Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 548] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Saturday, September 26, 1891

     5:20 P.M. Met Longaker on boat. To W.'s together. Found Mrs. Davis sick. Longaker consulted. I went upstairs. W. on bed, fanning himself. Very hot. "Isn't this the hottest yet?" Always his question. I pulled chair up to bed, sat down. I had a letter—opened it—did not tell him who it was from—commenced to read. But before I had gone three sentences, he cried, "It is the Colonel. I know. No one else. No one else such swing, music, power joined, streaming along. But go on." And as I finished exclaimed, "That gushed straight from the red blood of his heart! What a man he is! One of the old school—the real freethinkers—the old men whose life and word were indissolubly joined—the sweetest sanest men of all the world to me—the men who were the inspiration, commanded the reverence, of my early days—whose memory nothing can efface—whose art, well, they had no art—but whose nature was rich and genuine as mountain springs. The Colonel! He is spontaneity itself, action itself—not active, but action—brave, big-eyed—a soul to look to horizons! I hardly think you can have a true idea what these old freethinkers were to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 549] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
me. The world seems to misunderstand them. They are hounded down, swept into evil reputations, given everything but honor. Paine, Jefferson—such. And a host of others of whom I know but of whom history gives no account! The Colonel stands even with—yes, way beyond—the best of these: is richer gifted—a soul and tongue of fire. I wonder if ever anyone spoke for freedom as he does? I wonder—I wonder. No, I don't wonder—I guess no one ever did. Horace, this is a letter to know—itself a poem—thrown off the red heat of his proud, great life—simple (as all great things are), and how it touches my heart! Comes straight from him to me—nothing to appear between. Give him my love, tell him you found me here, tell him the beautiful note nestled to its place in my heart—is there this minute, safely housed, to be kept, forever! The splendid health, strength, abandon! The extended hand, purse: the princely—more than princely, simply human—soul of the man! But you will know, Horace, your instinct will lead you to the right words—only make it plain that I am glad and proud to hear what you have brought me."
At the passage about the book he made me reread. And as to Shakespeare, "We would take that as a great compliment." Here is the note itself:
New York
Sept 25. 91

My dear Traubel,

Since my return home I have been overwhelmed with business. I rec'd the 2d Annex to Leaves of Grass and have read it. It is beautiful. Whitman has lost none of his power. He has the same sky, horizon, amplitude & scope. He still lives in the center & radiates. The movement and rhythm of the tides are still within his heart—around the oak of his logic still runs the vine of his fancy, and his sympathy, like an Indian Summer, envelopes all. Give him my love and tell him that he must live for many years and gain new comrades every day.

About the lecture—I cannot say. We must wait a while. Maybe it would be better to give Whitman another lift. I don't care much for clubs. If I will send you copy of my lecture on Shakespeare will you

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 550] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
read it to Whitman? Of course I do not want any part of it published. Give my love to your wife and to yourself.


Yours always

R. G. Ingersoll


Could not go out. "I am not equal to it. The heat has dragged the life out of me—the little that is left." Longaker came up. W. asked, "How about Mary?" Neuralgia—cold. That was all. W. saying, "I knew there was nothing serious though she suffered a good deal of pain." Then Longaker applied himself to W., felt his pulse, "It's all right!" W. saying then, "This is hard on me, this heat. I sweat much—sweat much too freely. I feel today as if I was driven by a pack of hounds, as if a pack of three or four were at my heels: death's own chase. So the pulse is not bad? No? Perhaps I am whimsical. I had a good bowel action yesterday. It eased me. This is all to be charged to the heat, I suppose. And with the heat will pass off. O no! I am not worried! It is right, whatever line it takes."

     Suddenly a word about the cricket match (English-Philadelphian, at Germantown)—a very close game, the visitors ahead first innings (259-248), W. saying, "It's not our game—our funeral. I'm rather glad they're ahead. I think I feel like yielding them the trophies—the compliment. It's a compliment for them to come here. I understand they're very fine fellows."

     Then back to his talk with Longaker. "Doctor, I find the pills the best things I have had for years. I'd like to keep them in my keep." Longaker: "It's quite an honor to the prescription." W. laughed. I asked, "You slept well last night?" "Well, middling, yes. I have not quite as good nights lately, but I think the derangement is temporary—is only a brief perturbation. I eat pretty hearty: one meal I eat quite hearty. I tell them I should not have so much sent up. I get along better when I have only one thing. I eat by desperation sometimes: no really strong appetite. But I get along—hold my head up—pull the fragments together," merrily, laughing, fanning. Longaker inquired, "Are you taking buttermilk?" "Very little, Doctor." "You haven't

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 551] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
found it grow distasteful?"
"Oh! no Doctor, I would like it if I got it. A good deal is the time I get it. Any time about twelve if I can get it, I find it then comes in right. That's the time I prefer it—other times not so much. I don't drink very much water. I used to drink very much more freely; but these last three months I have refrained. I hardly drink at all through the day. I drink a little wine and water—a mild swig." Rhine wine? "Yes, once or twice a day—not every day, either." Longaker: "Wine is preferable." W. then, "Once in a while I experience the stomachic disturbances: then I take a mild swig of whiskey—not often—and it tends to set me straight." Longaker said, "This is a great year for cider. I have put some in my cellar." W. thereupon, "I would drink cider—first-rate cider—if I could get it. I would like—do like it." Had he not made cider in his youth, Long Island? "Yes, we made cider, especially our adjoining neighbor. Many a time I was over there. Yes, the old cider mill—I can bring it here now. And I heard that our neighbor who had the mill was connected to the temperance—some call it principle, some fanaticism—the temperance cause, anyway, breaking his machine up, declaring he could not make the cider any longer." Thence word of W.'s novel. "You mean 'Franklin Evans'?" "Yes, Doctor Bucke is wild for a copy." "It's not worth getting. I'm glad he hasn't been able to get a copy. Yet it's probably in existence, procurable in some New York second-hand store." Would it not appear some day as his? "It's not impossible, but it's a bad fate to look forward to!" But I had heard of his Democratic Review stories, that someone had a volume of them almost ready to put out. W.: "Probably waiting for me to peg out. I should almost be tempted to shoot him if I had an opportunity."

     Longaker preceded me downstairs by a few minutes. W. asked, "My proofs? Not come yet?" I was to have them Monday. I had found on floor book Rhys had wished me to have, a pamphlet by-play entitled "The Great Cockney Tragedy." W. said, "Take it along. I have not had the feel to read it." It was uncut. "It has a curio show to it—a bit of broad farcicality. And I

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 552] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
doubt if it contains anything I care for."
And as I was leaving, "It's a pity about our ride, but pities are many, now. And now, Horace, if you write to the Colonel, don't forget my love. Tell him his message is here and kept, kept in all the flush of its beautiful strong life."


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.