Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, June 12, 1888.

      [See indexical note p306.1] Saw Ferguson today. Said he was willing to hold type for several days to learn the results of W.'s illness. At 6.30 met Bucke, Harned and Frank Harned at Broad Street station. Bucke went off from Ninth and Green. Feeling greatly relieved. W. much better. Over to Camden. I promised Bucke I would write him daily concerning W.'s condition. Bucke is to come on in case any serious change occurs. Went to 328. W. sitting in his bedroom, looking renewed, quite like himself. [See indexical note p306.2] Talked at once and freely about his illness and his hopes. "It was a close call—a close call," he said, "but I can now, I think, see the edge of the woods. The Doctor, and Mr. Baker here, have been poking me full of medicine—full of it—of so much I'm sure I shall by and by leak medicine at every pore. The Herald has it, I am dying—but though it has been a rub, I guess it's not just that. I had a telegram from Jeff—brother Jeff—at Pittsburg: a worried telegram: I have been afraid he would see some of these alarmist reports. [See indexical note p306.3] No doubt I got on the nether side of fate for a day or two but—well, here I am, dying, perhaps, as The Herald says, but not dead. I guess I know the gravity of my situation—no one needs to tell me about that—and as for what I have passsed through the past three or four days, I reckon I know what that was better even than the doctors-eh? Baker?"

     Talked of his diet today. George Whitman and his wife had been in. Pearsall Smith also. "Smith sails for Europe tomorrow." [See indexical note p306.4] Alluding to the Emperor Frederick William, W. said: "He is said to be in a still lower condition. He is doomed—bound to die. If I thought praying would be

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of any avail I would pray for him. I seem to be greatly interested in him. Why is it? Perhaps it's only a whim of mine. Years ago I read something about him—a newspaper paragraph—perhaps not a credited paragraph—perhaps without authenticity—which reported him as saying: 'Were I emperor there would be no more war!' Oh! how that has clung to me!—it seemed so good. [See indexical note p307.1] That thing, a few other things similar, had given me great hopes for his emperorship. It was not the Emperor, but the man, in him that touched my heart. The medical men are making a big fight for him. I consider his case and Sheridan's a tribute to science—a proof of what medical science can do—medical science, with power to grab a man at times out of the very clutches of death. [See indexical note p307.2] It's all owing to the doctor and the woman—Doctor Mackenzie and that wife—that noble, plucky English woman."

     W. was interested in our experiences with him since Saturday. "I am convinced that the shock was a nearly mortal one in spite of Dr. Bucke's fear that we might make too much of it." Again spoke of the drive to Pea Shore Sunday. "Had I stopped on my return that day and got some champagne at the Harned's, I am sure all would have been right. No doubt I got chilled without being conscious of it myself: but the pleasure was very great—very great: my nag stood in the water for fifteen minutes while I looked across the river—saw the sun go down."

      [See indexical note p307.3] W. asked me what was my middle initial, which he has never used in writing my name. "You know, Horace, I propose making you, along with Dr. Bucke, and Tom here, my literary executor." Asked me my age—then said laughingly: "You look surprised. Well—now you must behave!" He had drawn up a will today in his own hand. He gave it to Tom and asked: "Will that not do?" Tom read it and demurred somewhat, saying the legal conditions were not all observed. W., however, asserted: "No

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court could overthrow that—no one could question it: I'd bet it would hold water anywhere."
W. said to me: "First of all, I want to protect Eddy. Eddy must be protected at all hazards. [See indexical note p308.1] [W.'s imbecile brother for whom W. always felt peculiarly responsible. He had made a sort of pact with his mother to see Eddy through "at whatever cost," as he said.] Then I want to have this stuff round here taken care of—in the hands of people who know what to do with it. It would all be lost on my own family—there's not one of them who knows a from b in such things." Tom is to see W. about the will finally tomorrow.

     W. gave me a copy of the original edition of O'Connor's Good Gray Poet, also a copy of The Radical containing the first publication of Mrs. Gilchrist's A Woman's Estimate. [See indexical note p308.2] W. Spoke of the O'Connor pamphlet as a "vindicator" and of Mrs. Gilchrist's "estimate" as "the proudest word that ever came to me from a woman—if not the proudest word of all from any source." Harned said to him: "You're bright enough to be your whole self again, Walt." "I'd have you know I am my whole self again," replied W.— "I'm a little shaken but back on the throne." [See indexical note p308.3] He had actually gone over some of the proofs today and made some changes. He had made up a roll for me. "I have written Ferguson all that is necessary: a few pages are changed about again but most of them are now ready for casting. You will see, Horace, I take in one more page for the Sands—it must come out on an even number, you know: seventy is even: and so I must look up something to fill it with." [See indexical note p308.4] Handed us both copies of a Curtz sheet of his poems containing Halcyon Days, After twenty Years, and Yonnondio, explaining: "Be damned careful so's not to let the sheets get lost—I think one of the poems is yet unprinted though bought by some magazine." Always very loyal on that point. Harned asked: "Is there any-

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thing I can bring you to eat?"
"Perhaps a little ice cream, Tom—nothing more." Suggested Mrs. Harned should come to see him tomorrow: "She knows my ways, as you do"—adding: "But don't bring any others in—except"—turning to me— "your mother and father, Horace, and Agnes, and Anne Montgomerie. [See indexical note p309.1] Give my love to all the rest—explain that I am tied down to my chair here—that my head needs to be humored, coddled, for a few days. I ask for a few days' furlough—that is all!"

     W. asked me: "Did you read the will? What do you think of it?" [See indexical note p309.2] I had not read it. Turning to Tom: "Let Horace see it, Tom: he is quite as much concerned in it as the rest of us—the sin is on his soul, too." Harned went out to get W. some ice cream—was away about half an hour. We helped W. to his bed before Harned's departure. While H. was gone we continued to talk, W. again referring to the will:  [See indexical note p309.3] "I do not think I need to explain why I have left myself in your hands in this matter—Doctor's, Tom's, yours. I might say it this way: I feel more secure in your hands: I hardly need to say anything beyond that." W. a little merry about his condition the other day. [See indexical note p309.4] "Was I a little daffy? Did I talk nonsense? That was only a mood: Horace, I do not think my mind will ever go: I think I will go before my mind goes. The throne may occasionally reel but it never gives way."

     W. passed over to me an old 1882 letter from O'Connor. "There's something in it from Professor Loomis about Emerson. [See indexical note p309.5] I know you think William made rather too much of Emerson's endorsement: I guess I do too: but William treats the whole business with such a magnificent swing that it is almost convincing. I want you to put these letters with your other Emerson-Whitman documents. You will have twenty chapters to your Emerson story by and bye." He was quiet for a few minutes. I did not break in. Then:

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"It is O'Connor's theory that the enemy made too much of their charge that Emerson repented of his 1855 letter—that the charge is baseless, that all kinds of evidence exists to that effect. [See indexical note p310.1] From that point of view you can see that such testimony as this given from Loomis is not only in order but probably very significant, if not conclusive."

     By this time Harned was back with the ice cream. W. sat up with his legs hanging out the side of the bed and ate the cream eagerly, saying to H.: "Tom, you are a buster! This is the best thing I have tasted today!" W. afterwards laid down again and we withdrew. I went with H. to his home. [See indexical note p310.2] Read the will. Talked about it. [This will hung fire between Harned and W. until the 29th, passing back and forth.] The will was finally thus endorsed: "Last Will and Testament of Walt Whitman in his own handwriting properly witnessed June 29 1888." This is the will:

     The last will of Walt Whitman written by himself June 29th, 1888, at Camden, New Jersey.

      [See indexical note p310.3] I give one thousand dollars to my sister Mrs: Mary Elizabeth Van Nostrand of Greenport, Suffolk county, New York State, to be paid to her by my executrix or executor within six months of my death.

     I give one thousand dollars to my sister Mrs: Hannah Louisa Heyde of Burlington Vermont—the time and payment thereof to be left to the discretion of my executrix and executor. [See indexical note p310.4] I also give one hundred dollars additional to be immediately paid to Mrs H L Heyde to be handed over if she feels to do so, to her husband Charles L. Heyde.

      [See indexical note p310.5] My house and lot 328 Mickle street Camden New Jersey—and all my furniture—and all my money in the bank whatever—and all estate and property—I hereby give bequeath and devise to my brother Edward L Whitman (now boarding at the farm of Mr. and Mrs: Goodenough near Moorestown New Jersey).—As the said Edward L Whitman is mentally

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incapacitated I appoint and specify the hereinafter executrix and executor—to have sole and legal ownership, sale, direction, &c. for the fullest possible manner in the said spoken of property and money.

      [See indexical note p311.1] I wish the Executrix and Executor of my will should be my sister in law Mrs: Louisa Orr Whitman and my brother George W Whitman (now resident at Burlington New Jersey, husband and wife)—these two I wish possessed whole and several ownership and legal control of all my effects, money, of my house and lot 328 Mickle Street—Also that my said executrix under this will is hereby comprised as sole and complete executrix as and whenever she thinks proper. [See indexical note p311.2] I mean in my name to empower in all means for this money and property as trustee and executor by her the said Mrs: L O Whitman for the use of said my brother Edward L Whitman.

      [See indexical note p311.3] I also give and bequeath two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) to Mrs. Susan Stafford wife of George Stafford, now of Glendale, Camden county, New Jersey.

      [See indexical note p311.4] I give and bequeath two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) to Mrs Mary O Davis, now of 328 Mickle street Camden New Jersey.

      [See indexical note p311.5] I give to my brother George W Whitman the portraits of my father and mother (two small oil paintings and one framed photograph) and one old large Dutch portrait—four altogether—for said G W Whitman. Also the big mahogany table to said George W Whitman.

      [See indexical note p311.6] I give to Thomas Donaldson the big arm chair presented to me his children. I give to Harry Stafford of Marlton New Jersey my gold watch. I give my friend Peter Doyle the silver watch.

      [See indexical note p311.7] I desire that my friends Dr R M Bucke of London, Ontario, Canada, and Thomas B Harned, of Camden, New Jersey, and Horace L Traubel, of Camden, New Jersey, shall be absolute charged of my books, publications and copy-

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rights, and to manage and control the same—and make such use as they decide on my literary property and copyrights—any profits arising therefrom to be paid to my executrix or executor as before specified

      [See indexical note p312.1] I give to Al Johnston, Jeweler, of New York City my second arm chair, ratan seated. I give Mrs. Mapes, twenty dollars ($20). I give Mrs. Nancy Whitman, my brother Andrew's widow, fifty dollars ($50).

     In sign of my writing my name

     WALT WHITMAN

     all the above in

     Walt Whitman's

     handwriting

     In testimony of the following witnesses present

     Mary O Davis., Nathan M. Baker.

      [See indexical note p312.2] Harned and W. had another tiff about the legality of this paper. H. said: "It can't be mistaken but it won't hold.". W. a bit nettled retorted: "It'll hold all well enough I'd bet, Tom. Anyway, it need not be final: we can set it straight any time."

     Now for the O'Connor letter. W. Says of O'Connor: "He is always good for a good fight."


Life Saving, Washington, D.C., June 19, 1882.

Dear Walt:

 [See indexical note p312.3] I have yours of yesterday, and am happy in the thought that you find my second letter telling. I think it indicates the line to stick to, and I don't see how Chadwick can climb over it. The enemy would give much to be able to break down the Emerson letter. That is what they will try to do, and my reply to Chadwick will make it harder than ever for them. [See indexical note p312.4] When we get them fairly shut up on that point, we will proceed to further action.

Meanwhile, be careful not to make any unguarded admissions, so as to call for defence. We must not be detained

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on side issues. I burn to resume the thunder and let the levin fly at Marston. He need not think he is going to escape. At present I am only perplexed by the problem how to make the other side fight. [See indexical note p313.1] So far, the affair is too much one way, and they seem cowed. Oh if you only had a publisher! What a chance for advertising is slipping by.


I am anxious not to be dragged away from the main question into the discussion of side issues, and am therefore in doubt whether to reply to "Sigma." Of course, it is a fine chance for the catawampus chaw, as this bogus "experienced critic" will find out if I go for him, but it seems too much like being drawn away from the trail. [See indexical note p313.2] On the other hand, The Tribune invites my attention to Sigma's "assertion" about the "disgusting Priapism," which is, of course, a disgusting lie, and I have to make up my mind whether the point is worth scoring. I have been talking today with Professor Loomis who was up in Concord when Emerson's letter was published, and heard him talk on the subject. He says Emerson's enthusiasm about the book was great, and that he never said a word, nor assumed any tone, pointing to any discount or qualification. [See indexical note p313.3] Emerson's prominent consideration about Leaves of Grass was its newness. He spoke of it as absolutely a new manifestation of literature—a fresh revelation. Professor Loomis is very strong about the impossibility of Emerson ever having gone back upon his letter. The tone he took, he says, precluded this. He says that undoubtedly Emerson was subsequently much annoyed at what the publication of the letter brought upon him—the swarm of "trippers and askers" that surrounded him with demands as to how he could defend such a passage as this, and what he had to say to such an expression as this, etc., etc., and that he may have expressed his annoyance, said petulant things, wished you more than once at the devil, etc., but that was all, and that he never qualified his original utterance—never! [See indexical note p313.4] This is Professor Loomis' view—a dis-

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tinguished man, a witness—and it has weight and force at this time.


 [See indexical note p314.1] Thoreau, he said, was equally or nearly equally, strong in favor of Leaves of Grass, and so were the other Concordians. All this knocks the "disgusting Priapism" assertion endways. Of course we must expect all sorts of hardy lying, but we must allow nothing and demand proof of everything alleged.

Another question is as to the genuineness of the Sigma letter. The Tribune editorial shows a desire to put in something as a makeweight, and to seem biased against me, while admitting my letters and letting me do all the mischief I can, and Whitelaw Reid's notes to me have a cordial tone which sustains this view. [See indexical note p314.2] Hence the Sigma letter may be got up as a counterpoise. At any rate, it is let in in sham equity. If genuine, who wrote it? Sigma is the Greek letter S, which might stand for Spofford, the librarian of Congress, who is unfriendly to you. [See indexical note p314.3] I will decide soon whether to answer this serpentine signature.

Apropos, Professor Loomis says he wrote to you for a copy of your book, which he is anxious to get. I wish you would let me know the price, as I have enquiries on this point, and can only suppose it is two dollars, like the Osgood.

I sent John Burroughs one of yesterday's Tribunes, which I hope will reach him.

The day here is bad for heat, and I sit soaked, after a sleepless night, not fit to write a letter or anything else. Congratulatory epistles continue to flow. All taffy so far, except "Sigma," whose lucubrations make me think of dear old Gurowski's phrase of objurgation—"Sir, you are an asinine assish ass!" [See indexical note p314.4] This is too mild, but nevertheless it faintly describes Sigma.

Goodbye.

Faithfully,

W. D. O'Connor.



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