Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 143] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tuesday, May 7, 1889

     8.05 P.M. W. reading Lounsbery's "Cooper." Room mostly closed—rather warm. The day had been fine again. W. himself asked: "It has been another warm day, hasn't it?"—adding as though to his own condition it had only been so-so, "though not of course in any sense what is to be called bad." I had been out in Germantown the main part of the day, working with Clifford over Johnson's Parker manuscript. I spoke to Mrs. Baldwin about a translator for the Sarrazin essay. She said Agnes Gay could not read French as some of us English, but that she would not do anything for W. W., who she thought ought to be razed from the face of the earth. W. was excessively amused when I told him this. "Walt Whitman echoes that sentiment," he said, between laughing. Miss Gay

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 144] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
had further appealed to Mrs. Baldwin to desist on one occasion when reading aloud from W. W.—urging that her high ideal of Mrs. B would be disturbed if she continued. W. again laughing: "Tell Mrs. Baldwin Walt Whitman would advise her to take the advice and stop."

     Had he found the advertisement for the chair? "Yes—I found it. I was in hopes you would come in today. You won't go till afternoon tomorrow? Well—then, anyhow." And he reached forward to his loaded chair. "I made this out for you to be guided by," he said, handing me a card on which he had pasted a sheet containing these instructions:

"Wanted:

"A strong first-rate out-door chair for an old 200 lb. invalid—to be pushed or pulled along the sidewalks and on the ferry boats—roomy chair, back high—ratan or reed seating and back (no cushions or stuffing)

"Go to Wanamaker's first and interview the charge of the chair &c. Department and show his this card—

"Then to Luburg's 145 North 8th Street"

     The above just as he punctuated it—and down in the corner his address, part written and part printed. "Put that in your pocket," he said, "and tomorrow at the proper time use it."

     I was in at Ferguson's today—instructed the correction for title page. Brown somewhat put out, but it was their error unmistakably and they saw it. W. had been today examining more carefully the sheet I gave him, and criticized it in a way precisely like mine to Brown when I first saw the specimen. "I don't think much of the printing, so far as I have seen it—it has a blotchy appearance—it is by no means what I had hoped it would be. But I suppose the sheet I had was but an isolated sheet and not to be taken as a sample. If the whole book had this same appearance, I should not be at all satisfied. But Brown must know—must know full as well as we do and better." I am prepared for some disappointment. His skepticism is justified. Yet he could say later on: "I think that if

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 145] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ever any man should be satisfied in having had his own way pretty much through life, that man is me, Walt Whitman."
And whatever the abatements "the solid fact" of his freedom in that particular remained.

     Harned came in and was heartily greeted. W. inquired after Tom, after the family. "How is Anna?" he asked, "I got a sort of suspicion, from words said here and there, that she was not very well." Afterwards Harned said he had witnessed a base-ball match this afternoon. W. then asked: "Tell me, Tom—I want to ask you a question: in base-ball, is it the rule that the fellow who pitches the ball aims to pitch it in such a way the batter cannot hit it? Gives it a twist—what not—so it slides off, or won't be struck fairly?" And on Tom's affirmative— "Eh? that's the modern rule then, is it? I thought something of the kind—I read the papers about it—it seemed to indicate that there." Then he denounced the custom roundly. "The wolf, the snake, the cur, the sneak, all seem entered into the modern sportsman—though I ought not to say that, for the snake is snake because he is born so, and the man the snake for other reasons, it may be said." And again he went over the catalogue— "I should call it everything that is damnable." Harned greatly amused at W.'s feeling in the matter. W. again: "I have made it a point to put that same question to several fellows lately. There certainly seems no doubt but that your version is right, for that is the version everyone gives me."

     Harned here said that his mission tonight was another than base-ball. Then described a plan of citizens of Camden (Buckwalter and Harry Bonsall and T. B. H. heading), to give W. a testimonial on his birthday. They wished to keep open house at 328, have refreshments there, let the public come, and have W. receive them in such a way as he cared. We all discussed the question, running into great detail. At first W. was reluctant. "You must remember, Tom—must have it understood—I am all banged up, unable to get out, to move around." Adding: "I am starting now to get a chair. Whether

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 146] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I shall get out will be a problem."
Tom argued the wish of Camden people now to show their appreciation of his presence here. W. laughed a little: "I am sure I appreciate all that—appreciate Camden people—but I don't think, Tom, that the globe either begins or ends or is enclosed with Camden." And yet: "I must not be whimmy—must not give myself away to a kink." And to Tom's further urgings: "Well—you must remember the story of the French physician who took a quart bottle to his patient and was told " 'But, Doctor, I only hold a pint!' Remember Tom, I only a hold a pint!" "If I could get out, this thing would better adjust itself—but my getting out is wholly uncertain." As to keeping open house: "I can see no objection to that. It seems to me it is all best left to your own taste and tact. I know, Tom, you are able to set that into order without my help." He was not unmindful of the good-feeling intended— "only, I am an invalid—all knocked up—careful of my ways"&c. I suggested the appointment of certain hours—say, 2 to 4 or 5 in the afternoon—a reception season, so as positively to relieve W. of strain. "Yes," he said "that sounds good—that seems feasible." Harned had come in to consult with W. about it. The point would be to raise a purse, exclusively from Camden contributions: to issue cards, for home and abroad—in other cities,—explaining the design—and having the day so well attested. W. was "well-pleased to have it to"—and said again: "Tell Buckwalter 'Barkis is willin'"—but of course everything "must submit to the exigencies of my condition."

     Showed Tom a copy of the three-quarter picture, which he had put in his big corrections-volume. "Is it good?" he inquired. Tom asked: "Is that the picture Gilchrist don't like?" And W. laughed— "So I have understood. But never mind, never mind!" Harned hit it off with a Shakespearian quip. Then asked W. if he had seen anything of Gilchrist lately. W. shook his head. "No—Herbert gets over very scarcely. It is a long time now." Showed Harned a sheet of the new book—a

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 147] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
cut sheet given me by Brown today—and W. said to me: "This already looks better than the sheet you brought yesterday." Then again: "Time is short—but I anticipate no difficulties with Oldach—it seems plain sailing." As to photos mounted—he came nearer my own fears. "This card will never get out straight. I wish he had followed my own hints on this point—chosen a board more like that I sent him. But the picture as it is has so many virtues. I accept it."

     Has had acknowledgment of book from Carleton. Tom asked him if he wanted anything further in his bottles there. W. said frankly enough: "Yes, I do, Tom—that bottle there." Tom started to denominate what he had, and W. put in: "Nothing but sherry, Tom—nothing but sherry. Whiskey I could not stand, though should I like to!" Inquired after the boy— "that fine boy"—the baby. Talking of getting to the ferry, W. said: "I don't know about that—don't know if I can stand it: it will be a great trip at first and for me!" And as Harned was going out the door, W. called again— "Remember, Tom—I only hold a pint!" Harned asks me to get up a card which he proposes to have engraved.

     As to anything the public thought adverse to his career, W. said tonight: "I should not retort in the words of Vanderbilt—not so severely as that—but can say there is nothing in the world I care so little about—that so little worries me—as what the public may think, say." W. said to Tom of Bucke: "There was a letter came today. Doctor was off Saturday and Sunday to Sarnia. You know about Pardee there—he is very sick—almost dead—dying. This dying a long process, often—but dying he is."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.