Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, December 6, 1888.

     8 P. M. Ed met me with a smiling face. W. better: had not got up better but had improved during the day. Went upstairs. W. sat in his chair, a pad on his knee, writing a

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letter. Spoke of this before he had answered my questions about his health. "It is for Edward Carpenter," he said: "Edward Carpenter, of England. I have had a regular invasion of English visitors to-day: one of them from Edward—came with a letter of introduction." He laid the pad down on a pile of papers. He had addressed the envelope in ink and stamped it: the letter was written in pencil. "I won't send it off to-day"—he had written about three-quarters of the letter page— "will hold it over: add a little, then let it go, to-morrow: I sat down right after tea intending to send it to the post office by Ed, but found I did not feel well enough: let it go." "Edward" was "likely to come over here at any time." "He has paid us three or four visits: after awhile will come the fifth." I asked: "Three or four? That sounds like too many." This somehow seemed to trouble W. He retorted: "Who the hell should know—you or I?" I was going to say no again but he at once went on: "Carpenter is a youngish man, not now over thirty-seven, I should say: Italian in appearance: radical of the radicals: come-outer: one of the social fellows in England who get constitutions by the ears—stir up thought, progress. Strange to say, too, Carpenter is really liked by the dons, the fellows on top: liked in spite of his radicalism, his espousal of hated ideas." Carpenter was "a Shelleyite": England now "seems full of Shelleyites—so much so, I question at times: is n't there too much of this? too much crying, screaming, for progress? Should n't the brakes be put down?" But he "always rejected" his "suspicions." He came "around inevitable to" his "optimism." "More than all else," he continued: "what I am now going to tell will amaze you." Then he said: Oxford, Cambridge, have too much money—so many thousands and thousands of crowns more than is required for college purposes. How to dispose of this? Here is a vexed question. Finally the idea was hit upon, that lectures be established in the outlying places: not avoiding London, exactly, but mainly confining themselves to the smaller places: regular

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corps of lecturers being sent out: to Birmingham, Bristol—towns of that kind. Edward was very young, yet was chosen for one of these boards of lecturers—chosen in spite of his radical proclivities. The lectures were for the masses—workingmen, anybody who would come."

     W. said Carpenter had "come of wealthy parents." "The father died: they had lived in Bristol: Edward came in for his share of the patrimony: quite a showable share it was, too." C. had been "much attached" to a young man whose "great ambition had been to get a farm of his own to work, to live upon: Edward encouraged him. When he came into his money Edward invested in land: the friend was married: the three lived together: Edward was not always there, yet mainly." W. spoke of it as "near a still larger place." "Edward has described to me the difficulty he found in getting land—getting a freehold: it is almost incredible—he says it is almost impossible to get. Think of it—in a civilized land: land mostly unoccupied: even here it seems the same. They had settled in this place—Edward for some part of the time off on the continent—seeking adventures—interesting himself in the masses: studying." Then: "Remember, Carpenter is a college man, but one of the liberal samples of that class." He had been "given all the advantages": had "availed himself wisely of them." At one time recently he had "started a coffee house in one of the second or third class English cities" "a venture reformatory in nature—supposed to be for the people: but according to the story of my visitor to-day it has gone bad—been given up." The problem now is "for another change." "My visitor man told me they are very much discouraged—talk of coming to America: Edward willing, the friend willing, the wife objecting. I should not wonder if it was yet done." W.: "The strain of that English life seems intense: the fight is going against them: but is it any better here?" He called Carpenter "a noble fellow." W. believed him absolutely friendly to Leaves of Grass: "in fact, to me personally." What would "come out of Carpenter's

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life"
was "yet to be developed." It had for him "the pathos of a half-shadowed history." But: "I did not encourage the young man to talk much to-day: insisted upon the limit on his time: I was not feeling bright." "These vivid young fellows—what are they going to lead us to? The world abounds with 'em: earnest, astute, clarified, wanting to act, seeking progress, progress, progress—the fever of the age!" Then he laughed. "After all" was he "not as radical as the most radical of 'em?"

     Getting off this strain he asked me as he has every day: "What of the baby—the mother? And well still? Tom was in last night for an instant—pretty late." Gave me two letters from Bucke, Dec. 2d and 3d—looked for, found them, himself. They occasioned some talk of his health. W. wished me to particularly read the letter of the 3d. "It seems like sense: the Doctor is level-headed in such matters—not an alarmist: perhaps we should do as he says: what do you think about it?" I will quote the letter itself:


London, 3 Dec., 1888.

Your letter of Friday and Saturday (30th and 1st) came to hand this afternoon and has made me feel very anxious for you. I fear you are suffering a great deal. I have written to Osler urging him to try and do something to relieve that horrible irritation of the bladder that keeps you getting up so much at night, and it seems to me imperative that the bowels should be kept open. I fear that Osler is too busy to give you the attention you require and it seems to me that you ought to have him recommend a good man who would see you every day, and twice a day if necessary, while O. himself would come over from time to time and see you with him. I have also written to Traubel urging him to make some arrangement by which you will be seen at least once a day by some good doctor. I wish I could be with you, but that is impossible at present. I shall hope to hear very soon that proper arrangements have been made and

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that you are more comfortable. I am always affectionately yours,


R. M. Bucke.


     W. said: "Of course you fellows will do as you think best: you do generally: I am in your hands: yet I would have you always lean to the side of mercy—don't oppress me with doctors, nurses, attentions, medicaments: I am near enough dead as it is: yet I may say I am conscious that Maurice is in effect wise—only suggests a necessary precaution." Then suddenly W. asked me: "Don't you enjoy Doctor's picture in the other letter? Read that passage to me."

      "But I have a good fire in my office, have just had a good dinner of roast turkey and potatoes boiled in their jackets (which is the only way potato should ever be cooked), and have a very middling book to read (Obiter Dicta, 2d series, Augustine Birrell), so I feel that I can defy the Pope the Devil and the Pretender—(an old expression of my father's)."

     W. was very jolly over this: "I can defy the Pope the Devil and the Pretender! How rich that is! and the turkey and the potatoes with their jackets on and the very middling book! Oh Maurice, dear Maurice, that 's better than all your medical advice! Why should n't I too defy the Pope the Devil and the Pretender? Why should n't I? Defy them?" He was very happy over it.

     W. said: "I think Bucke is unnecessarily anxious, alarmed: yet I am sure we realize here all the danger he speaks about: it seems to me Osler is doing as well as could be expected—that he is relieving me: no doctor could do more." I suggested: "But Bucke is absent—is therefore more nervous." He granted that: "It is true: you are right—of course we know what animates all the Doctor's anxiety." But he thought "calm" was "enjoined."

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"There are certain things which can be done—certain things which cannot: it is for us to be on guard: more than that is impossible." Said he often wrote the Doctor notes made up of items written different days. "I write a few lines—then lay the thing aside for later news: so to-day—so to-morrow: but if you write the Doctor in the morning tell him I am better: you may call it much better: tell him I am relieved of this terrible pressure: I promised myself nothing: you know, two or three days ago we all thought I was better when it proved only to be a rest before a worse siege: so don't you, don't Eddy, be too quick—we must hold our horses." He thought this had been "mainly" but "not only" a bladder trouble. "I am always more or less constipated." "Last night I got full four hours' sleep—think I slept a clean sweep from twelve to four, undisturbed: Oh! that was a terrible experience Friday—ever since: the going to and fro—pain, unrest." He supposed his description of the one or two bad nights last week was chiefly responsible for Bucke's alarm. "I am not well yet by any means, but then a man in my condition counts little things."

     He spoke of disease in general—epidemics, &c., &c. Then of diarrhea. "How much I knew of diarrhæa in the hospitals—the army: diarrhea was of all troubles the most prevalent." I interjected: "and a bad form of it, too!" W.: "Yes, a bad form: it meant death, death: I nursed many a man down with diarrhæa." He instanced one case of a German—a young man— "a miserable scamp and scalawag he was, too"—yet with "elements in his chaotic nature" which W. "rather liked." "He liked me, too, I think: came there, down with diarrhæa: oh! it was very bad: we nursed him: I was there once, twice, often three times a day: posted the nurses, the doctors." Finally the man "came around, was better." There was "hope of recovery" "almost assurance." "The doctor came to me one evening—said to me: 'We're going to get your boy about again': next day he got a big mess of pork and beans: his mother, sister, smuggled them in—surrepti-

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tiously brought them in."
It had occurred while no attendants were present— "cadets, nurses, doctors, me." The fellow was "ravenously hungry"—he "swallowed the whole mess with gusto—was taken with a relapse—then died: that finished him."

     W. closed his eyes, dropped back in his chair. "I can see him now—it is one of those days long ago—the devilishly obstinate, illiterate boy he was: no one could do anything with him: doctors, nurses: no one but me. For me he would do anything"—as W. put it— "somehow." "Yet I was a perfect tyrant with him. Yes, yes: I can see him now: the close-cropped hair, the beautiful, full, eloquent brown eye—the bullet head—the strong mouth: then as he lay there, pale, sick, thin." He had seen "many such cases, seemingly insignificant in themselves, yet part of the real history of that time." He had "drawn physical lessons" from it—one of them, "how much physical trouble is traceable to stomachic disarrangement." "The stomach, the lower trunk—heed it, care for it"—he swept his hand down his ample front— "there is nothing in legs or arms or head so preciously to be guarded." He said it was curious with "this German lad"—that he "distrusted the doctors"—probably "for reasons no better nor worse than our own." "There seemed to be in him as in all of us at some hours that suspicion—what do the doctors know?—what a mass of solid pretence after all! what the devil is the use of diets, abstentions, prohibitions, squeamishness?" "We all feel that way at times: I know I do: but I know too that it is unreasonable—that the doctor is justified as others are justified." "Yet I feel that the best doctor is bitten somewhat—the best—I don't except any: it is the taint of the preachers—the same thing: the best minister is here or there bitten: they can't avoid it—it is the stamp of their circumstance. Tell that to Clifford sometime: tell him I told you to—tell him for me: tell him I said, beware! beware! it is a poison, a pestilence!" I described Clifford's attendance at the big Farrar reception of

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ministers in the city: hundreds were there: Clifford's swift exit, repulsed as he was by the frightful clerical air prevalent. W. laughed. " That 's a good thing to hear of him—I can see how natural it should be for him: I confess there 's no trace of the taint in Clifford—no air, word, gesture—nothing: he is certainly the most remarkable human being for a preacher I have ever known." Dr. Brinton met C. at the lecture Friday last: was with him at tea &c.: said to me Monday that he thought C. "was an individual of noteworthy character.: W. not "surprised" that B. had "discovered that." "I have no doubt it is so: more 's the wonder when you put that and the minister together."

     I chanced upon a sheet of Ms. on floor—much singed along the edges—evidently had been against the stove. Headline: "On Religion"—something of that sort: asked W.: "Was that matter not printed," &c. He answered: "I don't know: let me see." Took it—glanced across the page. "On religion!" he exclaimed: "God save me!" Then: "Probably something I commenced long long ago—then laid it by for future consideration but never considered." He surveyed the litter about him—under his feet, on the table. "It is getting very bad, don't you think? The worst of it is I am very unsteady on my feet and some day shall have a fall—trip." He said again: "Eddie has been at me time and time again to let him set to and clean up. We must do it—do it before long." He felt himself "getting more and more helpless."

     Spoke of Tom. "He was in, but late: told me a little about the boy." Corning called. Did not see W. Sent up by me to my father a picture of Dr. Bucke for him to see. He had written on the back of it: "My friend Dr. R. M. Bucke came Oct: 15 '88". Still pleads off writing out the checks: "I do not feel quite disposed for it."

     Discussed Epictetus—W. telling me finally to take his little pocket Ep. along. The following is now the full inscription on 1st fly-leaf:


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      "Walt Whitman (sent me by my friend the translator T W H Rolleston, from Dresden, Saxony)——1881"[this in ink—probably written when book was received.] Then came the following—written with purple indelible pencil: "March—1886—T W R is now in Ireland, (Delgany, County Wicklow)—and edits the Dublin University Magazine." "Magazine" marked out with purple pencil and "Review" put above it—no doubt about the same time. This fall he added (now blue pencil): "seems to have left"—evidently meaning review: then writing this: "from 1881 to '88—Have had this little Vol. at hand or in my hand often, all these years —" finally, this, just added the other day in black pencil: "Translated a good part of L. of G. (with conjunction of Dr. Knortz) into German—being printed (I hear) in Nov. '88 in Zurich, Switzerland."

     W. said: "This book has become in a sense sacred, precious, to me: I have had it about me so long—lived with it in terms of such familiarity." I nudged him a bit about the "secret." "You have n't said anything about it, Walt." He was serious at once: "But I have not forgotten: I want you to know it—know all about it: you." I can't make it out. He has something on his mind.


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