Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, June 1, 1891

     10:45 A.M. To W.'s with Bucke, who stayed with Tom last night. W. reading Press. Had not yet come across good notice therein (no doubt T. Williams'), but quickly read at my suggestion. How did he feel? "Considering the amount of talking I did, great. It was a battle, wasn't it? And a not inconsiderable part of

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it against me, too, but somehow I held up—somehow. It is hard to account for, for when I started to go downstairs, I was more for death than life. Yet down once, and the spigot out, I let forth a constant stream—even garrulity itself! It was an experience. What a triumph! And here we are, not more dead than alive, with something left for another!"

     I read him some letters I had just received—one from Tucker, one from Sanborn, and a third from Blake.
Benjamin R. Tucker,
Publisher and Bookseller
45 Milk St., Room 7
Boston, May 29, 1891

Dear Traubel,

The temptation is strong to disregard all else and start tonight for Camden to avail myself of the delightful privilege of sitting at the board of America's great bard, where I might greet him before the finish of that great career at the threshold of which Emerson greeted him. Once in my boyhood I saw his noble form and kindly face, but never have I grasped his democratic hand. I have not given up the hope that I may do so yet. But at present I find it impracticable to accept the invitation he has extended me through you and which I shall always look upon as among the greatest honors of my life.

Yours sincerely,

Benj. R. Tucker.



American Social Science Association
Concord, Mass.
May 29 1891

Dear Mr. Traubel:

Although I date from Concord, your letter reached me in Chicago, where I have been for a week awaiting the wedding of my son Victor, whom our friend Walt Whitman may remember as a boy of fourteen when he honored me with a visit beside the Musketaquid. So youth is beginning independent life, while Age, as seen in our poet-friend, is withdrawing from this visible life, to enter into a house not made with hands. Give my earnest love to Walt Whitman on this memorial occasion, and tell him we think of him at Concord as often as we look out

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over the meadow across the river, which he was so fond of feeding his eyes upon.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand drest in living green
now as they did then, and they are an emblem to all believers and poets of the landscape beyond the river of mortality.


Yours ever

F. B. Sanborn



21 Laflin St.
Chicago, May 28. 1891

Dear Mr. Traubel,

I am glad to hear of a dinner with Walt Whitman for the chief viand in a feast of reason, to be held next Sunday. I would I might be with you. Failing that, I would like to write a letter worthy of the man & the hour. But that is even more impossible than to be present. I might, by setting every thing else at defiance, transport my body to the place of assembly, but by what kind of defiance or triumph or effort I could transport my spirit to the necessary flight I cannot tell. Will you make my reverential greeting to the venerable poet whose songs will wind men's arms around each other's necks if we will sing them truly after him. Tell him for me gratefully, too, that I made a New Year's sermon from his "Song of the Open Road" which was a sermon, the people said. What stronger saying to live by have the ages to show than the lofty words in that song, "Henceforth I ask not good fortune; I myself am good fortune"?

Yours heartily,

J. V. Blake


As to Tucker, "What a grand victory that would have been! Grand! The good Tucker—the courageous—the devoted!" And on Sanborn's: "It is a new strain for Frank—almost of melancholy." But Blake's struck him "profoundly," he said, especially the several expressions— "Will you make my reverential greeting," etc. Here, too, was yesterday's cablegram from Bolton: "Joy, Shipmate, Joy," with its note, at top, written by W.

     And Mrs. O'Connor had sent him greeting. Doctor had wished to know if W. would go out to look for the lots now for some time

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broached. W. says, "No, not today, I guess not today; it is quite out of the question—I should not attempt it." Bush had come to say his farewell. W. asked him to "bring the wife—the dear wife, yes—next time."

     Received letter from Curtis today.

     5 P.M. To W.'s to meet Bucke (who with Bush and me had taken dinner at the Broad Street station). Bucke in parlor and me upstairs together to say our good-bye. W. on the bed and with him there the two books for Chubb—made up and stamped—and a letter for Dr. Johnston. W. stayed on the bed all the time we were there—speaking of many things but mainly of our "great affair last night," asking me, "Now you have had a bigger chance at it, does it size up to what you hoped?" Saying afterwards, "I don't know what it was in me held my head up: something—something—not planned for." And again, "I suppose it was a sort of Consuelo business, a feeling as if of defiance—that if I was to succumb to the strain it should be afterpost the victory," etc. I had been in to see McKay—telling him, go ahead with "Good-Bye"—sending W. 25 copies bound—as soon as done. "He will sell you 725 copies (750 less 25 for press) for 25 cents—and will for the present hold 'November Boughs.'" "I am agreed to all that—thoroughly agreed," W. said. "Glad you came to some understanding with Dave before you go away," etc.

     W. spoke with us about the Tennyson message, seeming to think it "sweet and good and Tennysony," as he said. Bucke wondered if Tennyson was not a free man in the presence of the queen, not obsequious, etc. W. confident, "He is like a spaniel, to the wife"—making that understood, after some of Bucke's questions— "Oh yes! I mean the wife, not the queen: oh! to the queen I have every reason to believe that he meets her face to face, asking nothing. But the wife, she has been sick, a half-invalid, for years—some trouble—I don't know but stomachic—and he is very attentive, devoted, like a spaniel—watchful, heedful," and so on for some time. We talked various matters; when it seemed to be time for us to go (as we were to dine with

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Longaker), W. charged Bucke to convey certain things. In the midst of it a ring at the bell, a step on the stairs, and Longaker's face at the open door—surprised us. Then W. turned to him, I giving Longaker a place near the bed and taking W.'s chair over by the window. But W. did not rise. Longaker inquired after his condition—felt the pulse—Bucke also doing so—both speaking of its regularity but weakness. W. said to L., "Oh! How am I? Considering—well—yes, undoubtedly well. Especially when it is remembered the condition I came out of yesterday. I seemed then like a black dull coal—incapable of work, of movement, of life, almost. Yet by some means, I don't know what—magnetism—pressure—I felt equal to the occasion—made myself one with the heaviest demand, which I count something, after all. Even as Consuelo, doomed to die, or seeming, determined to go down with colors flying—only after the best note. I did not make a deliberate pull or push or speech but it seems I had a finger in every pie. I felt no harm—no harm whatever—Warren gave me a rubbing—I went to bed. It was very hot, too—wearying—but I found myself strong enough to stand it well." He jokingly said to me "Mrs. Harned treated me handsomely—oh! I must have taken a great lot of champagne—two bottles, anyway—and she kept filling the glass—I drinking it away! Didn't you have something to do with it, Horace? I thought so."

     In answer to questions, "Yes, I have a bad spell, oh! almost every day at this time, say about five o'clock to eight." Said his dinner "had consisted of chicken, asparagus and a dish of strawberries." What did he mean by "a bad spell"? "I feel cove in—everything seems to desert me—especially strength, volition —that backing which comes from good stomachic conditions—it leaves me without strength, eligibilities all gone. I feel gone in—Warren comes up and helps me whenever I signal" (he knocks on the floor), "or other times. I get up towards dark—feel a bit built up—then the massage, which refreshes me."

     Discussed wine—Bucke not favorable to claret—deciding finally for Rhine—Longaker to get the wine and charge to me. W. very bright—talking with a felicitous ease. Then good-bye—

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Longaker first (going downstairs), Bucke lingering, bending, holding W.'s hand a long time—advising W. to call him any needed time and speaking too of the European trip in July. I the last—kissing W., and he saying, "God bless you, boy! And back again! I hate to see you both go away!" And then, "Write me—write me—don't fail to let us know how you go—where to—safety." At the door instructions to Warren—departure. Supper later at Longaker's. Bucke and Anne present with us.

     Bucke says he told Eakins that W. thought $400 a good figure for the painting. B. will probably pay Eakins his $200. W. owes him (B.) $200. Eakins will probably ship the picture in a few weeks.

     W. said he particularly wanted what he said of "the near dead poets" in my report.

     (Nearly a fire in W. 's room the other night. He slid his chair about—it ignited a match—which in turn fired papers. I discovered and stamped out. W. seemed to see nothing of it. If I had not been there, what might not have happened?)


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