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Wednesday, November 4, 1891

Wednesday, November 4, 1891

7:15 P.M. To W.'s after a day of hard work. Found him in very good condition, with the best of cheer to dispense—so much this, that my toil and its resultant weariness were easily and at once wiped out of memory. He was reading a letter he had from J.W.W. I, too, had such a note. Said W., "I am just looking over this again—it is full of feeling. His trip has been a triumph: he has had the best of weather, the best of friends, good luck every way. Such a series of successes as few travellers can expect to get or are likely ever to lay claim to. He will go back to England in a thousand ways enlarged by his experiences. He will have his tale to tell and listeners to listen." I informed W., "He has a goodly mass of notes." "Will they be printed?" "I think they will." "They are ardent, I suppose? Too ardent?" Then, "I suppose they will be printed?" "Wallace says not." "Good!" "But I told him the college would probably insist on it." "That is, take it out of his hands?" "I shouldn't wonder, and I suppose they can do no harm." W.: "Even now the dear fellow must be some hundreds of miles out at sea. Bless him for a good trip. Yes, Horace, a good fellow—a good, heart-rich fellow." I put in, "And sad to go." "I thought as much, but we must go, all of us, some time!" Then, "I had visitors today—Stoddart, with a girl. Oh! A fine girl, a girl out of the West—from San Francisco, I think—a quick, chipper girl—a delight to me. I was glad to see Joe—he is so hearty. He brought no news—none whatever."

I told W. I had the idea to make my new piece—"Walt Whitman and Some of His Comrades." He then, "A good idea, very good. And a good lick for William in it? William O'Connor?" Did he think the New England Magazine article too personal, revelative? "Oh! No! I felt no trespass whatever. Go on in that strain and I shall not object—may even help you." And now, "Wallace did not see the Colonel. I regret it, for his sake. But it cannot be helped. Election day knocked it all out." I wondered if W. had carefully read today's papers (election, etc.) and found he had. "I did not vote"—with a twinkle. "My time is completely over. I am too much of age."

Had he seen this in the Post?

Walt Whitman doesn't run to rhyme, yet Sir Edwin Arnold in his visit here told his brother bard that he had translated and printed the poem on the death of Lincoln, (one of the few rhyming productions of Whitman) in eleven languages. The popularity of this piece is a hint of the possibilities of our poet had he followed in the soft path of dalliance with the Muse of mechanical versification instead of deserting her for more rugged heights and flights. Still, the number of those who believe the latter to be the better way is continually increasing, although it may require the death of the singer to place him among "the immortal few who were not born to die." 
"Yes. Harry stands by our guns." And this led out to my quotation from a New York Times interview with Edwin Arnold, in which Arnold had said, "Style is everything—the way in which a man speaks conviction." W. to this, shaking his head, "No, no, no! That is a serious mistake they make. None so blind as a real stylist. I do not cater to that. Millet has the right idea: anything done according to its own nature is beautiful." I touched upon Tennyson's humorous references to the Epictetus quote on the note sheet sent introducing Bucke. W. remarking, "I guess Tennyson was riding his hypercritical high horse: I understand rather, that he likes to do it, at times. So that it is the part of a wise man to allow for his idiosyncrasies." And after a pause, "But I am opposed anyway to the hair-splittings. I have no sympathy with this horrible turning over of a word in a thousand ways—a picking after phraseology: twenty, thirty, forty writings, elaborated, perfected, to the last degree." And further, "Style? Buffon applied style to species, genera and so forth—yes, the animal, what-not, has this or that characteristic—that is, his style." But I objected, "Style as used this way is not style as mentioned by Arnold." "I suppose not: Arnold's is the literary style of a usual order. And what you tell me of Tennyson is Agnes-Repplierish—bad enough." And still to continue it, "'Leaves of Grass' is against all that as a staple—must finally rest on other things." I had spoken of reception—that many a man there seemed better looking than Edwin Arnold. W. then, "Very likely—the most likely thing I know." But as for Young, "It would be hard to beat him." Laughed to hear of the discussion between Jastrow and Morris and some others: should we call him Sir Edwin?

Called my attention to a letter from Kennedy. "Sloane complains I do not write. I suppose I do not. But he deserves my best good will." And on another tack, "I intended sending Bucke the Record but have lost it. But I sent one applausive San Francisco paper. Oh! This was warm as any—from an unknown hand." I promised to get W. copy of Record and send to Doctor. Reference to Emerson, "He was wonderful in his many-sided vision: would see everything, every person, in a complete series of experience, from all points of view."

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