Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, June 20, 1888.

     In at W.'s at eight. W. sitting up, awake, the gas burning. Greeted me heartily with his accustomed: "Eh—is that you, Horace?" [See indexical note p358.2] Spoke immediately of his condition. "I do poorly, poorly: this has been as bad a day as any since my sickness began. I do not suffer pain—only great feebleness, inertness, incapacity to think, to see—yes, a sort of general debility of the system. I am convinced that I am in a baddish state—that I have received a severe shock which is not easily, maybe not at all, to be shaken off. [See indexical note p358.3] But I still hope on—I do not give up: expect a clear day yet. The doctor just two hours ago said my pulse was very good—I have eaten my meals today with some relish—so the trouble don't seem to be primarily with my heart or my stomach. I do not seem to want to go down stairs or out of doors—that is the worst sign of all: I alternate between my bed and chair all day long."

     Got from Ferguson today pages 36 to 54. [See indexical note p358.4] In Sands I called W.'s attention to several blunders. This is one of the new verses:

     An Evening Lull.

     After a week of physical anguish,
Restless and pain, and feverish heat,
Towards the hapless day a calm and lull comes on,
Three hours of peace and soothing rest and brain.


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     W. took my reference to the blemishes kindly. "I shall examine them in the daytime. I always thank my friends for pointing out any oversights that occur in my book. I do not just now see your point but I am pretty sure you are right. [See indexical note p359.1] I have been in more or less of a mixed-up condition now for some days." I showed him some other evidences at other points in the proofs all of which he conceded. He asked my opinion of page 37. "Does it seem crowded? Yes? Well, we can throw a line away." "Don't you love your lines too much for that?" "No—not enough to let them spoil the page."

     Referred to the convention. "All is at sea out there still, I suppose. And who is it to be? [See indexical note p359.2] I hate Blaine's protectionism and anti-Chinese principles. The old doctors when called in would ask you to designate the seat of your pain and clap a plaster on the spot then and there and think that made a whole man. Blaine is the old doctor. And there's Depew—a mushy sticky style of a man—a candified Republican; a too-smart critter for me—leaking puns and such things: without bottom or top. [See indexical note p359.3] I rather prefer Gresham whose power papers like the Philadelphia Press and New York Herald belittle. I don't know what to make out of Harrison. The whole gang is getting beyond me: I find it harder and harder every year to reconcile myself to the exhibit they make: they narrow, narrow, narrow every year: after awhile I'll be altogether without a political home unless I build one for myself."

      [See indexical note p359.4] Dr. Osler, by W.'s suggestion, did not come over today. Asked after my mother and father and Anne Montgomerie: "Tell Anne I am well alive yet though not gay—that I may still survive to do the work we laid out to do together." Asked me about Lindell at the ferry. [See indexical note p359.5] "Give my love to all the boys at the ferry—tell them I dream of the ferry: of the water—of the boats going across—of the wagons—everything: it all belongs to me." "I wish I did suffer

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pain—it would make me feel more lively."
 [See indexical note p360.1] W. gave me a Joaquin Miller letter with some jocular remark about the handwriting: "It is here and there about Lord Houghton. I always had the devil's own time reading Miller—in fact, I always left the half of him unread: I could catch the drift but no more. If you can read this letter you beat me: I tried my best at it again this morning but it left me out in the cold. [See indexical note p360.2] I afterward met Moncton Milnes—Lord Houghton—as he as called: a very affable, kindly-disposed man who showed an unmistakable warmth of friendship for me. But see what you can make out of the letter." I did have some trouble deciphering the letter, but I managed to read it aloud to W., who listened and said: "That's the first time the letter has been read, I guess, in full—the first time: why, it is thirteen years old. [See indexical note p360.3] Miller has had a very miscellaneous career since—an item here, an item there, a bit desultory, never seeming to come to quite as much as I expect."


Highland Falls, Orange Co.,
New York State, Sept. 5, '75.

My Dear Walt Whitman:

 [See indexical note p360.4] I have been wandering up and down the house and waiting to hear from Lord Houghton so as to get you two together here on the banks of the Hudson, but he was gone on West the other way. He will return this way as soon as he has done the West when I hope to catch him, and then if we do not get down to see you you are to try and get up here if possible. [See indexical note p360.5] Yet it may be that Houghton will not get back till too late for me here. In that case we will try and get together in New York city. I am off today for Boston on Biz and pleasure and as usual know not when I shall get back: but let me hear from you here for I am very anxious indeed to hear of your health. Do keep up my dear fellow there is lots in the tomorrows for you and I want you to live to see the great sunrise. Now you must answer me and send me that proof-sheet. By

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that time I shall have returned and will know more about what I shall do the next month. Yours ever


Joaquin Miller.


      [See indexical note p361.1] W. said he had had "no letters of interest" today. Had done no proof-reading. "I will put up a stiff fight tomorrow—try to get the stuff ready for you. You must set me right with Ferguson." Referring to Philadelphia Press again W. said: "Smith is the sort of man I find it hard to include even in my philosophy, but Williams, Talcott, he is easy: Talcott is the one excuse the Press has for its existence." Baker says W. has had "an extra bad day." W. mentally clear though slow. He is quite well aware of his condition. "My mind works laboriously," he said. [See indexical note p361.2] "It takes me a long time to get anywhere though I do arrive." W. humorously said: "Music is my worst punishment." I asked: "How's that?" "Oh!" he replied, "the bands out in the street—the drum and fife corpses that go rattling and banging past: they beat my miserable head like hammers." W. again: "I have read the little Stedman poem you left—The Discoverer. [See indexical note p361.3] Yes—it is to the point: it is the kind of work Stedman can do probably better than anybody else." I asked W. "Are you going to die or live? You know more about yourself than the doctors do. You are going to live?" He was very prompt and decisive: "Live? Yes—that's it: live: I've got to live: what else is there for me to do? [See indexical note p361.4] After we have done our work together, then let the curtain fall—but not till then." "That's the way to talk!" I exclaimed. I kissed him goodnight. "God bless you, boy!" he cried. Then I left.


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