Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, February 13, 1891

     5:35 P.M. W. in bathroom—I sat and talked a while with Warren. Showed him Bucke's letter of 10th—which he had cautioned me not to show to W.
10 Feb 1890

My dear Horace

Am rejoiced to hear that the new book is in such a state of forwardness. I fear W.'s health is worse than you think, and feel decidedly uneasy about him. He is evidently suffering a good deal and that (unchecked) must end badly. I look for a sudden end (when it comes) and I feel satisfied it may come any day. It is more than likely he will look and talk as well as usual up to the last day. I think we must have meters before the end of this week—the moment is manifestly approaching. I want the new proof of Kennedy's piece without fail. Am well.

Love

RM Bucke
For yourself only.

RMB


Warren admitted "a great change" in W.—particularly marked in the direction of reticence as to health. W. scarcely eats any breakfast— "looks blue and tagged out in the morning"—yet eats dinner as usual. Shortly hearing W. coming, Warren rushed forward and into the hallway and helped him in. W. hailed me

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cheerily by the way. I jokingly commented on the red quilt about his neck, "It converts you into one of Whistler's nocturnes," etc. and he laughed, "Well, I was going to quote a saying of my dear daddy: the amount of it was—it is not how you look, but how you feel, that tells the story." And then he went on, "I was the victim of a series of the worst days: I was going to say, nights, too—but that the nights are really not as bad, indeed could not be, and me alive!" What news had I? How was Sherman? Better—hopes for him. But word today that Admiral Porter was dead! W. exclaimed, "The good admiral? So he is dead? And so the stories close, one after another!" To my inquiries saying, "I did not know him personally—that is, to speak to him, but I have seen him. He was a sea-dog—a man of old schools—yet not obstinate, either—willing to listen to new things, too."

     We passed to other themes. Had I seen Stoddart? No—Walsh: Stoddart was out of town. Of course they refused W.'s foreign stamps: yet I had offered them for W.'s satisfaction. "Resigned," he said, "to their will. So the magazines reach our people, I am content." Said he had had "a letter from the Billstein man, thanking me for the gift through you." Looked for it. "Lost in the debris," he said. Would save it when it turned up. Had he read Wayland's speech in the morning paper on Lincoln? Delivered in New York (before Republican Club). "No, I did not read it. But anyway, I don't believe it can amount to much. No professor—no preacher—can have anything to say about Lincoln. He soars and plays way beyond them all." Would he have anything about Lincoln in the new volume? "I suppose not. I suppose all I am ever to say has been said in the old channels—in 'Specimen Days'—in 'November Boughs'—and yet my story is mainly untold: I had looked forward to saying a good deal more. Yet I know no one for whom less needs be said." Referred to the good the rubbings had done him. "From my very first days up I have brushed myself—had a flesh brush: it has been a source of refreshment—not for sickness but to fend you against it. You ought to have such a brush. Let me give you

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one—one I have had for many years—fine bristles—it will last you your life through."
And he insisted on getting up, crossing the room—bringing back two brushes—one of which, with the short handle, he said I should take. "Warrie prefers the hand with me—has been under instructions in Philadelphia—but this has greatest value, especially when you are rubber and patient both. Warrie is a noble drubber himself: he handles me like a master—and the best thing about him is not his strength but his magnetism: he is electric to the last degree—never man more so. I don't think he can be beat. Ed Wilkins was strong, too—but lacked in many ways Warrie's peculiar gifts."

     I read him aloud Bucke's long letter of the 11th containing suggestions as to the birthday dinner this year:
11 Feb 1891

My dear Horace

Thanks for mentioning Salt's "Life of Thoreau." I have sent for the book. I like T[horeau] and shall like the book still more for its allusions to W. You will know before you receive this that I have returned Symonds' letter to W. I shall of course want to see S[ymond]s' other letter when W. can conveniently send it. On what subject is the lecture that Colonel Ingersoll may deliver while in the West?

The notion of repeating the Reisser dinner with the Col.—everything as in '90 does not seem to go to the right shot with me. Would it be possible to take W. to New York (overnight say—or even a few days beforehand) and have a dinner there—some prominent W[hitman] men in New York, of course, to manage it? A better thing still (but perhaps it is too ambitious) would be to have a Walt Whitman reception at some theatre in New York (afternoon or evening)—have 2, 3, or more short addresses by Col. I[ngersoll] and others interspersed with recitations of selections from L[eaves] of G[rass] and a couple of pieces (as "Death Carol" and "Two Veterans") sung—this could be worked up into the biggest thing we have ever had, if it was taken hold of by the right man or men. If W. would not venture on going to New York, the thing could be done in Phila., and I have little doubt could be made a great success there.


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Of course we would charge say $1 admission the proceeds to go to W.

Certainly I should be on hand unless something turning up made it impossible—I would plan to take a little holiday at that time (as last year) and perhaps you could return with me and see our grounds in their early June beauty—it would pay you.

So long!

RM Bucke


He listened—questioned—then said, "No, that does not—any of it—appeal to me as it is presented there. I like your idea much better—much: it more exactly reflects me, my mission." Again, then, talked of Reisser dinner last May. "It was all you say it was—the proudest, finest occasion we have so far known. Even the absence of the shorthand man—which we have wept over and over—I have, I know—was provided for, for with him there we might not have had the Horticultural Hall speech—and that would mean less again. I guess things on the whole took about the right course." And yet, "That dinner speech! That dinner speech! Where is our compensation for that!" All his argument, he said, would not entirely satisfy him.


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