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Disciples

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Monday, August 5, 1889

     7.45 P.M. Pouring rain. W. still confined. Sat at open window, with cloak thrown broadly to protect his right side. But he appeared happy: joked about the persistent storms. Wished to know at once—"What do you bring new?"—his usual question. Ed was just going out the door. How would he like to go to the Opera Wednesday, to see "Chimes of Normandy"? W. said: "I guess that is a good one, tho' I have never seen it—they say it is—it holds its own, anyway, which is a sort of evidence. Yes, go, Ed!" So it was so arranged. This to be W.'s "treat" as he said again. Morris Lychenheim is to go along.

     W. said: "I had a letter from Dr. Bucke today—a short one—but it was in the usual strain—nothing novel is in the wind there just now. And by the way, I had a postal from Mrs. O'Connor—from North Perry—something of that sort—in Maine, where she is now, staying with some old lady, a friend. I sent her off a bundle of papers today—quite a bundle. Among others, I also sent off a postal to Gilder." Was it about the speech? "Oh no!—about the Tennyson picture in the current Century—that's all—and a grand picture it is, too: I like it more and more—even as a piece of work merely it is notable. Who is T. Johnson, the engraver?—can you tell me anything about him?" And he reflected—"And so Tennyson's 80th Birthday is right here, within a few days! 'Tis a grand life—and many years!" At this instant he looked across the room at the Eakins picture which hung in a peculiar half-light, from the gas in the hall. I saw the direction of his gaze; said: "Tom likes that immensely—would like to see an engraving of it." W. remarked: "Eakins makes few or no inquiries after it. I should judge it was a wonderful piece of work—the work of a master. And so you think it one phase of me, do you? I always say, too—not only is it good as art, but

 
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as nature—it is a portrait." And this recalled Gilchrist's dislike of the picture, of which W. knew, and he added—"Herbert participates in that fault of all Englishmen, and some Americans" here he laughed—"certainly some—of thinking he knows all about everything—that everything is centered in him"—and he laughed again. "But it is an amiable fault: let 'em have it, all for themselves: it's their own burden, not ours!"

     I read him the following letter from Gilder received today.


Editorial Department

The Century Magazine

Union Square—New York

Aug. 2—1889.


My dear Mr. Traubel,

     Thanks for the suggestion about O'Connor—& regrets that we have not room for what you suggest.

     Let me say that my feeling about Whitman is such that I would not dishonor him by letting a report be printed which did not accurately represent my thought concerning him, so far as it was expressed at the dinner. Some things were omitted, some unconscious changes made by the short hand reporter,—& it seemed to me just to Whitman to read the proofs with an idea of actually presenting the thoughts I was endeavoring at the dinner to express. As they stand they will doubtless be charged with extravagance—but at least this is essentially what I said & what I am prepared to defend, without the addition of new ideas, or illustrations, & to my mind without modification of meaning or difference of opinion.

     Will you please read this sentence to W. W. & any one else interested.


Sincerely


R. W. Gilder

     W. asked at first, "What does he mean—what is his object in writing that?" And when I said—"Probably for those who,

 
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being present, might notice phrasal changes in the print" etc., to which he nodded assent. "I suppose that will be the reason. I can see no other. But to me no such criticism as he fears seems possible—not at all. I read it with great care and it seemed to me all right, though the reporter's version was also very good, I thought. It is always supposed that a speaker should be given the privilege of putting himself in good printed shape: and this speech surely is very significant and remarkable—coming as it does from New York, right from the cluster of those there who are most engaged in throwing salt water, acid, on our glistening fame. And what he says of the form of Leaves of Grass—that is the most remarkable of all—hearing such a thing from such a source, one almost begins to feel a confidence—a confidence that the book after all contains something." I put in—"But the young—they will take you up: I read Leaves of Grass to a group yesterday—and they were all intensely interested." He asked: "So you really think they took hold? Well, if the future is secure—we can surely afford to trouble ourselves little about the present!" And as to the signs right and left of coming over,—"Yes—it is as I told you the best point in most of these fellows—their power to get on—to shake off obstructions: give 'em enough time and enough rope and they surely will get there!"

     Promised to give me a signed portrait of some kind for Mrs. Fels. Said he had had "a long letter from the Berlin man—from Edward Bertz—and it was written in English. He writes a wonderful English—almost idiomatic—but all that is explained when he tells me as he does, that he spent several years in this country—three, I think—and as many in England—indeed, wrote a book in English, once. He alludes frequently to that novel—English—that he spoke of in the other letter—'Phryza'"—(spelling it out)—"or something of that sort, wasn't it? The novel seems more than ordinarily given up to discussion—parts of it to us—and warmly, too—I don't know who by,—forget—but I was going to suggest that you

 
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keep a sharp eye about for the book—a very sharp eye—and see what it all amounts to, signifies anyhow.""Bertz got all the books I sent him—Leaves of Grass, Specimen Days, Dr. Bucke's book—and he says he takes them all in—can immediately use them—as he proposes some sort of essay now, before long, treating us." I brought him samples of cardboard from Billstein. Which would he have for the pictures? He laughed "I'll keep the boards till tomorrow and tell you. But I don't know for what good—he knows what to use—and it will all amount to the same thing in the end. I find that these fellows always have good reasons, or arguments, for doing as they choose anyhow, after you have made your own careful choice. In all my experience I have never met a man who didn't pursue his own pleasure against mine. At least, it is so in this country—and I don't know but here's the characteristic difference between our own workmen and workmen abroad." Spoke of "fine paragraph" in our quotation from Bertz in the book—passage touching love and affection. Said of book: "If you will give me all the sheets, after you have them in good shape—all but the title-page—then I will see what I see—perhaps have a line to add." I said—"Yes—I have a blank page near the front, back of 'contents,' which you may consecrate." He laughed—"Consecrate? Well—we'll see: let us get the ensemble—the book entire—in our noodles, then wait for the last stroke." Asked me—"Gilder did not make extensive changes in his second proof?" And when I said, "Then I can see no cause for his anxiety—none at all: the speech was well as the short-hand man had it—was well as Gilder fixed it: I am satisfied either way."
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