Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, July 22, 1891

     5:50 P.M. Had met Longaker on boat—we going to W.'s together. W. had been reading—the local papers on his lap. Greeted me (I went in first). "I have brought you a stranger." And as Longaker stalked in, "Why, to be sure—Doctor—here is Doctor. And Longaker, how are you? Where have you been?" Longaker replying by asking W., "And how is it with you?" "Bad! bad! I have been passing through the pressure of several bad days. This is one of them, as bad as any." Was it not the heat? "Probably—it has been warm." We argued with him for the opening of the other two windows (he always has but the one open). But he said, "I think I get about all the air this way. Sometimes it is a free current. I must protect myself against drafts—therefore must not open the window at the back." Longaker felt his pulse, reporting, "So far as the external signs go, you are as well as you were." W. said, "That's true doctor-like! To give hope, cheer—to see the bright spots! Bucke often says to me, 'What's the matter with you, Walt? I don't see why you complain—there is nothing serious the matter with you.' And I tell him, 'Well, I don't know which is worst or best, Doctor—to look well and feel like the devil, or to feel well and look like the devil!'" He laughed—as did we, his manner so comical. "But in fact, I do not complain. It is not meant for complaint. Some years ago I debated with myself whether it was not the thing to play stoic with all the ills—to accept them, say nothing, give no sign—smile everything off. And for several years, I observed that principle. But again I came back to my early notion, whether it was not as well for men to observe the dial of the clock, to report upon it, to realize the time of day, to know

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when stoppages, hastenings, disarrangements."
Longaker objected, "But not to watch the clock too closely. It is a bad rule." W. then, "True, true—I see that—admit it. But to watch—of that I am certain. It is the Greek of it—the Greeks were very cute some ways." Then, "I do not suppose there is any great mystery about my condition. It is the result, evidence, of long accumulations—of set-backs, losses of this thing and that, especially, constantly, for the two or three years past. Of one thing I am sure, that reason is still upon its throne (though I am physically confobolated)—still reigns, holds the state—however the embarrassments, whatever rebellions. But it is a curious fact—worth telling (especially not to hide from a doctor)—that even now, as I sit here—and from only the little talk with you two fellows—my brain gets in a whirl—both sight and hearing seem overcast. And so with the rides out—about three-quarters of the first hour, I am in hell—I suffer all sorts of discomforts—seem not to get adjusted—am blind, dazed—after which comes something like ease. But I dread the initiative—dread the start: it is a hard task. Yet, Doctor, as you say, it probably does me good to get out." Longaker soon goes, W. urging, "Don't make the waits too long, Doctor"—it has been a week this time between visits. "As Bucke always says, the chief part, importance, in a doctor's work is vigilance, watchfulness—direct treatment being only of secondary and last importance anyway."

     After Longaker had gone we still went on with our talk. Referring again to subject of our talk yesterday about Bucke, W. said, "Bucke never sees, or shows that he sees, that 'Leaves of Grass' is not written with reference to the time that saw its birth—that it is monumental—that it is meant as well for a hundred years hence as now—that it is there in its place, to be seen from all sides, times, peoples—to testify to permanence, stability, faith—a faith, too, not of a day. I perhaps give only vague expression to my idea, but it is quite clear in my own mind. Doctor seems sometimes to grasp it—then seems to forget it. But it is a thing never to be forgotten." As to Ingersoll,

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"I want it to be unmistakably understood that in all essentials, I agree with, glory in, the Colonel's work. I know no more needed thing to be done—no man, either, any way so calculated to do it as he more and more proves. I have my differences, he has his, but we agree in the main, which is enough." Again, "And I don't know but that if we don't agree at all, it would be just the same—he would be just as great, I would love him just as much." And he spoke at one moment vehemently, "These damned Methodisms, Baptisms, Presbyterianisms—their use was gone long ago. It is solidarity, solidarity—out of this, everything, everything!" Was pleased with the photos I had brought him. "You should take one." He sits expectant of word soon from Bucke.


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