Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, May 7, 1890

     4.50 P.M. W. just finished dinner. A strong odor of soap in the room, of which he said: "They have been making a show of cleaning today, if it can be called that: scrubbing, washing, dusting, arranging, in a general sort of way." As to his own health? "I am improved, I think—so to call it—but my improvements as a rule are not very radical."

     Gave me a copy of The Author—dated February—containing a Whitman passage: extract from the Philadelphia Times (probably one of Jim Scovel's farragoes). "It may interest, if not instruct, you." Looked rather better, but weak. Said his sickness did not trouble his eyes. Writing some today: a

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couple of sheets there, with freshly-written fragmentary lines of poems.

     Asked of Philadelphia and of the big speculations in buildings now remarkable there—commenting: "Years ago, when I was a young man—I knew a man in New York named Holt: a curious, interesting man who excited my curiosity those years. He had come from Cold Spring, Long Island—where, by the way, my mother might be said to have come from. He was an expert in preparing fish, eels, the like—at least his wife was—together working—succeeding wonderfully well—accumulating 12 or 15 or 20 thousand dollars. Eventually he got the bee in his bonnet: he wanted a big place—built one: down on Fulton Street, near the ferry, as you cross over to Brooklyn: a good place in its day, and standing yet, I believe: he called it Holt's House, or hotel, or something signifying the same. And here was his struggle, in which he finally went down. He put all his own money in cash on the place—then on top of it a mortgage of a hundred thousand dollars. I stopped there a number of times, when I had been out in the country: it was not expensive, [was] clean. But Holt had it in a crisis year, could not continue—was sold by the sheriff. The old man was heroic: he was grey then and not extra strong—but the two bravely went to work again—started another little restaurant—Holt, however, before long dying. He was too old, stupid, worn out, to make a decided stand against fate. The moral of [all of] which is, not to over-vault what is innately possessed—not to build your buildings too high!"

     He sat with his hat on—the air chill outside and damp.


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