Commentary

Disciples

contents   |   previous   |   next
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 331] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 

 
Saturday, December 6, 1890

     Still in New York—day altogether busy. Breakfasted with Johnston—meeting all the family except May, who I heard was already down at the Union Square store. Then with Johnston to store itself. A great portrait there—Jarvis portrait—of Paine: beautiful—surely the fairest presentment of Paine I have ever seen—rather the more happy for its evident freedom from elaboration—its tones all low—its treatment hard and effective. Johnston is very proud of it. May here at the store—a bright sweet girl.

     Towards ten I took a Broadway car up to 54th Street, where I found school building and attended convention. Adler, Salter, Coit, Sheldon, Weston present—all speaking but the last. At noon I hastened away—took elevated (6th Avenue) cars down to Rector Station—looking up there at the Mills building and Bush at the top of it—about the eleventh story. Though it had not rained in early morning it now rained hard. With my bundle and Bush (Bush having brought bundle to office) we hastened the several doors to Ingersoll's, finding him on ninth floor in a series—I think four—of busy offices—a number of men or clerks employed. The young fellow stationed near the door was quite brusque. I asked first for Baker. Not in: out to lunch. Was the Colonel in? Yes, but he was busy. I wished to see him. The devil! you cannot! I must. The Colonel is busy with clients—can see no one today. My ire was stirred. Give him my name! He will see nobody! Give him my name—Traubel! He is busy. Here I was quick and sharp. Take my name to him—yes—you must—he will see me. He went out mad and evidently in anticipation of a negative return. But in about a minute came back, crest-fallen, to say, "The Colonel will see you: he says you should step in." And to complete the fall, Baker at this instant entered

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 332] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
from the hall, came eagerly forward, grasped my hand, and asked me all the quick questions which hurry out on the surprise of unexpected meetings. Introduced Baker and Bush—then passed in—Bush not along—thinking to be away but a moment. Ingersoll in the back office—several clerks at work upon books spread about the floor—Ingersoll rapidly picking up one after another of these—citing, etc. He came forward, seeing me—extended his hand: "Well, Traubel—how are you? How is the old man? What's the news?" And when I told him the reason of my coming—that I was there but for a minute—that he was busy and should not be disturbed—he heartily demurred. "I'll see that Mrs. Ingersoll gets the package: don't worry about that! And now—sit down. Busy? Bosh! We can talk anyhow." And swung a chair near his own at the desk. "Now you are here, Traubel, you can tell me what you want for your book—I can write it—understand it," etc., and so after some talk, he wrote letter of dedication—then title-page as follows—reading letter from time to time aloud to see if that was what I wanted—his beautiful round voice full of its melody and power.

Oct 22. 1890.

New York

Horace L. Traubel Esq.


My dear friend;

     It gave me the greatest pleasure on yesterday evening to be of a little use to our mutual friend Walt Whitman. It was something to hand him a flower—a little one—in the December of his life. It seemed to me that we owed it to ourselves to pay a tribute to a great and venerable man who had added so much to the literature of the English-speaking people.

     I send you a substantial copy of what I said.

     Thanking you for the great interest you took in the testimonial without which it would not have been a success


I am yours always


R. G. Ingersoll

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 333] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 

     Oct 21st 1890.
Horticultural Hall
Philadelphia
Testimonial
to
Walt Whitman
Poet and Philosopher
and Man.
by
R. G. Ingersoll

     On the title-page—when he had written "Poet and Philosopher" he turned and said, "Traubel, there ought to be something else there"—the instant after wheeling to his desk and adding, "and Man," indicating the "man" with a splendid dash of the pen. Baker leaned over his shoulders—observantly—and said: "Colonel, you haven't dotted your i's." Ingersoll laughing to say: "I never do." I putting in: "You are too busy dotting other people's!" At which Baker exclaimed, "Good!" and laughed heartily.

     Bob disposed to talk. I offered to go. He resisted. Literature, theology, Parnell, free-will, the Ethical Society convention—all up. "What is the convention for?" he asked. "I think a good deal of Adler." Seeing I was in for a stay of some time, I asked Baker to invite Bush in—and Bush came and was duly introduced. While we sat there, Griffin, partner (young, well-dressed), appeared in doorway. Bob called out, "Come in, Griffin: here is Traubel." And to me: "This is the smiling Griffin," which made Griffin smile all the more—referring to him several times with like pleasantry. All seemed easy—business suspended for the nonce. Bob said, "I differ from Whitman about Shakespeare. He thinks Shakespeare the poet of feudalism, which he was, of course. But Shakespeare was also the poet of democracy—listen"—quoting, etc. One of his

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 334] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
own remarks was this: "Love is born of death—it is a flower that will only grow on the edge of a grave." Speaking of Parnell—brought up the Christian legend—Jesus and the fallen woman: "The mob were after her—wanted to stone her—the master said, Let him who is without sin cast the first stone—and when he looked up he found nobody was a-throwin' stones—and he said to her—neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more. Who is perfect? Did Jesus refrain for the same reason which deterred the mob?" This would seem a startling question. Had he ever asked it of the public? He shook his head. "No, never: the public would not understand it."

     But of course it would be foolish for me to go on to recite what appeared in our talk there. Ingersoll was, as always, bright. Said he had a cold in his throat, but I did not notice that it affected his speech. Spoke to Griffin of some case yesterday—thought he had won it. I asked, "You always win them?" He laughed, "Damn it! no! You see how it is, Traubel: the evidence that is put in, the argument, everything, goes through the brains of a dozen jurymen, of a judge, of another judge, of another. No one can tell what will appear as the result. It is like a dozen refracting lenses set to intercept the same ray: God knows which way the ray will get through!" And he bantered several clients who came in and the clerks that were anxious for every word. Was there full an hour and a half. Finally he said, "Now Traubel—you know where I live: come up—come up: 400 Fifth Avenue." I told him I had some design to get up with Johnston tomorrow evening if I stayed over. He said, "Do—do come: I shall expect you." And the good-bye was hearty enough. "Give my love to the old man. But never mind—I shall see you again!" Baker urged me strongly to run up his way likewise tomorrow afternoon—would wait home with his wife. A vital sufficing glimpse of Ingersoll at his work—which I had always desired. Off then with Bush to our lunch, sorry that Baker could not go along. Then to further session of

 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 335] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
convention—to Johnston's for supper—Bush and wife coming around—and Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Bertha and May going with me to evening meeting (54th Street) at which Andrews (of Brown University), Heber Newton, Brinton, Lyman Abbott and Adler spoke. Reception to delegates following. Then home alone—the girls had preceded me, giving me their night key.
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.