Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, May 17, 1890

     5.30 P.M. W. sat in his black coat, in his own room, reading Symonds' book on Dante, of which he at once spoke to me. "It is a new edition: Symonds has sent it to me. Look at the print—don't you think it handsome? An alluring book: personal, strong—a bit out of John's own big heart. After I am done with it I want you to take it and read it."

     Doctor not down to see W. after I left with him yesterday afternoon. Too tired last night. Went to bed at Harned's immediately after supper. This morning gave me a few lines additional to make up his piece for the May Conservator. W. asked: "So you think he has gone away? gone home? [i.e., to Cape May]. Well—I have been sitting half expecting him all day."

     I left with him a copy of the Critic. Curious about some Carlyle anecdotes I told him were there. Also left with him a copy of the Conservator which I had. "When will you bring the others?" he asked. And then: "Bring them in the morning—early as you can: then I can put them up at once: there are a lot I want to send off." Out today again. "The carriage was here: we went along up to Pea Shore: you know Pea Shore? And there I got out of the carriage and sat down awhile, looking over the water. Oh! it was a great day! I enjoyed it—breathed it in—bathed in it!"

     I told him Doctor thought he [W.] ought to write something for my paper. He laughingly said: "How should I dare? After this, I shall not aspire to write anything—to assume that anybody wants my handiwork. After the Century has gone back on me I must take new bearings—see where I stand." Had he sent the poem to Scribner's? "No, I have done nothing with it." Wished me to point out the new paragraph in Bucke's piece, which I did. Then: "Doctor puts it strong, don't he? But then, as someone has said, when you have a statement to

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make, make it with full vigor, with all its implications: and Doctor seems always able to do that."

     Of Rudolf Schmidt and American humor: "He considers it the raciest in the world, and so, often little characteristic bits I come upon I put up and mail to him." I asked W. if he had seen the piece in yesterday's Press. "'Walt Whitman's Grave,' you mean? O yes! It startled me when I first looked at it: I wondered if I was dead and buried!" The idea that London contested for his remains amused him hugely. I told him the fellow had said the lot chosen by W., which he had seen, was thoroughly "characteristic." W. then— "Probably it is: if his article had as much about it that was characteristic it would pass well!"

     From Philadelphia Press . . . May 16, 1890:

WALT WHITMAN'S GRAVE

The Aged Poet Picks Out a Burial Lot on the
Outskirts of Camden


Walt Whitman has chosen a spot for the final disposition of his body, when his life is ended. The place is characteristic of the man. It is located in Harleigh Cemetery, about a mile from Camden, and in the prettiest part of the grounds. It is a natural mound, beneath majestic oaks and chestnut trees, while about 200 feet below a stream of water flows over a precipice from an artificial lake. A driveway, which leads through the woods, winds within a few feet of the spot, and the boughs of the gnarled oaks are spread like arms over the hillock, and touch the greensward on the sides. Back of this piece of ground is the woods, where a footpath leads to the entrance gate.

Walt Whitman has been in poor health of late, never having fully recovered from his serious attack of the grip. Yesterday he was able to take a drive, but upon his return home he was prostrated with the exertion, and was unable to see any one last night. He confirmed the report of the selection of the site and the informant said that many persons had called upon him to make his selection of a burial place at Washington, Philadelphia, New York City and London,

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but he preferred to rest under the trees in New Jersey, where his friends might visit his grave unfatigued.


Harleigh Cemetery is a picturesque plot of ground on the Haddonfield Pike, beyond Kaighn Avenue. The grounds are level, no mounds being visible where bodies lie. Mr. Whitman was attracted to the spot and became attached to it while driving by during his recent convalescence.

     Word from Kennedy, he said. "It was addressed to Doctor, but marked, 'Walt open,' which I proceeded to do. Nothing new: he speaks of the birthday—will not be able to get here: is working under great pressure—expects release for a while in July—then will be here for a day or two." I said I thought Kennedy was perhaps injuring his higher powers by this work. W. saying at once in the most earnest way—regarding me intently— "Tell him that! tell him that!" Adding after a pause— "I wish you would: the thought has struck me, too."

     As I had not read Thoreau's "A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers," W. thought I should. "You should take my copy—it is on the other side of the table there." I found it. "Though a little mutilated, it will give you the best of Thoreau—which is best indeed."

     Gave me a portrait—the Lear—for Jacob Lychenheim: promised him many months ago—but forgotten till today, on my reminder. Had not yet sent the poem to Scribner's. Nor had the check-book turned up yet—I should bring him a National State Bank check from my father.


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