Commentary

Disciples

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Wednesday, April 17, 1889

     10 A.M. W. in bathroom on my arrival. I sat in his big chair and read till he came back. Ed had to lead him. His lack of strength palpable. But he looked very well—heartily welcomed me. "got you seated," he said, in a phrase he so often uses.

     Postal from Mrs. O'Connor of 15th. Report bad. I asked W.

 
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how he had survived Hartmann's assault. He laughed: "As you see! It is as if a gentle wind had brushed me and I heeded it not!" Then became very circumstantial with regard to Hartmann. Would not repeat my strong words. "No, I try to be more lenient with him. He can't help it! It is in him something basic—something that relates to origins. He lacks what I have often spoken of as not in Conway—integrity. But he is wholly unconscious of it, as indeed is Conway. Hartmann—oh! have you never seen him? He is a biggish young fellow—has a Tartaric face. He is the offspring of a match between a German—the father—and a Japanese woman: has the Tartaric makeup." Here W. paused—then: "and the Asiatic craftiness, too—all of it! I think his father still lives, but the mother is dead. Hartmann has been here often. He has several times been off—in Europe, in Japan—but has always somehow returned. He affects American. The last time he returned, it was mainly to exploit me—at least, I was told this was the cause—Kennedy has written about it. He lived in Phila. for a time—lived with the Brotherton's, the Quakers—and tried to eke out a living writing for the papers. He wrote a good deal for this paper among others"—lifting from his lap the copy of The American I had brought containing article from H. S. Morris. "Of course he often came to see me." But "the crowning shadow" in Hartmann's career Whitman-wise "was spread by his Whitman Club. He was here just before he undertook that thing—in fact, spoke of it, but in a veiled, half perhaps-it-may-be way. I did not sharply negative it then, but I certainly did not approve of it. But shortly he starts up in Boston his Walt Whitman Club: hires a couple of rooms there, puts out a sign—'Walt Whitman Club'—and proceeds with business. It was a curious and astonishing performance. He elects officers, makes himself secretary and treasurer, puts together a most amazing list of Vice Presidents: people who had never been consulted—a long string of them: people who he knew had more or less espoused me—did it with the most eminent assurance. It was
 
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at that time I wrote to Kennedy and Baxter, in whom I most confided there, to squelch it. And somehow—quietly—I never knew just how—they did squelch it. It seems Hartmann had started to collect money—got as much as ten dollars from Dave McKay alone. That was a thing we could not suffer— that brought us to a point involving responsibility of a sort, so the decisive step was taken—the absolute disclaimer."
Hartmann "had heard Kennedy was getting up a Whitman book"—had himself written up thoughts of W. W.—"these here in Herald no doubt a part of them"—and offered them to K. "I do not suppose Kennedy was in any condition to pay for anything above his living at that time. But Kennedy was very cute—very cute, I tell you—for before doing anything at all with the matter H. had given him, he sends it on to me—sends at least paragraphs of it—and inquires after its authenticity. You can realize my quick denial. Most of the stuff was pure and absolute invention—the most barefaced fabrications—the little else was a bungling, incoherent, attempt to repeat what may at one time or another have been thought and spoken." I scoffed at Hartmann's want of literary power. W. said "Oh! he can write: he is not wholly without facility: though this, here in the Herald, is quite the worst thing I have seen from him." Could not account for the publication except by supposing "they need a good deal of matter to fill up that paper: Hartmann has seen Walsh, offers himself cheap—the thing is done." At the time of the Whitman Club affair, "it seemed to me, and I think I so expressed myself to others—to Kennedy among the rest—that not only was a Club a factor I could not in itself endorse, but Hartmann, particularly, as the soul of such a club, was emphatically under my distrust." He had always felt a similar distrust of Conway—"he has seemed to me, as I say to lack integrity." I had told Frances Emily White of Conway's Whitman misreports at the Ethical meeting last night, and she had replied, "Oh! Mr. Whitman is an old man and forgets!"
 
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I turned to him with this story and ended with saying, "That is how the Professor explains." W. was vigorous and young enough in his reply, "Oh! damn the professor! What does she know about it? It was not me alone—others know it as well as I do—others heard and were more indignant and confident than I at my worst. No—no—it is no mistake. Conway writes his pieces for the papers, the magazines, bent, first of all, in making them interesting, letting suffer what may. I suppose he has improved of late years, indeed, I have felt myself that he has. I find myself rather respecting his grey hairs, his years, his experience. But as we knew him 30 years ago, he was little to be relied upon." I referred to Morse's exclamation to me once of Conway, "Oh! he's no authority!"—and W.: "That is true of him—that shows that Sidney knew him. He is not a man to be tied to." W. paused, reflected, then went on: "I think that is the best way to put him—to say, he is not a man to be tied to. It would be hard to sketch him more vividly than by that." Alluded to Conway's "brilliant flashes of shallowness."

     Letter from Ingersoll to me this morning, contributing 25 dollars towards the fund: "Let me know Mr. Whitman's condition. We must all see to it that he is taken care of." I spoke of this to W., and he was much touched. "That is good and noble of him—but him. If you write, boy, say for me: Walt Whitman sends his love and regards, tell him you were here and saw me, that you talked with me about it, that I was touched and grateful."

     Returned me the proofs I had brought along last night. Asked me: "Will you leave the American with me?" Desired to read Morris' column there on Browning and Whitman. I inquired if he had read Hinton's World article? "Oh yes! the whole of it." Then after a pause he asked: "How does it appear to you? It seems like three crowded columns of gush. It is no easy task, to work along through all that block of solid matter. Does it not leave you with the feeling—when you are

 
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done with it—that it has added nothing to your stock of information?" I asked W. what of the description therein of his visit to Louis Gaylord Clarke's office. He said quickly: "It is a pure invention—it is a pure invention of the good Dick Hinton!" It astonished me to find one after another of these utter fabrications, none, it would seem, in any direction, honest and true. How did he account for it? W.: "It is shocking to be sure, but natural. A fellow tells a story two or three times when he is drunk (though this won't explain Dick Hinton, who don't get drunk)—and the thing gets compacted, solidified, there in his own brain, and thereafter he is willing to swear to it—indeed is astonished, amazed, dumbfounded, to have anybody question it. So far from that story being true, I never took the books around—may have sent some of them away (some, and they came back, mostly)—but to go in the manner there declared was out of the question." He spoke of Hinton as "a newspaper man—one at least to that extent, that he depends for his living upon it—upon such matters as these. He came here with Johnston that Sunday. A few days after he had left I got a letter from Johnston saying that the two of them and several others proposed getting up a Whitman volume of some sort—a volume of the nature of biography—containing memorabilia, what-not—and asking, in effect, for my endorsement. I did not answer the letter at the time—have not answered it yet—and presume the matter is dropped—that Hinton comes out this way in the World instead." But I interposed: "It is hardly abandoned. He speaks of it in this article as still under consideration." And I further protested: "You will have nothing to do with it, will you? What business have you with such a thing?" He answered: "Well—I have not said anything about it. And you are right: if I have nothing to do with it, what my friends or others do I cannot help—but if I approve it, then I am in a sense—in a measure responsible for what they do or say." And he said further: I have always heretofore kept
 
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clear of such things, and I shall hardly be drawn into them now."
"I think it was the scheme to have several aid in the volume, but to have it all under the supervision of Hinton." I had got W. the three copies of Bucke's book yesterday.

     7.45 P.M. Down with Kemper, who did not go into W.'s room. Took W. proof, over which at last he expressed his pleasure. "I think it will do now.""I got a letter from Doctor today in which he says someone has sent him the World. So I have taken the copy you brought me and forwarded it to O'Connor." At this, he spoke of the "bad, bad news" from Washington; O'C. not then able to read the letter W. had sent him. "The wife says, the last three or four days were the worst. Poor O'Connor!" Spoke of the portrait with Hinton's article. "From the way he speaks, it is to be inferred it is from one of the Cox portraits—but it is too bad to indicate what it is; indeed, I don't know but one should call it horribly bad, for horribly bad it is!""I send the Herald up to Doctor, but did not write him at any length about it, only a few words on a postal."

     Returned to me The American containing Morris' article "The Revolution against Taste," and simply remarked of it: "It is slight—seems to have no weight—apparently has nothing to tell." With it he had lain Trubner's Record spoke of the other day. Said W.: "It seems to be devoted to the East—to Asia—and to America: big enough subjects, to be sure, rightly handled, but dry enough handled there. I thought you might be interested in looking over it—not in reading, but in seeing what is there—as with me: for I am a most curious fellow, hungry to know about all that's going about all the books, things, policies of governments." Said he: "I have sent off one of the Bucke books. There was a person over there in England pretty hungry to have a copy, so I sent one in this way—not that alone, but sent along with it a copy of November Boughs." Printer had put "Preface" at top of second page of introductory notice of A Backward Glance. W. promptly excised.

 
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Objects to use of name altogether in his case. But tolerantly: "Not that I have any abstract exception to take but only exception as applied to my conditions."

     The heat in W.'s room great, this evening, yet not probably more than comfortable to W. He tells a good story apropos, of two visitors, the first complaining of heat and inducing W. to throw up the sash, the second, entering a few minutes after, complaining of cold, and persuading W. to close it again. "Now," says W. "if people would believe that I understand my own business, we would all get along better!" He always asks me what I think of the temperature in his room, and I always qualify my impression with a "to me." I trust to his own sense for knowing what is best for him. But night before last, despite the blazing wood in the stove and the heat of the atmosphere, his right hand was so cold it rather startled me, and I remarked it to him. But although I found the left, which I took in my own, similarly conditioned, he said he was not at all conscious of cold. Remarked tonight that he had not "for a long time" heard anything from Kennedy that was "notable." And inquired after Morse, too.

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