Commentary

Disciples

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Wednesday, January 20, 1892

     W. awake—8:20 A.M. —when I reached the house, and I had some little talk with him, reading him meantime Bucke's letter of 18th, in which he took much interest. Had a letter of his own which he kept on the bed—so far unopened. Looked quite well—face even swollen. (I learn that feet and body at various points show such signs.) He had not known of the great snowstorm the night before, yet said, "I feel sort o' glad to have you

 
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tell me about it. I sniff it." I received letter from Gilchrist, acknowledging the books, and enclosing letters from Leonard Brown. Says W., "I am happy for Herbert, somehow. And so he has got the book and likes it? Good—good."

     Wrote [E. C.] Stedman from Bank, making some suggestion of a plan for him to go with me to see W. An hour after letter was mailed Frank Williams in to explain he had the night before arranged to go over to Camden at noon today. So they went. Frank asked as to probability of W.'s seeing them. As there was every probability, I said so. So they went over. Later in afternoon I saw Williams again and he gave me some account of the visit. They stayed only ten minutes. Stedman was for going right up but Williams instructed Mrs. Davis to tell W. they were there and to find out if he would receive them and for how long. Mrs. Davis came down to say they should go up—W. desired it, but were to stay only a minute. The interview warm. Frank says, "Speaking of New York once, and thanking Stedman for all he had done, Walt remarked that he felt very little indebted to New York, for apart from Ingersoll and Stedman very few or none of the fellows over there have done much or anything for us." S. thought this unjust and "bitter." I shook my head—Williams exposing me—I arguing, "I don't see the bitterness of it.""Nor I—it is not bitter." W. alluded to the book and to the copy that had been sent over by Chubb. "There is one on the way," said Stedman. What can have become of Chubb? But W. insisted on giving S. another. Stedman told W. he would be in the city four weeks and probably would call again, W. expressing welcome.

     What was S.'s feeling about W.'s appearance? (I don't think he has seen him since the reception in New York in 1887.) Had never been to Mickle Street house. "I consider him a dying man," and Williams himself said he was "shocked" to see him so changed. S. had taken over beautiful fruits and flowers to W. Williams said further, "He spoke of your Poet-Lore piece: said it was a splendid piece of writing—that you knew Whitman thoroughly, but Lowell not so well. He thinks that if you knew

 
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Lowell as well as you do Whitman, you would perhaps have other opinions of him." His criticism being that Lowell, too, had his inspirations from nature—no man more so. But Williams agreed with me rather than with Stedman. Stedman deeply affected by the whole visit and W.'s great peril and nighness to death. "He spoke to Whitman of seeing him again but I doubt if he expects it."

     I have written Arthur Stedman, giving consent to print the little volume, but asking for a more definite statement of quantity purposed to be used. To McKay's, and there consulted over the statement of accounts. Wrote Rossetti about the shipment of the book, and to Tennyson, also, and Burroughs.

     6:10 P.M. To W.'s—Mrs. Keller washing him. I lingered in his and the next room. When she was done, I heard him call me—and we shook hands, he inviting me to sit down. Mrs. K. speaks to me of his swelled feet, and of their alarm over today's rash, which turned out to be only from the paregoric. On the table half dozen bits of W.'s yellow paper cut to note sheet size. He wished to write today—had Mrs. Davis prepare him the paper, bring him the pencil, help him adjust his glasses, furnish him the pad—yet at this point, he exclaimed, disappointed, "Lay them all away, Mary: I am worn out getting ready."

     Told W. I had written to Tennyson. "What did you tell him?" I went roughly over the ground. "How do you usually address him?" I asked. "Alfred Tennyson: isn't that enough?" And with a laugh, "I guess that will find him—and so far as I know that is all an address is for." Harned rather disappointed in Young's article. Protests W., "Tom is too severe. It is good, good— very good: lively—more or less true—mostly true, indeed—and all these are virtues. John wields a good journalistic pen." Following with the question, "But what of Tom himself? He is about well?" I left Illustrated American with him. He had wished an extra copy and now asked for it. "Stedman was here—yes, and I enjoyed his visit. He is warm, ardent, affectionate, and looks so well. I was surprised to see him so well—I had expected something a good deal worse. Indeed, I think he looks better now than I have ever known him,

 
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far better. I gave him one of the books. He objected that there was one on the way, but I told him to take this, and do with the extra one, when it came up, whatever he chose. They were only here a few minutes, but they were bright minutes." The fruits and flowers in the next room—these he dare not smell (they hurt his throat); those he dare not eat—they would disturb his stomach. He asked for some good brandy—asked me to ask Tom for it. "I am sure then of getting good. I only want a little—a very little." I remarked, "You run risks getting the genuine article.""Yes, you do—there is very little of it to be found."

     McKay today had a letter from Charlotte Fiske Bates. He gave to me and I now gave substance to W., who said, "I have no opinion one way or the other—I leave it with you and Dave—chiefly with you: but I would be inclined to let Charlotte have it." I responding, "I am disinclined—I don't like her letter. She puts her plea on the wrong ground." And I reported that portion of the letter which mentioned her fear to let an unabridged edition of "Leaves of Grass" get popular currency. Then he asked quickly, "What's that? Did she say that?" and I reported my quotation—he suddenly exclaiming, "Bosh! Bosh!" and finished up with a reply which was droll and made me laugh, "I guess Charlotte had better not have it." Then, "I agree with you, Horace. Clinch the matter with Arthur—get up some agreement between you." And I was to "give a negative to Charlotte." His manner was amusing and cool.

     Said he had read some "but precious little," that he only felt "so-so" with "no margin of comfort." Inquired again after McKay's wife, who is better. (He never forgets the sick.) Objects to McKay's charging of 84 cents per copy for the '92 copies in sheets and paper cover. "It is too much—50 cents—or 55 at most—is enough." Again, referring to himself, "You are all very good to me—more than good. I lose one point after another: I guess this is the last stop."

     7:50 P.M. In for only a few minutes. W. sleeping quite soundly. Warrie worked about in the room and once spoke to W., but without response.

 
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     12:10—midnight. Again in. W. again sleeping soundly. Had only called Warrie twice between nine and twelve. Warrie often in room, but W. seemed not to notice.

     Stedman remarked to Williams that though W.'s speech was slow and labored and painful, the words lingering one after another—there was yet the most absolute coherency and perfection of phrase—which showed a sane and clear mind.

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