Board of Directors."

The action of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Music, in refusing to grant to Robert G. Ingersoll the use of that building for the delivering of a lecture on "Art and Morality," is not a creditable performance. The reason assigned for the refusal is that the board passed a rule in 1884 forbidding the dissemination on their stage of atheism or infidelity. But as Ingersoll had not announced an intention to express opinions on religion, and as his discourse was for the benefit of an aged poet, who, whatever we may think of his literary work, possesses the general respect of the people of this community, without regard to religion, the application which the board has made of this rule will be construed as a narrow and illiberal act.

There was no reason for assuming from the title of Ingersoll's discourse or from the character of the occasion that he would spout blasphemy or make himself or his lecture obnoxious to people of religious convictions. It is well known that in the treatment of subjects other than those concerning speculations on Christianity, he can acquit himself creditably and instructively as an orator and thinker. We say this without any abatement of the contempt which we feel for that wretched twaddle that he passes off as "liberal thought" when he attacks the accepted religious beliefs of mankind. Moreover, President Baker could hardly have chosen a more effective way of calling attention to the man and his charlatanism on religion and to excite sympathy for the one and a curiosity in the other than to shut him out from a building in which he had already proclaimed his views, without a thought on the part of anybody, so far as we know, that he ought not to have had a hearing.

We are sure that on this particular occasion, which Mr. Baker and his associates seem to regard as a highly immoral and mischievous one, because of Ingersoll's presence, there would have been present far more people who regard his religious views with scorn than those who have any liking for them. They would have gone to hear him precisely as they have gone before to the Academy to listen to Huxley or Tyndall or Minot J. Savage. The results of the ill-advised action of Mr. Baker will only be to arouse more interest in Ingersoll than he really deserves and to open Philadelphia to the charge of intolerance.

The Times this morning had a brief note from Westbrook—"Is Ingersoll an Atheist," and the Post a paragraph, which I left with them: "Liberty and Literature." W. interested and querying. Told him after I got Morris' article in type, Morris wished me to print anonymously—that I would not do that. W. said, "That's quite New Yorkish—rather—not New Yorkish, for New York is itself big enough—but literaryish. It has an unmistakable habit, flavor of that bad, unheroic spirit, to spoil all its best promise. I know it so well! New York is ahead in engravings, in printing, in certain of the fine arts—in enterprise, business—in venture, hazarding for trifles: but in all big things, in the heroics, it is left without a sign. I can see no future for literature in New York. All seems so hedged in—closed, closed. It is the characteristic of the Gilder crowd—the magazines—without faith—without real belief." What was his feeling about Ingersoll. They had told me at Harned's he (W.) seemed Sunday to show some fear. He looked at me as if astonished. "Well, you did not believe that? You must have understood my position better. I cannot remember just what I did say, but it could not have been in that direction. I have nowhere put myself on record as I should like about Ingersoll—but I think it should be understood once for all that though I have not been demonstrative about it—am not now demonstrative—am not to anyone—I have been thoroughly aware what it all signifies. Nor is it only the generosity, the vitality of Ingersoll—it is his genius, as well: I am proud to have him associated with us. I think that Colonel Bob is much a vaster force in this, our time, land, than we are today willing to allow. Someday it will be acknowledged. Not for a moment have I dreamed of objecting to him—it never entered my head." And as to Ingersoll's subject: "As Baker says, it is a splendid one. I know none other that could so appear inviting." Again, "It would appear from Baker's letter as though you were all preparing for a big event. Look out, lest the pitcher may break! Just in the time of of your certainty, then you drop it! There's that in me always to keep me from admitting a success till I see it right before my eyes. And I confess I have the same feeling today. We seem to be way up on the crest of the wave today—this Academy of Music business, a hundred other things, have swept us up—but where will we be tomorrow?" He laughed and to my confidence that things would come out all right, only nodded his "hope." Commented on the "cowardly literate."

And of Bucke, "Did you ever notice how he mounts in discussion? And then, in each cheek, a little color comes. Bucke has beliefs." I referred to William O'Connor: "If we had him today, he would rush in the thick of this fight!" W. then: "Yes, and enjoy it. O'Connor enjoyed a mêlée—liked to take up causes—the more unpopular the better—and whip down opposition. He was a born swordsman. Yes, we had the hardest discussions in old days—brutal ones, I should call them. We went on the principle of frankness; and I am sure I was if anything cruelly frank at all times. The tone might have been clipped off." I said, "Yes, at the risk of clipping off all but the tender shades." W. assenting, "That is a big thought: there is that risk, and what can compensate for the loss? O'Connor was more catholic than I was—would include them all—all the literary fellows: indeed, not only admit them, but fight for them—give them positive adherence. I could never do that quite—at least, never did it, in William's way—though my philosophy—if I have that—would include the literary with all the other fellows. But William had a sort of natural chivalry and acceptivity, and never gave a scholar to neglect." At this he got up and went to the round table. "I have an indistinct remembrance of a note sent you by Mrs. O'Connor through me—in the last week sometime. I am sure I have not given it to you"—as he had not. Then gave me a letter from S. Noell of the "British Prince"—written today—Philadelphia:

I have been honored with a small commission by Mr. Wallace and Dr. Johnston of Bolton, England for you—a blanket of Bolton manufacture. I shall take the opportunity of calling with it at my earliest leisure about noon of one day this week, unless inconvenient to you, when I will send it.

Trusting you are in good health and hoping to renew my acquaintance with you

I am yours faithfully—

Noell did not get in today.

W. also gave me letter received from Bucke. I myself had received letter from Bucke saying he would be down and bring his wife.

7 Oct. 90

Yours of 3d and 4th just to hand—also letter from Horace to say that the I. address is fixed for 21st (two weeks today). I have written to Horace to say definitely that I shall be there unless something turns up to make it impossible—in fact I would not miss the occasion for any conceivable consideration. Mrs. Bucke will come East with me—will no doubt be at address and she will stay East (at Ingram's I guess) for a few weeks. I do not believe that Mrs. O'C. is not satisfied with the "Preface"—I believe it is exactly what she wanted and I shall believe so until I hear from herself to the contrary—so far I have not heard from her and fear she may be sick.

Thanks for your promise of the M.S. of the preface—I want it particularly.

It is good news that you have been asked and will write for N.A. If you could only get strong, and stay so for a few years (as you may yet—nothing is impossible to such a constitution as yours) you might yet see the dawn of the splendid fame which surely waits for you in the near future. It is smoldering (as I have said before) and may any day burst out into a flame which will light and warm the world. There is no nonsense or doubt about this—the only question is—how long?

"How long, O Lord, how long"?

Your friend and lover RM Bucke

Read W. following note received the other day from Mrs. Fairchild:

Dublin, N.H. Oct 4 Dear Mr. Traubel,

I have left the sea and come inland for the autumnal splendors, and I cannot say how many times W. W. has come to my mind here. For how many people has not he filled Nature with a fuller life!

I hope the dear old poet is able to take some out door pleasure in the season. I wish I might sit silent on this hill-top beside him for an hour this morning. But in truth I do spend many hours in his company!

Very sincerely yrs, Elisabeth Fairchild

Much touched. "The noble woman. And she is a handsome noble woman in appearance, too." Admired her handwriting, "especially the signature"—considered the letter "flavored all through with a rare personality." Told him I hoped to have strong words from Clifford and Bucke in Conservator about Ingersoll, now Morris had retreated. "Yes," he said, "either one ought to be able to do it—or both."

W. said, "Burroughs was wrong when he discovered signs of ill-nature in O'Connor. O'Connor was sweet by that essential nature which gave welcome to all heroes, all men—which was first of all hospitable and chivalrous."

He wonders about Mrs. O'Connor's reception of Preface—was it cold, or disappointed, or what? He says little about it.

I picked up a Tribune clipping from the Table. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "That is the Edwin Arnold letter—that is the great message: and the Boston Transcript has printed it, too. How surprised Sir Edwin would be to see how well his letters read when they reach me! But I guess he don't see them—and blessed the man who does not!" And then, "Everybody has read them. I met Ben Starr when I was out today. He said, 'I am glad Mr. Whitman you hear from Sir Edwin Arnold'—and I said 'Ah!' and then relapsed. What else could I do?"

W. said, "The only apology—or make for it—for the Academy men I have seen so far is that piece in the Record—the little squib. And it amounted to nothing at all." I met Record reporter today—the big-hearted handsome man who came to interview me about Weston weeks ago. Told him—"Your Record editor refused Saturday to take that item, which he had after all to print Monday when it was stale." He admitted and explained—"There's no accounting for that. I have known him to get mad if people take news there, and get mad if they do not: so you see how it is." W. remarked on my recital of this—"And a bright newspaper man he must be."

Explained his O'Connor heat by saying—"I was younger then: I am much less likely to make that breach today."

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