Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, November 13, 1889

     7.30 P.M. W. reading papers. Mrs. O'Connor had been over today. Mrs. Justice told me at the club last evening that Mrs.

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O'C. had come on. Was staying with the Lewises, and wished to see me there. W. spoke variously of her. "William O'Connor and Nellie O'Connor occupy a large place in my memory—not in my memory alone, but in that larger life—my emotional, sympathetic, poetic, life—which has most importantly commanded me. And now that William is no more—now that William is gone—gone forever, from physical sight—the great, surpassing William!—all my feeling, once divided, seems to flow out to Ellen alone. I am quite surprised at it myself—at its extent. I did not suppose I could be so summoned, so moved, so appealed to. But there it is—revealed to me today if never before. She was here a long time—paid me quite a long visit—even now is not long gone. I was surprised to see how well she looked. I supposed the long trial—the wear and tear of watching, waiting would have bedraggled her—but it appears not—time has clawed her but little. That worst dragger-down of people—mental worry—she has survived. Oh! we had a long fine talk! She told me many things about the funeral—about William's death—the last days—which it was only possible to get from her, and from her lips, at that—not from notes (always insufficient, thin). It has been, I guess, 15 years since I saw her. I went back to Washington after the paralysis—stayed with them—stayed several months there. How much I owe them!—not alone for scriptural hospitality—for Oriental food and raiment—but for that other force, accretion, gift, effulgence—soul-force, let us call it, for want of a better word: the making of my poetic self, such as it is! Brave woman!—and cheery! She told me about Kimball's promise to get her what is called a position at Washington. He talks something about having to wait a year or two to get it! That's a hell of a note, ain't it?" And then he asked: "You are going over to see her?" W. had noted her address for me, not knowing I knew the Lewises well. When I spoke of them he inquired: "Radical, abolition, anti-theological, all that?—and Friends, besides? I love to

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hear it. I have always felt, what my mother often said to me, that these old folk of the grand type were made for me or I for them. I have always had a craving to be near them—to affiliate—draw of their treasures!"

     Said again: "I am quite decided about the book—to have the new edition of Leaves of Grass printed. And I am decided, too, in the notion to give Ferguson another chance." W. told Warren, who happened in, to be up promptly at nine to give him his rubbing. Corning, who came in while we sat there, inquired after W.'s health—asked him if he did not feel better than a year ago—W. only responding: "I have a good nurse, good friends—I am under what they call a sort of massage treatment—Warrie rubs me every day—or twice a day—pummels me—and here I am! Perhaps I'm like the New York fellow they used to tell about, who was very sick and was told he must die. He did not take to the notion at all—exclaimed"—here W. put up his right fist and set his eyes to a mock fire, laughter almost preventing him telling the rest of the story— "exclaimed—'God damn it! I'm not going to die—I don't want to die and here now, you,' to the doctor—'You—I want you to save me—you must save me—you are paid for it and must do it!'" The manner in which he told this was convulsing, but he added more seriously: "Of course that's a story—will do to go along with other stories. For after all, the best attitude for man to be in is, of willingness to die—to be resigned to it." Corning subsequently asked him if he was doing much writing: "No—very little nowadays."

     Hypnotism had been discussed at the Contemporary Club last night. W. read accounts in the papers—thought "special sort of agents required in hypnotic subjects"—asked curiously after the subjects last night. When I said Dr. Hammel, the tractable patient, was a minister, he exclaimed quickly— "I see: that explains it." He was not "disposed to ridicule investigation of the sort," but for his own part he was "staggered by facts rather more impressive than these." He doubted if any

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one can be hypnotized—there is a quality in some that would invite it."


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