Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 510] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tuesday, September 15, 1891

     5:20 P.M. Had met Longaker on boat, so that we reached W.'s together. W. reading (having finished dinner). Longaker at once said—after W.'s "What a stranger you are, Doctor!" "Yes, a stranger! But I appear to have gone off for your good. You certainly look much better than when I left. Have you been out?" "Yes, once or twice." "I believe you are sunburnt. Sure enough!" W. exclaimed, "Is it possible? Yes, I feel a bit more comfortable. Probably look what I feel. But this cool weather don't entirely satisfy me. It is important for my best condition that the pores should be kept open—that I should exude freely—throw off—shake away—have good operations of the skin. And I find I do not, as the days get cool. The heat brought its own troubles, I know—I was feeble under it—it sapped me of some strength—but after all gave me a sense of liberty." But Longaker insisted upon his good report and W. admitted, "I am here—I feel no loss—I do not complain. I guess I am in good hands!" And further, "I have occasional—if not copious—bowel evacuations. I watch that point closely—realize there is none more important. But tell me about yourself, Doctor, where have you been?" Meanwhile Longaker had felt W.'s pulse. "It is as strong as when I was here last." "But nothing to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 511] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
brag of?"
"No, nothing to brag of. But you eat well—eat heartily?" "I could hardly say that, Doctor. Yet I have eaten enough, too—today with oysters. Mary is away today—Warrie is my cook. But I was going to say, I have to be careful about unusual things, even about the fruits. Someone brought me apples yesterday—they were beauties—I took one—it was large as my fist"—doubling fist, left— "but after I had eaten it, I wished I had let it alone. I find I must exercise my utmost wits, to keep myself in a certain negative plane—which seems my only safety under present conditions." Longaker then went into some particulars about his trip. W. asked, "Did you find anything at Atlantic?"—he rather questions the plan himself—and Longaker went on for some time, answering W.'s curiosity. Further on, Longaker exhibited a picture of his grandmother (photo, his own work)—a grand heroic face—a woman in her eighties, on the porch of a country house. W. entered into it like a flash, "How great that is, Doctor! Do you know, Doctor, I think you amateurs are doing the best work done in photo lines nowadays? You seem to hit the action of a subject—permit it to have its own grace—do not titivate it!" And as he looked at the old face and folded hands, "What is it, Doctor, makes mothers the grandest of women? What fine final touch is that which comes with motherhood? The last grace, the mould of things perfect? I wonder—wonder—wonder! It confers something, like fruit—the mellow-ripe—color, form, melting, dying-away. No rough edges, no sharp angularities! I remember a woman in Brooklyn—a singer in one of the churches—oh! she had an exquisite voice! Yet something seemed lacking, too. An indescribable charm followed, breathed from, her—always drew me. Yet at the last approach I felt some jar, too. What was it? I knew a doctor there. He said to me one day—so and so will never sing her best songs till once she has been a mother! Oh! it is a wonderful thought! I followed it up by many ways—it seemed to have a thousand filaments, tangled, tangled, tangled—and since then, watching, absorbing, accepting—I have felt the best singers, the best of all singers, everywhere—are the

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 512] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
mothers of babes. And, Doctor, are they not the best women anyway? The mothers of America! Everything bending, appealing, supplicating them. I did not know—do not know—that this about the singers has ever been published. Nor do I know that I know it—but it is a feeling—a profound one which I can't disown!"

     Longaker soon got up to go—W. lingering to the last upon the topic of women. I read aloud a letter I had from Brinton (written in Berlin)—rather dismal in its prophecy of European social and political upheavals:
Berlin, Germany
Sept. 4/91

Dear Mr. Traubel:

Since I left Philadelphia, I have been wandering rather widely over Eastern Europe, from Paris up as far as northern Finland. After a month in London, where I found much to interest me in the British Museum, I took my family to a German watering place, & started myself for Russia & Sweden, Poland & Finland. Though my stay was necessarily brief in these several countries, I used it to the best advantage I could, & certainly have gained a good deal of insight into the "Russian question," and other such problems of the day. My attention was especially devoted to the people, the working & commercial classes, & their condition. The result was on the whole not cheering. The prospects are sad, and it is more & more borne in upon me that Europe is drifting every year nearer and nearer toward some general cataclysm, which will be the more stupendous, the longer it is delayed. The preparations for war on all hands are gigantic, and are carried on with increasing activity.

I presume you are beginning to prepare for the literary labors of the winter. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the meeting of the Com. of the Contemporary at Mr. Patterson's in June, as it took place but a few days before my departure, when I was immersed in preparations. Doubtless, however, a good scheme was projected for the ensuing campaign.

I have been much interested for the last day or two in reading the religious book of the season in Germany. It is by Colonel Egidz, & fifty thousand copies of it have been sold since the first of the year—

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 513] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
phenomenal for Germany. If it is new to the Ethical people, in Phila., I will give them an abstract of it.


Remember me most kindly to Walt Whitman. I hope he has borne the summer well. Present my compliments to your wife & believe me

Truly,

D. G. Brinton


W. saying, "That must have a considerable value, coming from Brinton. Things are in a bad way: God knows, we all have enough ahead of us, here and there!" The English news the last few days has moved us all. W. had read with close attention.

     Again recurring to women, W. said, "The women who have borne children—oh! they are the most alert and well-balanced people I have known—especially the women, old, the children grown up, the past reviewed, glances backward casting—the old mothers, preserved out of the battle, the trials—sound, pure—all the senses still in hand, still commanded!" Longaker left us at this point. We continued talking for 15 or 20 minutes—mostly about business. He is still determined to stand off McKay. "I can't reason myself into two editions—different editions—though I am more than ever in favor of that one dollar book. The three dollar book will come without saying. But the cheap book would contain the same matter. I don't want a difference made. Now the book is completed, I want it made and kept my way."

     I had written Ingersoll today. Bush writes that Ingersoll is in town again. I told Ingersoll I would this evening send him a copy of "Good-Bye." W. now endorsed book and profile portrait for I., marking book "with reverence and love." W. said, "I always meant that the Colonel should have a copy—for he deserves it, if anybody does." Information that Baker is now pronounced out of danger moved W., "The dear fellow! He deserves the best that good air and sunshine can do for him!" W. has repeatedly expressed his wonder, "The Colonel's lecture on me—I always believed it would go a great way, but its surprising currency sets me way up." There was the New Brunswick paper

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 514] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
the other day, and what Bucke tells us of several editions in England—hundreds of copies shipped to Australia— "and Law tells us Ingersoll has a great clientage in Scotland. All is surprising, helpful." When I spoke to him of something that was "not in a hurry," he said as often before, "No, not in a hurry—yet look out, Horace. I'll slip off some day before you know it, and then"—not serious, either, about it. Hunted vainly on floor for a letter, "It is from someone on the Times, Philadelphia. Do you know a man there—Gordon is his name? He writes to ask the question, when is the Colonel's lecture in Philadelphia? I am puzzled to know just what he means—have therefore written a postal, referring him to you—giving him your city address. What can he want?" No sign of the letter. Finally, "Well, he will be in to see you. And I want you to let me know about it—for my curiosity has been aroused." Someone sends him a copy of Literary World—reviewing "Good-Bye." "It is very kindly, friendly," he said, "and I have been wondering who could have written it? Not Morris? No, I suppose not. As for the writing, it is far from striking—far, but it goes on well. All these Bostonee cheers have a significance—show a turn in the tide."

     Gave me letters from Wallace and Bucke. I returned him Wallace's yesterday's letter. I took his mail—postals for Bucke and Johnston, papers for J.W.W.


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.