Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, December 11, 1888.

     7.30 P. M. Down to W.'s. Everybody there ominous. Great change in Walt. Not out of bed all day: bowels and bladder absolutely beyond control. Had lain still, said nothing, eaten nothing solid: milk: no other nutriment. Ed said: "He is the worst I have known him to be." I went into the room. He laid quite still: yet, as I approached him, recognized me. "Ah! it is Horace!" the familiar cordial voice grown weaker. He made a motion as though to shake hands. Could not lift his hand. But when I placed mine near he pressed it gently. "I hear you have had a bad day, Walt." He answered: "Dreadful! dreadful!" His hand was hot—his head was hot. He said one thing more: "You will find a couple of letters over there on the table: they are tied in a string: I laid them out for you last night: take them along: one is from John—the other is an O'Connor letter: they go to you with the rest." Here he sank back into his pillow: "Oh boy! I 'm tired as hell—oh, tired as hell: I 'm almost at the bottom—almost—almost: God bless you!" I did not stay. I found the letters. Leaned over and kissed him: I could feel a slight return: then glided out.

     Down on the floor were the bundles just as I had left them yesterday—the eight books. On the table was his mail, unopened—even the letter from Bucke. Harry Stafford in. Did not see W. Harned in this evening: Ed had gone to him—told him of W.'s condition. Did not come to me—knew I was due anyway. Walsh along late in the afternoon: prescribed: directed Ed. Ed asked if there was danger; Walsh would not say: he said: "I'll know more about it in the morning." The strange medley in the room: I looked it over some: veritably a work room: here in the lowered light with W. so sick in his bed and his book stuff about him in this inexplicable way: it affected me profoundly. W. said

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but few words to Harned: few to Mary all day: those few of a rather gloomy cast. Perfectly clear-headed. In spite of his seeming fever was very sensitive to the cold to-night: when Ed lowered the window he detected it at once and insisted on having it closed again. Looks like bad times on us again. All anxious and tired. I feel gloomy. But he seems to have a faculty for pulling himself out of the most devilish holes. Maybe he 'll do it again. I wrote Bucke a big letter. Also received a letter from Bucke—specific as to medical attendance. I went over to the Contemporary meeting. Met Gilchrist there. Also Talcott Williams. Much talk of W. Gilchrist took part in the discussion. After the meeting stopped at 328. Ed talked with me. No change in Walt. 11.40 time. I wanted to talk with him about the Rossetti letters. They are crackerjacks. I need to ask him some questions. The Burroughs letter W. had laid out for me was an old one:


Middletown, N. Y., Jan. 12, 1873.

Dear Walt:

I have thought of you very often since I have been up here, but have hardly had the time to write and tell you so. I left W. in great haste, and since I have been here have been in the midst of a very maelstrom of business, all new, all strange and very mixed; but I am now fairly master of the situation, and though I do not expect my troubles are over, yet I am better prepared to meet them. I have got a good accountant, a component attorney, a balance in the bank, and ought to be happy. But it cost me a pang to leave W. I was so warm and snug and my nest was so well feathered; but I have really cut loose and do not expect to return again except briefly. I can make more money here, be much freer, be nearer home, and have a new field for duties. My greatest loss will be in you, my dear Walt, but then I shall look forward to having you up here a good long time at a stretch, which will be better than the crumbs I used to get of you in W. I expected it will take me a year or more to close up this bank; then I shall make me another nest among the

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rocks of the Hudson and try life, my own master. I hope you are well and will write to me, and will go up and see my wife. It is very cold and wintry here, the thermometer at zero yesterday. I have just been out taking a sleigh ride and enjoyed it very much.


I have collected and turned over to the Government thirteen thousand dollars since I have been here and have about a hundred thousand dollars more to collect. By and by I shall have plenty of time to myself.

With much love,

John Burroughs.


     Burroughs' note was addressed to W. at the Solicitor's office, Washington. I remembered W. reading this letter to me himself once—a couple of yeas ago. He said of it: "This was John's midway period: he was just breaking free: he was trying to get out of the bank examining business—to cut loose and go on the land: he says so there, indirectly: 'try life my own master,' as he speaks of it: and this he did—did with crowning success: is now on his feet for good, not only where he wants to be but where he belongs." The O'connor letter was also old.


Washington, D. C., May 29, 1882.

Dear Walt:

I got your cordial letter of the 25th. Congratulations and approval, personal and from the press, are pouring in upon me, but I shall get nothing worth so much as your heartfelt "God bless you," flashing from the finale of your postscript. Next best is your admiration of my lightnings. It fills me with measureless content to know that what I have written is not merely a success with the public but with you.

I had given the letter up and was taken aback by its appearance. Of course I was delighted, for my article puts the matter just in the shape I wanted it to appear—gives us the ground to fight from—a base for operations. It cost me immense labor, for I had to be very guarded and very

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bold at once, blending composure with fury, and was anxious not to lay myself open to the disingeneous enemy. I am satisfied. Let Oliver Stevens and Osgood get over this if they can. It will stick.


It is very probably the beginning of a fight, and we will comport ourselves according to events. Let Stevens or Marsh dare to reply! I will exterminate them. After the affair has gone its full length, some of us—perhaps I—will have the grand closing word, solemn as life, copious as the tempest, in the North American Review. Mr. Rice will give us a hearing.

The moment I get John Burroughs' address abroad, I will mail him a copy of The Tribune, which I have reserved for him. I think John will be delighted with my swordplay. Besides, I want him to know the facts, so that he can fire up the literati abroad.

I wish the article I wrote for Bucke could appear, because a part of it was devoted to the recent critiques on your new edition, and every sentence was a blister. I wrote one in particular on the Rev. Higginson, which I was going to add when Bucke sent me the proof, and which will make Higginson wish he was in another and better world. I have not yet found out from Bucke why his book is delayed.

I earnestly hope the matter will bear fruit in your getting another publisher. If there is one publisher in this country who has the least sense, he will take advantage of the conspicuity the District Attorney has given you, and come forward with an offer to publish.

I had written thus far when your letter of the 20th came containing the article of the Rev. Chadwick in the Sunday Tribune, which I had not seen. Of course I shall answer this clerical blackguard, who has the audacity to accuse me of wilfully and consciously lying, and I shall do my bset to answer him with blasting effect, but I am truly sorry to have to turn aside to the discussion of veracity with such a fly as this. The harm I foresaw from your equivocal statement in The Critic and The N. A. Review, and of which I warned

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you, has come in this letter of Chadwick's. I feared that the enemy would make this use of your language. "Howandiver," as Father Tom says, we must endeavor to turn the disaster to the best advantage, and make something by the operation. I shall certainly try to weave in all the memoranda you send me.


I had a comforting letter, with yours, from Whitelaw Reid—very cordial and friendly and evidently pleased with me, and the poignant and perfumed little note of thanks I sent him after the appearance of my letter. He says: "I took great pleasure in printing your letter, because it was so cleverly done, and because besides I could not help having some sympathy with it." I was glad to get this letter, for the assurance of innings at The Tribune office which it gives me.

I had a splendid letter from Mr. Walter P. Phillips, the head of the Associated Press here, ranking you among "the greatest of living men," and thanking me, although a stranger, for the "taste, eloquence and strength" of my defence. It is very consoling, and shows a real gentleman. Doubtless we shall hear much more.

If we can only send Chadwick to the moon in fragments! My task is to do this, and thoroughly, the first time. No afterclaps. If I fail, his adominable letter will give us trouble. Goodbye

Faithfully,

W. D. O'Connor.


     Went in to see Oldach to-day. Directed that he send books when bound directly to 328 Mickle.


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