Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, September 25th, 1888.

     7.45 p. m. Bad day today. The folks were in a state of quiet anxiety about him. Trouble with his stomach. Must have felt rotten, for he expressed a wish to have Dr. Osler come

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over. This is the first time that he has asked for a doctor himself. Said to me: "I have been wishing all day Osler would come over." It's odd why Osler does not come over. I wrote him Saturday suggesting that he do so. He has not seen W. since early summer—since the day he said: "Well, Mrs. Davis, your old man is better: I am sure he will live over the summer." Baker met Osler and advised him to see W. Musgrove went over and left a note at Osler's this evening. Osler was absent. Harned was in.

     When I entered W.'s room Mrs. Davis sat on the sofa and they were talking together. W. sat in his chair, his hat on. He was as always cordial. Shook hands with me—motioned me to a seat. "Is it raining?" he asked. Mrs. Davis left. Had been reading Pardoe's book again. "I tried to do some work today but gave it up. I have been much upset." I said: "This is one of your bad days?" "I only have two kinds of days—bad days and days not so bad." "And good days?" "No good days in the real sense." Asked me what I had done today. I told him I came empty-handed—everything went wrong today with both binders and printers: and I had no mail. He laughed. "That sounds shady enough to be my report: no mail, nothing at all. Yet let me see." Picked up a couple of letters—one from Kennedy and one from Rhys (nearly a year old): "Oh, here is something but not much." Read me part of Kennedy's letter. Talked rather weariedly—somewhat confusedly here and there, as on that Saturday night in June. "It is the cool weather—I am sensitive to it—it came all of a sudden." What had I done about the stove? I found one. "It will cost seven dollars." He asked: "Is it worth the money?" Then he added: "We will not need the stove at once: it will be warm weather again, perhaps for a month yet." He drew his coat tightly about him. "This is a good little stove over there," he said. "But didn't you tell me last night that it was burnt out?" Yes, that's so—burnt out: but if I sit here and watch it it will do very well: I would not like to leave it alone—it would be risky." I tried to get him to say, "buy the new stove." He

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wouldn't do so—put it off. I warned him about colds. "I will be careful, Horace—I will, I will: I, too, know how important it is for me to fight shy of colds."

     Told him I had written to Stedman expressing his thanks. Satisfied. Was worried some about the books. "On a day like this the six hundred signatures look like a mountainous job." Expressed interest in a paragraph from one of Bucke's letters: "I am reading Carlyle again—Chartism, Past and Present, &c &c. Looking into French Revolution. He is a grand old fellow but not one of the immortals. There are just two great modern books—Faust and Leaves of Grass." W. laughed mildly. "Is it a joke?" "No—I was thinking that was a modification of Doctor's partisanship! I am wondering why he included Faust!" W. adding: "Maurice always goes far enough and on days when he feels particularly good he goes too far." Musgrove came in for an instant. W. asked: "Where have you been?" He had really just got back from Osler's but did not say so. Later W. said about Osler's non-arrival: "It's all right any way—it's all the same, whether I get help or not—all the same: if I get it well and good—better perhaps: if not, just as well if not quite as good." Admitted he felt much relieved this evening. "I'm worse than an old woman with my complaints. I am very dependent on you, Horace, for all the work of the books: if you fail me all will fail—I might as well give up the ghost." The Baxter letter given to me by W. Sunday was about the cottage fund. W. said: "You should take it and put it with the other letters on the same subject: they belong together. That man Law mentioned in the letter excites my affection but I do not seem to connect him with Pfaff's."


The Herald, Boston,
Aug. 2, 1887.

My dear friend:

I enclose for the cottage $285 in two checks of $50 and $235 respectively. On the former you will see the signature of one of the best of your Boston friends—Dr. Wesselhoeft. This will make $788, so far, I believe and I think the remaining $12 will be forthcoming soon.

I wish it might have been done so as to enable you to escape this hot weather altogether, but I hope you can contrive to get away before the summer ends. Shall you get some house that is already built, or do you propose building?

Would you not like in the house a nice fireplace where you could sit and toast your toes before a nice open fire and dream with open eyes as you look at the blaze? I think you would like that better than an ugly black stove that scorches all the vitality out of the air. If the idea pleases you, my friend, Jack Law, the Chelsea tile-maker, would like to send you a handsome set of tiles for it. Law knew you in the old Pfaff days, when he was a landscape painter, but says you probably would not recognize him by name. Very likely you might remember his vigorous expletives and great enthusiasm!

I think I may go on to New York next week and run over to Philadelphia when I shall drop in on you.

Oh! about Hartmann. He was altogether "too previous" and hardly appreciated what he had undertaken. He did not know how to go to work and appointed officers of a society which had not been organized! We all had to sit down on him and the matter is in abeyance. I hope it may come to something later. You may remember I wrote to you last winter about the idea of a W. W. Society.

Faithfully yours,

Sylvester Baxter.


      "I pray God it may be very much later," said W. of the W. W. Society: "What do they want of a Walt Whitman Society, anyway? Are they to dig a hole for me and close me in?" I said: "They are bound to come—Walt Whitman Societies." "Then God help me—I am lost!" "That won't be because you are lost—it will be because you are found." He looked at me. "How do you make that out? Do you justify a Leaves of Grass creed?—boards of explicators?—this line means this, and that line means that, and God damn you for a fool if you don't say so too? Do you go in for that, Horace?" "No—for nothing

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of the kind—nor will the Societies. They will go in for fraternity without a creed—love without a creed. Do you object to that?"
"No—I don't: but can you hold societies together with no more than fraternity as the article of faith?" "Why not? If we can't then I don't want Walt Whitman Societies any more than you do. If we can I want to see Walt Whitman Societies all over the world." W. was very still after this for several minutes. I wondered what he would finally say. I wanted him to say more. At last he spoke. "I say, God bless fraternity, Horace: what else could I say? I stand for that if I stand for anything—fraternity, comradeship: and I suppose that if you can make societies that stand for the same thing (if you can, do you hear? if, if) then I am bound to wish them luck, whether they bear your name or mine or whatever name they bear."

     I said to W.: "That letter to Elijah Fox you gave me the other day is better than the gospel according to John for love." "You have read it? You think it says something?" "Don't you? Didn't you mean it to say something?" "Yes I did——what to me is the most important something in the world—something I tried to make clear in another way in Calamus—yes, something, something." His manner was very fervent. I said: "The letter does not seem like words—it seems like life: it is the collateral for Calamus—the thing that made Calamus possible or went to verify it." W. then said: "I want you to think that way about it if you think about it at all: if the matter has a meaning that is its meaning." This is the letter we talked about:


Brooklyn Saturday night Nov 21, '63.

Dear son and comrade.

I wrote a few lines about five days ago and sent on to Armory Square, but as I have not heard from it I suppose you have gone on to Michigan. I got your letter of Nov. 10th and it gave me much comfort. Douglass I shall return to Washington about the 24th so when you write direct to care of Major Hapgood, paymaster USA, Washington DC—Dearest comrade I only write this lest the one I wrote five days ago may not reach you from the hospital. I am still here at my

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mother's and feel as if I have had enough of going around New York—enough of amusements, suppers, drinking, and what is called pleasure.—Dearest son: it would be more pleasure if we could be together just in quiet, in some plain way of living, with some good employment and reasonable income, where I could have you often with me, than all the dissipations and amusements of this great city—O I hope things may work so that we can yet have each other's society—for I cannot bear the thought of being separated from you—I know I am a great fool about such things but I tell you the truth dear son. I do not think one night has passed in New York or Brooklyn when I have been at the theatre or opera or afterward to some supper party or carousal made by the young fellows for me, but what amid the play or the singing I would perhaps suddenly think of you,—and the same at the gayest supper party of men where all was fun and noise and laughing and drinking, of a dozen young men and I among them I would see your face before me in my thought as I have seen it so often there in Ward G, and my amusement or drink would be all turned to nothing, and I would realize how happy it would be if I could leave all the fun and noise and the crowd and be with you—I don't wish to disparage my dear friends and acquaintances here, there are so many of them and all so good, many so educated, traveled, &c. some so handsome and witty, some rich &c. some among the literary class—many young men—all good—many of them educated and polished and brilliant in conversation, &c.—and I thought I valued their society and friendship—and I do, for it is worth valuing—But Douglass I will tell you the truth. You are so much closer to me than any of them that there is no comparison—there has never passed so much between them and me as we have—besides there is something that takes down all artificial accomplishments, and that is a manly and loving soul—My dearest comrade, I am sitting here writing to you very late at night—I have been reading—it is indeed after 12, and my mother and all the rest have gone to bed two hours ago, and I am here above writing to you, and I enjoy it too. Although it is not much yet I know it

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will please you dear boy. If you get this you must write and tell me where and how you are. I hope you are quite well and with your dear wife, for I know you have long wished to be with her, and I wish you to give her my best respects and love too.


Douglass I haven't written any news for there is nothing particular I have to write. Well, it is now past midnight, pretty well on to one o'clock, and my sheet is mostly written out—so my dear darling boy, I must bid you good night, or rather good morning, and I hope it may be God's will we shall yet be with each other—but I must indeed bid you good night my dear loving comrade, and the blessing of God on you by night and day my darling boy.


     W's last words to me to-night were: "Good bye—bye—bye! And you'll watch all things for two, eh? And see a little more about the stove? I am taking you for granted in all ways, Horace, don't you see? Good night!"


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