Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, March 3, 1891

     7:30 P.M. W. appears to be in a bad way altogether. Warren told me instantly on entrance that W. had spent a bad night and that his urine this morning assumed a blood-red color—that further, W. had gone to bed early last night—8:50—and dispensed

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with the rubbing—an almost unprecedented thing. W. himself said to me, "I am having a hell of a time—the night was bad, the day has been bad. My head, my belly, my bladder—all are out of gear, and for what end?" He looked at me as if for an answer. I said something cheerily, which seemed to arouse him, so that he asked, "Well, what news today? How are things moving?" The proofs I had left yesterday he had not finished—had "not felt to do them"—which was an evil sign. I left now still others, and he promised to have all ready for me tomorrow. "Regretted," he explained, but the day had "been too bad."

     Showed him this postal from Jim Scovel:
Tuesday

My Dear Sir,

I have long wanted to see and desired to write just such an article as yours about the Good Grey Poet in this current no. of Lippincott.

I wrote to Walt that in style, facts, keenness of criticism and in just praise of W.W. it is the best thing ever written about the Old Man.

Yours,

J.M. Scovel

I read it to my family last night.

My father had traced some hidden sarcasm. But W.: "Perhaps, but I do not see it. He wrote me to the same purpose. What idea could he have in lying about it? Besides, everybody likes your piece—everybody. I have lots of letters. See how Kennedy writes. Oh! you have not seen—but he was very warm, admiring. And Sloane is not a fellow to go off into stupid enthusiasms. And I, myself, like the piece better and better as I read it more and more."

     The morning's mail had brought me this from Wallace:
Anderton, nr. Chorley
Lancashire, England.
17. Feb. 1891

My dear Mr. Traubel,

I have only time at present to acknowledge receipt of the cable message you were kind enough to send us, with its glad tidings of Whitman's condition, & which came to hand this morning.


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We were afraid that he had had a bad relapse & were very anxious to hear further. Your message is reassuring, & we can now await the ordinary mails with composure.

Dr. Johnston joins me in cordial thanks to you for your kindness, & with friendly regards,

I remain

Yours sincerely

J.W. Wallace


I gave to W. to read, and it "penetrated" him, he said.

     His "condition is to be regarded as serious," he says, for which reason "I am not satisfied with the way the proofs are coming. I never had such curious woes in proofs before. The printer cuts up all sorts of capers. It does not yet prosper as I would like." Had been reading Current Literature, not yet done with it.

     Gave me Christmas supplement of Review of Reviews (portraits of sovereigns). I rescued also from his waste papers a portrait he had marked "1860"—usually given about 1850 as date—and an odd bit of manuscript: Yr's, and the third kind solicitation, rec'd;—to wh' I hurriedly respond.

The answer to such questions ought to be the thought and result of a lifetime, and would need a big volume. Seems to me indeed the whole varied machinery and intellect, and even emotion, of the civilized universe these years are working toward the answer. (My own books, poems and prose have been a direct and indirect contribution, or attempt.) No doubt what will be sent to you will be salutary and valuable. But perhaps I may vary and help by growling a little, as follows:

Though the elements of "perfect manhood" are much the same all lands and times, they will always be shifted and graduated a good deal by conditions, and especially by the United States. I sh'd say we could not have (all things considered) any better chances than mainly exist in these States to-day, common education, general inquiry, freedom, the press, Christianity, travel, etc. etc.



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