Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, December 28, 1888.

     8:10 P. M. W. lying on bed. Just helped there by Ed who was adjusting the covers. W. of course dressed. Rather a bad time again this afternoon and evening. Nothing decided. W. brightened up some on my entrance. "Take a

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seat, Horace: and you, Ed—turn up the light."
Then asked me: "What is the new thing with you? How has the day gone?" He said he had written Bucke "a postal—a short postal." No visitors. George Whitman in yesterday: thought (Ed says) W. looked better every time he came. W. had sent off almost all the rest of his batch of Posts, Ed taking them to the postoffice—pockets stuffed full. W. said last evening: "I should send a few to England—to Mary Costelloe, to Ernest Rhys." Sent the Bucke letter along, mainly. W. said: "I had a note from Mrs. Fairchild acknowledging the book. It is a good note. She speaks of the book as being 'sumptuous.'" "Sumptuous? sumptuous? that 's scarcely the word." W. at once: "Nor do I think so: sumptuous means parchment, vellum, gilt bindings: that is scarcely the word."

     Referred, pleased, to Kennedy's enthusiasm over the title page. I reminded him of my original favor. He said: "I see it better now: you are confirmed: I am for my own part more and more willing to accept it." I said I was glad that going back that day to Brown with the Romeo picture I had insisted on a retrial. W.: "Yes, I am glad you persisted: we have many reasons for congratulating ourselves: the Romeo curls would have been an accusation of our dying day. The picture wholly satisfies me—even the ruggedness you properly speak of: and in your reflections on the page does there seem to be any significance in the outlook of the face?" Secured two copies of the Sunday Herald to-day containing three quarters of a column about November Boughs. Sent one to Bucke. Brought the other to W., who questioned me. "What is it like? is it favorable? Extracts mainly, eh? What do they purport?" I described. W. inquiring: "Is it well done? well selected?" I put it and copy of The Publishers' Weekly with second notice of November Boughs on the table. The latter spoke of W. as a "rugged old reformer," which made him laugh. He made me repeat it several times. Also found at McKay's copy of Boston Republic containing a notice of the book. Sent for copies

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for Bucke and myself. When McKay read W.'s note to-day about E. P. G.'s book he said he had no enthusiasm himself— "from the first would just as lief W. had sat down on it." Showed me proof sheets. W. interested in all this. "Gems of Walt Whitman." He dreads such volumes: "gems," "brilliants." "Is my time at last here? Alas!" Was he curious to see the book? I would bring the sheets I had seen to-day. "Oh no! not at all! I can think of no reason for which I should desire to see them." Again questioned me: "So you think Sanborn's letter a good one?" Then: "If there are precious copies of Leaves of Grass, he has 'em!—one from Emerson, one from Thoreau: one that belonged to Thoreau: that is sacredness itself!" Further: "Emerson said to me: 'Henry carried your book around Concord like a red flag—defiantly, challenging the plentiful current opposistion there!'" I said: "But Emerson: did he carry his copy around?" W. smiled. "Scarcely so: that was not his way: he probably never apologized for it: all the same he did not go out and sow it in the world."

     No letter from Garland yet. Saw Ferguson. Got his receipt and "certificate," as W. asked. Opened and counted big books with Ed in the parlor. Among the letters W. gave me yesterday was one from Bucke very specific about W.'s diet. W. said to-night: "It is—yes it is—a very good letter: I am conscious of it even though I do not obey it—conscious it should be obeyed. I know no one better able to say these things than Bucke." Bucke had advised that the letter be shown to Walsh, who could give more direct instructions. W. has not done this: it is doubtful if he will, though he may. I wrote Bucke that Harned had often agitated towards the same end. W. not careful—not avoiding certain foods when he should. But W. goes his own path. W.'s serenity, cheer, control, at least qualifies the evil effects of his indiscriminate eating. Again as to Sanborn: "So you like the letter? so do I." I added: "It is reserved, but all the better for that." W.: "Reserved—and what?" He had not heard. I repeated. "Ah! that 's

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just it. I think I can count on Frank: it is characteristic of him these years to be quietly self contained."
He pointed across the footboard to the table. "Over there is a big envelope: I laid it aside for you: I put in it the essay Frank sent me. It is a speech on Emerson delivered before the Geothe Club in New York. Then I put along with it Hamlin Harland's"—he always gets the name wrong—speaks of it as a "perverseness"—"piece on the Single Tax, whatever that is." I searched for and found the envelope, W. having written upon it:

"from Frank Sanborn
(on the big book)
(lecture on Emerson & Hawthorne to the Goethe Club N Y also Hamlin Harland's [Garland's] piece on the 'single tax' give it to Horace if he cares for it.)"

     It was curious. I resumed my seat. "You found it? Good! I laid it aside for you. These things are easy to lose in the confusion of this room." Had he read the Sanborn piece? "Yes—every word of it: it is very interesting: but not weighty, not vigorous—contributes nothing new: smooth, literary, all that: the something beyond not there." As to the Single Tax: "I left that wholly for you—did not attempt to read it. Hamlin writes more than a column: it is from The Herald—Boston Herald: I know nothing whatever about the subject." I asked W. about the accented e in Goethe in the Bucke letter. He said quickly: "I know: I saw that myself: indeed, started to correct it: it looked odd and unusual and wrong to me: somehow at the last I missed it." Kennedy told W. in his letter about a man whose leg was cut off by the train Kennedy was riding on. W. said: "I wish he had n't tried to be so damned vivid: the picture has bit in on me—I can't shake it!" He asked me: "Have you read Dick Stoddard's piece yet? I want to hear what you have to say about it." Ed says W. gave Dr. Walsh a big book to-day.


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     Bucke is crying for a copy of the big book with an inscription from W. in it. W. said he would write something on a slip for Bucke to paste in. "That will do, won't it? I had not forgotten: put if off from day to day: that 's all." Lets Ed help him more than usual nowadays. "I am getting worse and worse on that score—on the verge of giving out entirely." He is greatly taken with most of the new books I leave with him. The night I took him Sebastopol he sat up till after ten with it—confessed its "terrible attractions." He is like a child in his curiosity to see a new thing. He gave me another of his rough draft letters. "It was to Einstein: but who does not matter it describes the fix I was in after my upset—after I had settled here in Camden. I was beginning to feel easier about my shaking up when I wrote that: life was reviving: I was getting a little like my own self: certainly was spiritually realizing life once more—tasting the cup to the full. Horace, you were a mere boy then: we met—don't you remember? Not so often as now—not so intimately: but I remember you so well: you were so slim, so upright, so sort of electrically buoyant. You were like medicine to me—better than medicine: don't you recall those days? down on Stevens Street, out front there, under the trees? You would come along, I would be sitting there: we would have our chats. Oh! you were reading then like a fiend: you were always telling me about your endless books, books: I would have warned you, look out for books! had I not seen that you were going straight not crooked—that you were safe among books." I asked him: "Well Walt—do you still think I go straight—that I am safe?" He patted me on the head. "You've gone from good to better right along: it 'd have to be a damned crazy book to fool you. Why, Horace, I tremble in my boots for Leaves of Grass every time I see you open your eyes!" I said: "Walt, do you remember the day you buried little Walter? How we met—walked a bit: how we had quite a little chat: how you took the car at Fifth Street—at Stevens there: how we met again

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an hour or so later on the boat? I look back and see it all: you said: 'Horace, it does me good—this air does me good: sort of makes me whole again after what I have gone through to-day.'"

     W. was very quiet for a while. I wondered if he remembered meeting me that day. Finally he stirred around on the bed and exclaimed: "Yes! now I do remember it: not all the details you mention but the circumstance: and I remember what maybe you have forgotten: that on the boat you bought some wild flowers from an old nigger mammy who had been all day trying to sell them in the city and was going home dispirited: you bought her flowers and handed them to me. Do you remember that?" When he spoke of it, yes. W. was palpably moved. He said in a hushed sort of way: "Read the letter, Horace: read it to me."


Camden, Nov. 26,'75.

My dear Einstein:

On coming back here I find your letter of the 20th. It is so kind (bringing up old memories, and making prologue and ceremony unnecessary) that I will at once answer it in its own spirit, and reveal the situation.

My paralysis has left me permanently disabled, unable to do anything of any consequence, and yet with perhaps (though old, not yet 60.) some lease of life yet. I had saved up a little money, and when I came here, nearly three years ago, I bought a nice cheap lot, intending to put on a small house to haul in, and live out the rest of my days. I had and yet have a sort of idea that my books (I am getting ready, or about have ready, my completed writings, in two Volumes—Leaves of Grass, and Two Rivulets) will yet henceforth reliably furnish me with sufficient for grub, pocket money, &c., if I have my own shanty to live in. But my means, meagre at best, have gone, for my expenses since, and now, while not hitherto actually wanting (and not worrying much about the future, either) I have come to the end of my rope, and am in fact ridiculously poor. I have

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my lot yet clear, and it would be a great thing for me to be able to build forthwith a four or five room shanty on it and haul in snug and quiet, with the sense of security for the rest of my days—for I feel yet about as cheerful and vimmy as every, and may live several years yet—indeed probably will—and may write some—though my days of active participation, and ganging about in the world, are over.


I get out a little nearly every day and enjoy it, but am very lame—keep stout and red as ever—grayer than ever—am feeling pretty comfortable as I write—have just returned from a three weeks' jaunt to Washington and Baltimore—which has much refreshed me, (the first time I have been away from my anchorage here for nearly three years.) I often recall the old times in New York, or on Broadway, or at Pfaff's—and the faces and voices of the boys.


     This was written on all sorts of pieces of paper—six pieces. Two pieces of a letter from Pete Doyle. One piece a letter from Josie Morse, New York. Pete used the stationery of the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Company. I said to W.: " That 's not as gloomy as some of your letters written in the same period." No—maybe not: I was feeling better the day I wrote that: it was then as it is now: one day I'd feel sort of completely knocked out—gone: then another day all my bodily ills would seem to leave me—then I'd feel almost like my complete self again: what my letters were would depend upon which of these days I wrote." I said to W.: " You 're still talking of that old shanty—your shack: you asked for a hut and you got a house." He laughed. "Yes: I 've asked for lots of things and got something else." He said further: "I have always had an idea that I should some day move off—be alone: finish my life in isolation: it may not seem just like me to say that, but I 've felt so: at the last, after my fires were spent. For the most part I have desired to remain in the midst of the hurlyburly—to be where the crowd is: to make use of its mag-

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netism, to borrow life from its magnetism: my heart is always with the people, in the thick of the struggle."


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