Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, June 21, 1890

     5.20 P.M. W. reading the usual afternoon papers. Raining out of doors, mildly, in summer mood. "It is breaking," he said, "perhaps we will get out." Had he read Ingersoll's eloquent letter to vivisection in the papers? "No—I have seen a paragraph from it, but not the whole piece. I do not know

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that I am deeply interested in the subject. On the whole, I incline to believe in vivisection: it seems the necessary step to certain necessary ends. Science is entitled to some lee-way in investigation. I have often felt that I would give my body, my corpus, for dissection after death—would decidedly do it, but for the feeling of friends on the subject."
How about the crueller forms of vivisection? "Even those—for reasons!"—He would not retreat. This led to some talk of cremation. "I am disposed that way, too. Why not? Our friend Ingram is a great believer in cremation. He had a friend die some time ago whose wish it was to be cremated—who stated very specifically that Ingram was to superintend it, which he did—coming to me a few days after—offering me a handful of the dust as a souvenir." W. laughed merrily— "It was funny, wasn't it? It seems a whole group of people wanted wafts of this dust as curios,"—&c. This led him to speak more definitely of Ingram himself: "He comes of Quaker stock—is thoroughly benevolent: a noble specimen of good English manhood—a mixture of the admirable Middle-ages philanthrop[y] and Eighteenth century deists, infidels: the generation of Voltaire—Cobbett—Paine infidelism. Ingram's particular fad is for the prisoners—he is what they call a prisoner's friend—goes into the prisons, smooths the rough beds of the fellows confined. He often comes to me for rolls of papers and magazines, which I gladly give him." From Ingram we moved to Adler's tenement-house experiment in New York—W. saying of Adler and his kind: "They are our pole-stars—they sweeten our way."

     Enumerating those he called the "infidels" of the last century, he exclaimed— "Even Blake—yes—we ought to include Blake." Joking again about cremation— "It is a very handy way of keeping your corpses about you." Gave me a paper to mail to Ed Wilkins.

     The Boston Pilot piece, of which we have several times talked together (printed under the date of June 7), was this:


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WALT WHITMAN, the greatest poet America has yet produced, was seventy-one years of age on last Saturday. He is a poor man, but rich in the love and veneration of friends. He is known and honored in all lands as an illustrious American.


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