Commentary

Disciples

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Friday, June 7, 1889

     7.45 P.M. Had a long and delightful talk, running on to within a few minutes of nine. The night half-clouded—the moon struggling to make a way through the mists—the air rather chill. W. sat with us out of doors most of the time, then went slowly and painfully in, yet is wonderfully well. I had secured a copy of the World from Browning today. Found W. himself had Ed buy eleven copies. Said to me: "I have several copies left. Do you want one? I sent one to Dr. Bucke—the others abroad—no others domestic." I expressed my high value put on the poem, and spoke of its "power." This appeared to strike him. "You really think you see power in it? That is significant. I am waiting to hear what the fellows think of it. Power? Power? That is very significant! And yet it was but dashed off—dashed off!" Then he was very definite in his expression of pleasure on its appearance. "It came up with splendid accuracy—not a mistake of any moment—a few commas, probably two, out of place, or absent—but that was all—which is doing wonderfully well, when you consider it is only a casual piece, sent away in greatest haste—in the night—and set up by strange printers unused to your manuscript—appearing in an early morning's paper. The very fact that the thing can be at all effected is in itself wonderful."I was very careful myself, how I wrote it: put there on the back of the sheet an admonition, follow copy—and they have followed it very handsomely. Indeed, I have had excellent fortune with these fellows anyhow. In the Herald days, though they presented on to fifty of my pieces, never but once or twice—probably twice—did any serious baulks occur—and they were baulks, to be sure! But aside from those everything was happy and to have been felicitated upon." The trouble often was more deliberate than was supposed. "The printers themselves get it into their heads that a thing should be thus or so, and they make it thus or so—and the author must suffer."

 
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     He referred now again to Garland's speech—it was "very fine—as one coming to think over it must see." I told him that he had not put the telegrams he supposed in the budget he gave me last evening. He was surprised: "I was certain they were there. Irving's was quite short, but signed with the full name. It of course belongs with the rest." And at the mention of Irving's name he said additionally: "And by the way, Tom Donaldson has not yet sent me the Irving draft. What do you think is the reason for it?" Donaldson has had the draft some time—is suspiciously slow in forwarding it. Spoke to Harned a month and more ago about it. W. said: "He spoke of it the other night. After the banquet he came along down the street with us. Didn't you hear him talk of it, Eddy?" But Eddy had been busy with the chair, and while he had heard the word "check" or "draft," had not attended the conversation. W. then went on: "Anyhow—I shall make no bones about it—I shall write or speak to Tom Donaldson about it. It is evidently drawn to my order—intended for me—I ought to have it." He had heard rather questionable stories of Tom, "but I give them no credence—never did: I put the matter down to that frailty of so many good fellows—procrastination, carelessness, delayedness." As to the Weir Mitchell matter, that he could not understand, any better than we could. "I remember years ago it was quite well known that abroad men collected money for me which they pocketed. They no doubt thought I was old, about to peg out, needed nothing, could not use it anyhow, so simply retained it."

     Talked about the great fire at Seattle (loss running into millions). "See-at-tle," he said it was pronounced. "There was someone over here today who spoke to me—told me about it—someone who had been there. It is a town of about thirty thousand people—with much more of thrift and enterprise and life than Camden; though it must be remembered of Camden that its adjacency to Philadelphia—to the big city—where are theatres, amusements, excitement, pushings, enough—removes

 
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moves this from its own necessities. But these Western towns are a wonder anyway. Seattle is for instance to other small places what Philadelphia is to Camden—and more, because it has peculiar institutions of its own." I said, "In reading of the terrific loss there—ten millions or more—my first wonder was, that a town that seemed almost a new growth should have that much to lose." W. responded: "Yes—and that is the wonder of every thoughtful man. But to anyone who has been west, much is explained, elucidated, takes a natural place." He recited his experience at Denver. "It had something in its air that fascinated me—held me. I could never entirely shake off the desire to stop there—stay there—become part of that new country." Described his visit to a smelting works there—"it was towards the end of my stay,—but a revelation to me." Described the complicated and delicate workmanship as "marvellous"—and said: "A good deal of the wealth of these places consists in actual metal—the precious metal—coins. Indeed, the wealth of this whole western country rests in just such possession, and I think Seattle must have held much in the raw, as we sometimes call it." He remarked "the prevalence of greyhounds" there in Denver. "They are utilized in antelope hunting—are very fleet—do not run but bound—before the poor beast knows, is inevitably upon him—at his neck—and then the game is up." And here he laughed at another thought revived in him. "I never forget the plenty of big-backed men there at Denver: it seemed to me, wherever I went, it was to see one after another of these remarkable fellows—stature almost giant-like: looked at from the rear, the broadest, brawniest backs under the sun. We see no such grand men—at least, in any frequency—here: and yet at Denver they seemed commonplace."

     Said he had sent the books ordered by Garrison today. Promised, also to prepare books for Harned, Gilchrist and Frank Williams. Sent a copy over to Dave today, and is anxious, or willing, to have Dave sell them. "I will give him a very

 
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liberal discount—say a third, at least." Asked me to talk to this effect to Dave—also to ask of him payment for the rest of the big books purchased in the winter. Referred to Johnston as "a wide-awake American—a Pennsylvanian, I think: quick, active confident, enthusiastic, worldly, but generous—Oh! generous to the bone! He is the sort of a man you can always count on."

     As we sat there a voluble man stopped with W. It was interesting to note how quietly W. fenced with him till the quiet, sweet reticence drove the man away. The man drawled out remarks about the reception. "They're beginnin' to take ahold on your poetry I see." W.: "Ah! So it seems!" And then the man: "But as they're always sayin, the prophet has to wait a long while for his dues." W. again: "Ah! so they say!" And the stranger: "But it comes at last." Thereupon W.: "I reckon—I reckon." The man further: "Some of us is glad you bore up so well under it!" And W.: "It don't matter how much either way—we don't let ourselves suffer, however the wind blows." The man then abruptly remarked the inefficiency of W.'s legs, which remark W. scarcely touched at all—then of the Johnstown and Seattle disasters, the weather &c. Finally, W.'s answers so short, the man said, "Goodnight" and off he strolled. Ed at once asked us: "Has that man every been confined—been in an asylum?" W. quickly: "How did you know—did anybody tell you?" But Ed's cute sense, sharpened by experience in Dr. Bucke's establishment, had caught the revelation. W. then described him as "having misfortunes in business—lost money—had a tannery or something down the street here"—and "being worldly, suffering deeply from it, went out of his mind—was confined for some years." He was much engaged with Ed's penetration in the matter.

     Said again: "Horace—I don't know but after all the Ledger is the best of the Philadelphia papers. Whether it's from old habit, or prejudice, I don't know: but it seems to me, the Ledger summary of news, day by day, is the best, the finest, to

 
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be found anywhere in America. Warrie in there has been getting the Ledger lately. I feel I must return to my first love. The summary is brief, yet always definite and satisfactory. The New York Tribune undertakes something of the kind, but condenses too much—condenses so much as to be vague, indistinct: and so the Press here tries its hand, but weakly enough, after all." He "wondered if Jo Gilder" would "render" an account of the dinner.
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