Commentary

Disciples

contents   |   previous   |   next
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 245] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 

 
Tuesday, November 4, 1890

     8:00 P.M. Spent about half an hour with W., finding him looking and feeling (he says) better than yesterday. The night rather cool. A hot wood fire burning in the stove. W. sat with his shoes off, saying that the shoes hurt his feet, but shodding himself after I came, making half apology for his condition. He spoke about the election: "Yes, we were out and voted. It went very easy." First occasion in New Jersey of the Australian ballot. "I expected some trouble but everything went as easy as rolling off a log. Warrie piloted me, seeming to know all the ropes," and with a smile, "as a sailor should!" Had he voted right? Yes; that was his "right"—voted for Harned. Inquired

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 246] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
after the appearance of things in Philadelphia. Would, he said, if not so lamed, "delight to be with the crowd today, tonight."

     Had he read the Truth Seeker? "Yes, several times: I was just reading it as you came in. It is all there, all. My surprise is, that they should have been willing to devote so much space to it. Did you send for the papers? Yes? Well, you are right. But do you know, Horace, that publisher—that Somerby, C. P. Somerby—is a real scamp. I knew him: he owes me full $150 today. He got one book from me, then another, and another, and heaped up a debt which he has never paid. He is like our friend here in Camden who builds the still houses; soft and fair and sweet of specch, in externals, but full of nooks, snakes, poisons within." I had never known this of Somerby, so after expressing surprise, said, "If Somerby really owes you this money and has a conscience, will he charge for papers I ordered from him?" I had sent for 50, asking for bill. W. laughed. "You need not wonder about that, Horace. You will get the bill. I have no doubts myself." And further, "You know, boy, the radical atheistical ranks have their scoundrels, thieves, also. There's no doubt about it. There was the fellow in London—I have forgotten his name now: it is about somewhere—he got it in on me bad, and more than these, too. There have been enough others." As to the Truth Seeker: "I am not drawn to it: but our point is that they publish the address, which makes it useful to us." Adding, "I wish to send fully 20 abroad."

     Gave him letter I had received from Bucke; he putting on glasses and reading.

     Had autographed the four books for Bucke, and tied them together with a string for me. But had forgot the Burroughs book again, which made him lament his "failing memory." I must send Bucke's trunk back to Canada. W. will notify him.

     I saw Talcott and Mrs. Williams today; they had asked after W. and now he asked after them. Had been in Adirondacks.

     Had W. yet read "Crimes Against Criminals"? "Yes indeed, and read it closely, too—and accepted it. It encloses the whole

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 247] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
truth on that subject, is the best thing yet. Beautiful, eloquent, fine, expansive, and is a way out, as well. It is quite in the nature of my own ideas on that subject. It ought to have the greatest circulation. Has all the rich quality of permanent work: will last."

     Read him extract from Baker's letter received today:


New York, Nov. 3d 1890.


My dear Traubel:

     Flower, of The Arena, writes me, in reply to mine, that he will gladly welcome Walt Whitman into his pages. He will give him $150 for from 3000 to 5000 words, at WW's pleasure. He says to me: "Let me know about the subject, and when I can expect it." So I leave it with you and W. W.

     As to yourself—Flower says that at present he cannot promise me. He is awfully choked with mss. So we will let that rest a while. I told him that no one on earth knew WW and his philosophy as intimately as you, and no one could be a mouth-piece of it equal to you—etc. and so on. Something will come of it—but in the future.

     Hope you are well. I see WW's article in this month's N. A. Review. Good! Let us keep it up. With best wishes and warm regards,


Your friend


I. N. Baker

     W. said smilingly, "That sounds good—has a true ring. And so you think there's something in that $150?" He had never seen the Arena. "Is it heavy? For heavy subjects? Yes, I see." And on the money matter again, "It reminds me of a story I used to hear and tell with a great deal of enjoyment of some old woman with her whiskey jug and a purchaser not the best for pay. When he would ask for a drink, she would ask, 'Got the money?' and if he answered yes would trot out the jug and descant upon its virtues, how it 'glowed,' 'should be taken at once,' 'none better,' and all that. But if her inquirer had said, 'No, I have no money,' then she closed all bargaining instantly—would rebuke him for his bad habits, and so forth."

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 248] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
And so, if Flower (Arena) hadn't the money, the connection was obvious. But W. said, "I will write for them. You may say so, and I will give you a subject—of course, having some little time to make up my mind." Spoke with high appreciation of Baker's generosity and sympathy, adding, "I am just putting the finishing touches on my second North American Review piece. 'Our National Literature,' I call it. Ain't that a tremenjous subject? It is a handful." I laughed and told him, "I met one man after Bob's lecture who declared, 'I went to hear the Colonel talk of Liberty and Literature. Instead of doing that he spoke the whole evening about Walt Whitman.' I interposed, 'But ain't Walt Whitman Liberty and Literature?'" Both my friend then and Whitman now (particularly the latter) laughing at this sally. W. also added, "We may hope so: but I am sorry for the poor man, too."
contents   |   previous   |   next

Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.