Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, May 31, 1891

     (Bucke still with me.) Met Bush at Broad Street station towards noon—with him to Camden, where he took dinner with me. I kept pegging away at my work—writing, reading, getting ready for the dinner. To W.'s in middle of afternoon—fixing places of guests—leaving Bucke there finally with Bush, myself to 509 Arch, there to do further writing. W. seemed in good enough condition, considering. Did he desire any particular place at table? "No, put me at the spot you think the best—anywhere." Laid down a good part of the time, or sat in his chair drowsing. "I must husband all I have—all." At five, on returning, Bush and Bucke were still clustered together over meter affairs. Soon the fellows commenced to float in—Morris, Frank Williams, Eakins, O'Donovan, Harry Walsh, etc. etc.—and these fellows grouped interestedly about the rooms, in the yard, hallway, in front of the house. Photographer stubbornly would not flash us—insisted we should group in the yard or at the front of the house. Caterers meanwhile busy. W. would not hear to the photo—so the man was sent away. Several times I went up for word with W., finding him cautiously resting—after a while reading a paper. Hats, coats were put everywhere—on the Hicks, on a table in hall upstairs, on Warren's bed—unconventionally, easily, gracefully. The guests soon made up a strong circle. By and by W. sent word down that he would come whether or no—that he was getting tired of it— "Damn the long wait!" And shortly down he came, Warren leading him, I ahead—he taking my hand from time to time. "I have great reliance on Warren—he is so strong"—and to me— "I shall be down for ten

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minutes—at least long enough to show myself—to be seen—to salute the boys."
And as he came in (the guests in their place) he was met, shaken hands with—showering recognitions—bravely—seeming to know all—calling Anne "my darling"—speaking to Morris, T. Williams, and so getting his place. Gussie was on one side of him, Brinton on the other—W. being put into an armchair—from which he again saluted individuals by name where he could—Frank Williams, Tom Harned, Miss Porter, others—as, indeed, he did through the whole dinner—particularly to apologize to those down the line some way, explaining his "blindness" and its "growth," etc.—asking me now and then, "Who is there I have not seen?" and "It seems to be a jolly crowd, don't it? Good fellows!—good all!" Gussie sat next him—I nearby—and Tom—Bucke by preference down halfway the table. Everything easy—no "plans." Near me sat Mr. Black (short-hander) who took my cues from time to time—eating meanwhile—his book on his knee, unseen. (Noble fellow! Came faithfully, though his heart, agonized by the death of a sister that very afternoon, protested.) W. did not seem to see him. Gussie fanned W.—did all she could to make him easy—keeping his glass filled. (Just before coming down W. said, "Have my glass filled, Horace—do not delay. I feel as if to give way—if I had not Warrie here I would collapse.") W. seemed to have his wits about him almost to repartee—his replies all sharp, strong, prompt—no bars except from sight and ear. We talked frankly, freely. Every now and then he would recognize some other face—reach a hand forth for its hand. He interrupted letters and speakers—really made himself chairman in Brinton's stead—inviting, protesting, amplifying; being drunk to and drinking; his powerful defense of Bucke's book most strongly uttered; his retort when Donaldson asked, "Isn't that 'Leaves of Grass,' Walt?" or to that effect— "That's part of it, Tom—that's part of it." Everybody seemed content—Brinton eloquent, Harry Walsh, Tom (Tom read several of the letters with great feeling). Day clear and beautiful—temperature high—the room looked noble. W. thoughtful when Tom was reading—exclaimed, "Put

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up all the lights—give him light!"
Thus we went on till ten o'clock—laughter, talking, speechifying, the neighborhood stirred (the food in courses, soup leading)—children and others collected out of doors. In the end I leaned over to W. (others had suggested it, too) and insisted that he should go. "I guess I had better—though this thing might tempt me all night." Rising then—Warren assisting—and all in accord getting on their feet—W. then feebly (led) towards the door—shaking hands with the gathered friends—said to me, "Ain't it funny, Horace, I came down for ten minutes and here I believe I have stayed an hour." "You have stayed four hours, Walt." "Is it so? What a garrulity! What a garrulity!" Met Longaker in hallway and said with simple unaffectedness, "Why, here you are, Longaker—glad to see you—and why didn't you say something? And Doctor, I had a partial—very slight—bowel reprisement today." Longaker said, "I will make my little speech to you tomorrow." Kissed Bertha Johnston and Anne in the hallway—greeted all who clustered about him—very slow and weary on his feet—at stairway could not lift his left leg from step to step—I attending (Warren leading) all the way up and I lifting the leg from step to step. W. was not greatly disturbed—when at last in his room simply dropping (seated) on his bed—painfully—saying, "Consuelo is here—not death yet!"—and dropped his nose to the flowers on his coat. There I left him, kissing him good night. [See Appendix II, page 591 for Traubel's text of Whitman's birthday dinner.]

     Everybody felicitating himself and others on the success of the night. Tom Donaldson brings some whiskey over for W. Bush sleeps at Harned's, Bucke with me.


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