Skip to main content

Monday, December 7, 1891

Monday, December 7, 1891

7:55 P.M. I find W. looking quite well, yet complaining of "horrible phantasmic tiresome days" and "a body that won't work out any comfortable end longer," informing me moreover that the rubbings continue suspended and he don't know when if ever he will renew them. "Tom was in yesterday, with the Reverend Mr. Long: they stayed a bit, and we talked. Yes, he spoke of Reinhalter and advised me not to notice their communication. He is confident they will come round to us." Yet W. does think and worry about it, as witness what Bucke says in letter today received by me: "I have yours of 1st and trust the Tomb matter may be settled. W. constantly mentions it to me and evidently worries about it."

I said to W., "[R. W.] Gilder writes me today—wishes to know if he does not owe something to the Whitman fund." W., merrily, "Does he? Is that his exact phrase?" I quoted his phrase: "Do I not owe something to the Whitman fund?" W. then, "That sounds brief and friendly. I have been curious about Gilder, but he seems not to withdraw." And again, "That reminds me: what do you think of my new portrait?" Reaching back to the sofa, bringing forth an etching—T. Johnson's—a copy of the "Laughing Philosopher." "Carey sent me this—sent me a number for my name. This one I shall keep: the others are in the package there." Across the room on the floor a package addressed to Carey, to go to New York tomorrow. I rather discounted the portrait. "It is a variation from the original, and not to advantage," I argued. "It has a pinched expression, certainly with some of the lines of the nose and mouth out of place." W. had himself "suspicioned" some "bad lines there," but "hesitated—rather, waited" to pass on them. I spoke of the work itself as "unexceptionable" and he repeated, "I guess there's no doubt about that." He signed his own (did he sign the others?) "Walt Whitman in 1891," which is not strictly fortunate. He looks and has looked rather different this year. Very explicit in address of package, even noting the date it is sent.

I had brought in "Where Meadows Meet the Sea" and the Bucke volume he had marked for my use in the Poet-Lore article. Showed him sample of new, rougher paper I had got from Oldach. He was satisfied. I am to write back (later on, I did). W. remarked, "Let him give this all the bottom he with decency can," meaning to have the cover strengthened. Had got him copies of Wednesday's Herald and World in hope they would contain some report of Ingersoll's speech. Nothing but vague, dull lines. Both of us disappointed. Have ordered Tribune. W. "laments" that the newspapers "lacked in perceptive" and "virtually missed so important a gathering, event, and Bob's great splurge." I received today Wallace's letter 28th. "He is sick, confined to the house," I said to W., who remarked, "Bring him over in our atmosphere—we will cure him: give him light, freedom!" Wallace after all did not get the O'Connor books in New York before starting. Now wishes a dozen. I ordered of McKay today. W. received a note and "Thanatos" (a poem—in manuscript—New York). But he evades expressing any opinion (his usual mode). "An unusual influx of pamphlets and so forth, here, on me, lately," adding, "I take a look: in most cases that is the most I can do." Then, "I have had visitors today: Harry Stafford's wife and the little children. You have not seen the children? We love them—we do: Oh yes! tenderly!"

I received a copy of Academy from Johnston, this extract from Arnold's therein:

A visit to Walt Whitman in New Jersey deserves quotation, as a specimen of Sir Edwin's more sober style: "Soon he descended the stairs, clad in a light holland coat, with open shirt ruffled in the neck, walking very lamely with the help of a stick, but certainly one of the most beautiful old men ever beheld; with his clear, keen eyes, sculptured profile, flowing silver hair and beard, and mein of lofty content and independence.... I told him how he was honoured and comprehended by many and many an Englishman, who knew how to distinguish great work from little, in ancient and modern tongues. The handsome youth fetched down the Leaves of Grass from upstairs, and we read together some of the lines most in mind, the book lying upon the old poet's knee, his large and shapely hand resting in mine. The sweet-voiced woman dropped her darning needle to join in the lyrical and amicable chat; a big setter laid his soft muzzle on the master's arm, and the afternoon grew to evening in pleasant interchange of thoughts and feelings." A pretty picture, the Poet of Buddha and the Poet of Drum Taps meeting under an American roof-tree to foregather in sympathetic talk. 
W. shakes his head vigorously, "It is all false, all false—hardly a word of it true. Ridiculous, indeed: the dog, the woman, the hand! It beats all I know, considering its source." And further, "Such things are not only a matter for indignation, they are a matter for wonder." Was not this enough like the Press report to suspicion the same hand? "I think it probable, Horace, you are too nearly right." And yet he insisted, "I do not understand—it baffles me," and, "It is imagination, pure fancy, even invention." I showed Academy to Morris in Bank. He took over to Frank Williams and they had a laugh over it together. Morris asks, "May I write about that in the Literary World?"

Law sends me up a copy of his Whitman poem for Wallace. I shall send tomorrow.

Back to top