Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, June 5, 1890

     5.30 P.M. W. not out today—had not ordered the carriage over—too warm. Complains that he is at too great discomfort, going out in the hottest hour—prefers his chair "in the cool of the evening—by the river" &c. Warren in the room when I entered, explaining to W. the result of some experience with a massager in Philadelphia whom he is consulting for instruction. Had seen Weir Mitchell—W. very much interested—repeated the result to me.

     Laughingly referred to Ingersoll's picture of current poetry— "little birds twittering on boughs"—called it "mostly right," but added— "There's more to be remembered, too. Sometimes the truest notes are struck by the smaller tribe—the thrush, surely—I don't know but even the canary—the imprisoned canary." And so also of Ingersoll's distaste for metaphysics: "I can realize that—sympathize with it—but there's also another side: whether the metaphysics, taking the true not the formal sense of it, does not finally filter down and down, through the mass, till all the race is impregnated—enriched—farther seeing."

     A picture in the Century of Ford's Theatre—as decorated on the night of Lincoln's assassination—took W.'s attention—inducing W.'s extensive comment on the Museum that now works the structure. "I have not examined the picture critically: I don't know just how accurate it is—but I know the place well. I have had a drawing of it, made by the architect Bloor, New York. I remember well how angry he was with me for passages in the Lincoln lecture—passages in which he thought I did injustice to actors, theatres—which he contended

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were always and anywhere as good influences as any."
Then W. spoke of the "high value" of specimens in the museum. "The government got hold of it—it has been faithfully held to its object" through the "rare fidelity of the doctors"—who, as he knew them in the war, "were a rare class." I questioned, "How rare? Markedly above other?" "Yes—without a doubt. No one knows better than I do the importance of those men. I fell into that sort of intercourse from which nothing is withheld." "We hear much of the generals—nothing, practically of these men. Of the usual city doctor class I do not think much, but of these special men, sifted for the great purposes of the army, time, I have the biggest admiration. I could illustrate by a case: the case of a young fellow suffering from diphtheria: it was a serious case and a serious moment. I urged it on one of the doctors there, a young man, to bathe the patient's throat with a mixture of sweet-oil and chloroform. What did I know about it? It was an uncommon, homely remedy. 'I know nothing about it,' said the doctor, but added— 'No matter for that: I shall try it at once'—which he did and relieved and finally recovered the man. It was to me a rare example of receptiveness. The typical good doctor of the army, than which I know of no better, probably on this globe, united rare sacrifice with deep emotional, sympathetic, qualities—would adapt himself to conditions—was never a medical dogmatist. It is a beautiful thought, the history of which has to me a spice of sacredness—a glimpse of high, however unheralded and unpretentious achievements." And again— "Speaking of those war-surgeons—the thought arises, if situation does not sometimes make a fool great." And he spoke of "their more [?]al quiet records, known only to professional men, and not enough to them. Oh, the doctors!"


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