Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, October 22, 1890

     McKay has sold 50 more copies of the big book. Approached me last evening to have them numbered. Promised I would have it done in the morning. W. had already given him orders for the sheets from Oldach. I went down to W.'s about nine-thirty but he was not up yet. Sent Warren to his bedroom for sheets, W. directing him where to find them. Harned had invited me to dine with him and Bucke at the Bellevue at eleven—so I hastened to Philadelphia—numbered the sheets in red ink at McKay's and reached the Bellevue just after they started to eat. Everybody exuberant about last night—McKay much worked up. Loag was at table with the two others. I had exchanged last night's cash with Harned for a check.

     The papers about all reported the lecture to more or less extent—Press best, then Times, then Inquirer. Record also in line. Ledger rather slightingly spoke of the lecture as successful so far as numbers were concerned. Camden papers—the Post and Telegram—reported, Bonsall also giving it editorial allusion.

INGERSOLL ON WHITMAN
A Glowing Tribute Paid to the Aged Poet and Philosopher.
"HE HELD ALOFT THE TORCH."
More than a Thousand People Gather in Horticultural Hall at the Venerable Writer's Testimonial.
His Characteristic Thanks.
Of all the placid hours in his peaceful life, those that Walt Whitman spent on the stage of Horticultural Hall last night must have been among the most gratifying. To a testimonial, intended to cheer his declining years, not only in a complimentary sense, came a thousand or more people to listen to a tribute to the aged poet by Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, such as seldom falls to the lot of living man to hear about himself.

On the stage sat many admirers of the venerable torch-bearer of modern poetic thought, as Colonel Ingersoll described him, young and old, men and women. There were white beards, but none were so white as that of the author of "Leaves of Grass." He sat calm and sedate in his easy wheeled chair, with his usual garb of gray, with

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his cloudy white hair falling over his white, turned-down collar that must have been three inches wide. No burst of eloquence from the orator's lips disturbed that equanimity; no tribute of applause moved him from his habitual calm.


And when the lecturer, having concluded, said "We have met to-night to honor ourselves, by honoring the author of 'Leaves of Grass,'" and the audience started to leave the hall the man they had honored reached forward with his cane and attracted Colonel Ingersoll's attention.

"Do not leave yet," said Colonel Ingersoll, "Mr. Whitman has a word to say."

This is what he said, and no more characteristic thing ever fell from the poet's lips or flowed from his pen.

"Only a word, my friends, only a word. After all, the main factor, my friends, is in meeting, being face to face and meeting like this. I thought I would like to come forward with my living voice and thank you for coming and thank Robert Ingersoll for speaking, and that is about all. With such brief thanks to you and him and showing myself to bear testimony—I think that is the Quaker term—face to face, I bid you all hail and farewell." . . .

     (Philadelphia Press, October 22, 1890.)

     I met Peirce, President of the Ethical Society, who said it was the greatest lecture he had ever heard—for power, both of utterance and statement. Peirce has known Parker and all the anti-slavery men.

     Bucke and I are to go away tomorrow. After breakfast we went together to W.'s. He was in his room. Bucke downstairs. I gave W. check. Greatly pleased and gratified. Spoke of the "nobility and grandeur of the Colonel's conduct and attitude throughout." Gave me an interesting receipt for the money. Then took up a copy "Leaves of Grass"—McKay edition—inscribed it "in memory Ingersoll lecture," etc.—and handed to me. Said he had already sent a number of papers away—was using the Press as having the best report and thought as he "dwelt upon the address" "let it soak in more and more"—how "probably it is in many ways the best statement yet."

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Wished me to "write to the Colonel" when opportunity came. He felt well—was "tired, somewhat, still: the edge a little worn off" but in the main held his own. I went home, having much to do ere going away. Back again about four-thirty. Bucke still there. We went to Philadelphia to inquire about trains, etc. I hurrying to Camden once more and to W.'s to bid him good-bye—kissing him farewell—getting his promise that he would write. Had been out to cemetery this afternoon with Bucke (carriage)—shown him the tomb and described its scheme. Bucke says W. told him he would reserve him one crypt—subject to his use if he desired, etc. W. holds up surprisingly. We hardly imagined that he would go through last night in such excellent fashion.


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