Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, October 21, 1890

     Received letters today about lecture from H. H. Furness, Mrs. Donaldson, J. K. Mitchell, Clifford, and the Ledger. Went to Philadelphia early. Met Baker at nine at Green's. We thenceforward walked the town, seeing editors—watching the sale of tickets—spending some time at the Hall. Baker very pleasant and communicative throughout. Told me Ingersoll's great reply to Black years ago was dictated to him between the shots of a

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game of billiards at Ingersoll's house in Washington. Tickets steadily crawled up—one line after another. We took dinner with Morris and Frank Williams at Reisser's—debating there vehemently Whitman's philosophy of sex. I drew checks to pay all lecture bills. We arranged many things in Hall: seats on stage, etc. Morris put a little notice in Bulletin, Fitzgerald in Item and McConnell in Star. Farson seems to be a good deal of an ass, and lazy in addition. Campbell maintained confidence. Baker much encouraged, telegraphing the Colonel to that effect. The New York party were expected over at 2:55 or thereabouts. We went to Lafayette about three—met there the Ingersoll party: upstairs in corridor. Morris and Williams had met us. When finding Ingersoll was upstairs, they were for going away. Baker said, "You must come up anyway, Traubel: the Colonel asked for you." So we all went up, meeting the people just as they were coming out of the room. I lagged somewhat—I heard the Colonel's magnificent voice in the dark hallway as he said: "Where is Traubel?" and greeting Morris, who was ahead, "Is this Traubel?" I put in, "No, here he is!" at which he came forward, I starting up two or three steps, grasped my hand and turned around to introduce me to the family—wife, Maud, Eva, and Mr. Brown. We went downstairs together—they to dine, I to go to Camden.

     I saw W. at about 4:20, in his own room, when Mrs. Davis brought him supper. He was calm, inviting—inquisitive about seats— "May God forfend us!" he exclaimed. Bucke not over yet, nor Johnston. Was expected about six. Said he had had his speech printed on slips and would let me have enough for self and printer. We advised him to bring over his chair—and he acquiesced so far as to say that if it could be got on the carriage, he would do so. It would enable us to manipulate him more easily on stage. Baker told me he thought Ingersoll would prefer not to be interrupted while in his speech—that Whitman should come before or after— "undoubtedly before." W. said, "I have little to say—am willing to say it any time it may be thought

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best."
Was so left open. I went home—having many things to do. Then was back at W.'s at 6:15, Bucke meeting me there. Said he had come in afternoon just five minutes after I left. We sat there talking, Bucke telling me of the trip over. Said he talked with Mrs. Ingersoll nearly the whole way. Bucke sat in parlor. Had met someone on train—a New York publisher—who gave Johnston ten dollars for a ticket and said he would be willing to publish the speech and illuminate it. Bucke suggested that H.L.T. should be conferred with to that end. While we sat there talking, W. came downstairs, hat and coat on. As it was only six-thirty, I made some remark of surprise. What—going already? And then he laughed, "Why not? Isn't it time?" And to my negative, sat down and we talked there for 10 or 15 minutes. Soon the carriage drove up. W. found the chair could be nicely accommodated. So it should go. I left W. and Bucke talking there, I having to be at the Hall early.

     So to Philadelphia—reaching Hall at about 7:15. Some people already in seats. Baker and Morris flitting about—as, indeed, I was at once. By and by Williamson was pointed out as waiting for me—a good face, sandy-bearded, rather pale. Very cordial. We talked freely together. We had retained seats for Ingersoll's family in the fourth row. The audience came—quite a large number of admissions. The stage people came. Here were some of them: Bucke, Harned, Johnston, Mrs. Johnston, Mrs. Harned, Anne Montgomerie, J. K. Mitchell, Agnes V. Traubel, Mrs. K. G. Traubel, Horace L. Traubel, Morris Lychenheim, Jacob Lychenheim, J. H. Clifford, wife and Charlotte, David McKay and wife, J. D. Law and wife, Geoffrey Buckwalter, H. L. Bonsall, Carl Edelheim and daughter, Frank Williams, Harrison S. Morris, William Ingram, William Ingram, Jr. Most of these and others assembled in the wings. W. was driven up to the front door about 7:45, was taken in by his chair through the banqueting room, helped up the three flights of stairs to stage by Warren. Ingersoll came along shortly after. Interesting little colloquies in groups—congratulations to W. W., to Ingersoll,

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to W. by Ingersoll, to Ingersoll by W. We had many peculiar and happy greetings. Finally came the going on the stage. Bucke was urged to start—went on alone—was clapped and cheered, as I know, for Walt Whitman. After others had followed and we were pretty well settled, W. was wheeled on by Warren and set at the center of the stage. In a few minutes more Ingersoll stepped forth—put his matter on the reading desk, picked it up again, stepped free of obstruction and launched to his speech, without preliminary.* Baker had given me one of the Ingersoll printed copies— "the first copy" he told me—in the forenoon: and in finding that Ingersoll had forgotten to bring one over for himself asked it back. Ingersoll had taken this—cut the margin close to the printed line—now held it in his hand and read. Whitman seemed very pale. I was surprised at his loss of color. Ingersoll spoke upwards of an hour and three-quarters. I have known him to speak with more dash—never with more absolute force and eloquence. His superb rendering of some of the poems captivated heart and mind. "The interrogating thumb" episode, the Paumanok picture, the Lincoln poem, whether in rendering or epitome, were gorgeous in integrity and color. The peroration was a masterpiece of language, feeling, sense and utterance. I noticed as he went on W. appeared moved in extraordinary ways—his paleness increasing. Ingersoll evidently considered the gravity of the occasion. He had written as he spoke, for the world which could not share this hour as well as for the fortunate individuals who could. The melody of his voice, his noble mien, his pathos and reserve—impressed and inspired. W. interpreted it all into its consistent heart-speech. By and by he concluded—a master-touch on an instrument of grand and delicate compass—retiring to a seat next Whitman—but as the audience rose as if to go, he rose quickly again—threw his voice ringingly out—saying that W. had something to say and they should wait to hear it. W. was

     *For the text of Ingersoll's speech see the Appendix.


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     then pushed a couple of feet forward and spoke. For an instant—for more than an instant—I feared he would utterly collapse. The little speech he had printed—the eight short lines—were played with, stumbled over—not lamentably (because he gave utterance to their sense in the end) but to our trepidation. Then all was done. His voice was not strong, but had a noble pathos, vibrant and penetrating. Then the audience dispersed, slowly—such of it as did not come on the stage, to congratulate him or Ingersoll—or both. Ingersoll had listened and looked with grave solicitude as W.'s difficulty was evident, but had kindness and grace in every word and act. W. gave me slips containing his speech—thus:

     After all, my friends, the main factors being the curious testimony called personal presence and face to face meeting, I have come here to be among you and show myself, and thank you with my living voice for coming, and Robert Ingersoll for speaking. And so with such brief testimony of showing myself, and such good will and gratitude, I bid you "Hail and Farewell."

     W. had said to me this afternoon, "I had a letter from the Colonel today: he closed by saying, 'And now, may the Lord love you—but not too soon.' It was sweet, loving—took me back irresistibly to my dear father. It was so like him." Now as Ingersoll stood by W. he said, "As I told you in the letter—may the Lord love you, but not too soon." W. smiling—receiving congratulations on all hands. Ingersoll introduced his wife and daughters—W. saying, "Ah! girls! I have heard so much about you, I have long wished this chance to take you by the hand!" The "boys" were loth to adjourn abruptly. Arrangements were made to go up to the Lafayette—a few of us—for a talk. I whispered to W., "Don't you think you could take a little to set you up?" He laughed and responded, "Yes—anything! anything!" He consented to go with us. Ingersoll would be there and share the improvised hour. W. was helped out of

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the Hall and into his carriage—was driven up the street. Though laboriously, he went valiantly. The walking troubled him somewhat, but he persevered. He stayed with us at the Lafayette till 11:40—sat at table (Ingersoll by and by coming downstairs from his people)—debated, told stories. He at one point took Murger's poem from his pocket—reciting it with gusto—was much applauded. He and Ingersoll had a good deal of discussion—about Christianity, Deity, immortality, etc. At one point W. said, "Oh, Robert! Robert! sometimes I think there is a great gap between us—between our thought, then again I wonder if there is any at all!" Bucke exclaimed, "Not an inch's difference! not an inch!" Then at another point W., after his emphatic "No! No!" to Ingersoll's vehement talk—W. suddenly seized his hand in both of his own and cried, "But Robert, in your fight against that—in all the main lines of your great work—I am with you, I second you, I endorse you, I wish to thank you!" Ingersoll was of course strong, but W. several times aptly and sufficiently answered him. But as a rule Ingersoll cannot—could not then—be coped with. When Ingersoll thanked W. for the human trend of his work, W. expostulated, "But I, too, Robert, go among the clouds!" Quick as lightning Ingersoll retorted, "Yes, but you take a devil of a lot of dirt with you!" It was a brilliant play of wit and eloquence. The fellows gradually drew up to the head of the table—the waiters (they looked Irish: probably Catholic) looked as aghast at Ingersoll's daring speeches. Ingersoll said at one point that Robert Burns was a thousand times more to him than any founder of religions, etc. It is not possible to reproduce this great hour. Among those present were Harned and wife, Clifford, Bucke, Morris, Williams, Williamson, Johnston and wife, Buckwalter, Baker, Ingram, Warren, Mrs. Davis. W. was very cordial when I introduced Baker, who came in late after a settlement with Campbell. Baker gave me the "pot"—a bundle of bills—a giant fist. Johnston rose and

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congratulated the party: here was a thousand dollars, etc.! The party hurrahed. Baker wished to go off with me to settle finally. Arranged to do so after the party dispersed. W. cried out to me at one point, as he saw me strutting about the room with the bundle under my arm, "Hadn't you better give me that, Horace?" I laughed, refused, "Not yet—not till we know just how much of it is yours!" At which he laughed himself. After further talk, Ingersoll himself arose—offered to go—which was a signal for all hands. W. was helped out to his carriage—I stayed to work with Baker. Baker wished to ask some questions of Ingersoll, who had already gone upstairs—we therefore following. Ingersoll already partly undressed, but he came to his room door—talked. Would not let us take out for any of his own expenses—not a penny—saying, "I'm sorry it's no more"—Baker had told him about what it was— "but as it is it's a little purse for the old man!" Then he very cordially gave us good night. We going thence to Green's and to Baker's room—making final settlements—finding a surplus (net) for W. of $869.45. Baker and Ingersoll acted notably—with heart and brain—conferring all "on the old man." I felt the depression of the hour as I sat there to count the money after the eloquence, the wit, the presences, of those earlier three or four hours. But there was compensatory elevation in the noble demeanor of this great man's great clerk. Later—on towards one o'clock—I bade Baker good-bye: it was with emotion! I had gathered a real love for this good man. If spirituality had voice and gesture through the whole transaction of this fortnight—these were the exhibitors. That night I had their gift under my pillow—that gift, freighted with comradeship, humanity, high moral impulse and possession.

     Ingersoll (while at the Lafayette) broke a cracker on the table with his forefinger— "The chick is born—walks off with a bit of shell on its back. I believe in the God that inhabits the egg." And yet they would call him atheist—with a belief altogether Emersonian except for its terminology!


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