Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 86] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thursday, March 19, 1891

     5:30 P.M. Met Longaker last night, explained matters—W.'s case, his independence, dislike of doctors, etc.—and he promised to be over today. I wrote Bucke apprising him of this and saying that preliminary to all else was the question as to how W. took to Longaker as a man. Now the first thing I hear, both from the folks and from W., is that Longaker created a very favorable impression. It overjoyed me. W. was very specific about it all: "Your doctor was here. I liked him. Solid is the word for him: to use Herbert's rough word (which is good, anyhow)—he has more guts than I had expected of him. I don't know that I had any intelligent defined idea of what I expected, but it was something different. He seemed to be very frank—seemed to have nothing to conceal; and I was just as frank, or hope I was, for I meant to be. He has the happy faculty by which to perceive without probing for facts. Some doctors get at conclusions by intellectual, almost mathematical, means. But others—masters and their kind—catch the truth as by an inspiration, by a trick of nature which we can't describe. He was here some time—we had quite a confab. I told him all I knew, just as I tell it you now. How that for two months I have suffered the most horrible blockade—just as if this corpus was being closed up, choking, taking its last gasp. Indeed, I have felt these last days as if the corpus was done for, if not mended at once. And I told him, too, that especially the last three or four days, I have felt an agitation, a whirling,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 87] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
circling—I hardly know how to put it—inside"
—indicating— "not marked or violent, but re-marked. What I call intestinal agitation. What it bodes I can't guess. I told him these—such things—but warned him, too"—laughingly— "that his only danger, the rock on which all doctors have so far split, is conceit that he knows me, knows this corpus, just as it stands, bone, all—can fully enter its necessities. But no, no," shaking his head, "it is a mystery, mystery. What he can do is simply to get certain glimpses of it, though with these he may do much. He is to come over again Saturday. I have written Doctor about it. The catheter business is surprisingly simple—he left the instrument here. One chief feature in the man is his cheer. It is a thing to be reckoned on." Certainly Longaker had physically or mentally or in both ways helped W. Left prescription with W. The whole thing surpassed my best hopes. Wrote favorably of Longaker to Lancashire and gave me letter to mail to Bucke. I have received a letter from Lezinsky:
Box 211, Berkeley, Cal.
March 13, '91

My friend—


"To You"
"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me,
why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?"


In speaking not only of Walt Whitman but for him, you have not only spoken to me but with me. As our poet makes us feel, "Life is a daily battle" and it is good to know those who are on our side. I received a copy of March 'Lippincott' and the February 'Conservator.' I thank you for them. I shall soon send in my name as a subscriber (and another address). Success to you in your highest aims and purposes,

Sincerely,

David L. Lezinsky


It was so near dark, W. would not read—asked me to read it to him, which I did, standing up. "I have a letter from him, too, to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 88] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
the same purport—thanking me for something I had sent. That letter of yours is a good one. He is our unknown."
He had always felt there was an unsolved mystery about Lezinsky.

     Then he said to me, "I have an interesting letter from the Harper's Weekly folks, about the poem 'Death's Valley.' They are afraid I will put it in the book—it is a protest. But read it for yourself—take it along with you." "Have you answered?" I asked W. "Not a word." Did he intend to? "No, not that I know now—not a word!" He was evidently not impressed with the tact of the letter. Suddenly, by and by, after a pause, he said, "Tell me again, Horace: when do you go to New York?" Saturday. "And when does Colonel speak?" Sunday night. He looked at me and smiled. "I envy you the trip—truly, truly. I wish I had something to send to Bob. What could it be? You'll be along tomorrow? I'll try to think till then." And he further said, "I wish you would find out absolutely if Mrs. Ingersoll ever got the pictures. Don't make your question too direct, as if you were fishing for an acknowledgment. But I should like to know: nothing has ever been said on the subject since you left them with the Colonel at his office." A fact, truly.

     In finer tones, afterwards, W. continued, "Now, boy, I have a message for the Colonel: first of all, give him my love. Then tell him for me that I think he ought to speak as much as possible away from or without printed, written, matter. He is greatly gifted—curiously right with most spontaneous utterance—is one of the men, very few any time, in whom speech bubbles up and overflows. The few men, greatest of all time—Father Taylor, perhaps, for one of them—some of the anti-slavery men, perhaps—I should say, Elias Hicks—but Bob most of all. It is so rare a gift, a man is bound to yield to it. I haven't it in any way—I could not do it—was long ago committed to other methods. But the first-class men have it, and it always excites my admiration. I do not say that anything is really spontaneous, in the sense that it was never thought of before—but I speak of elements—say, of freedom: the absolute trust to the hour, the magnetism of a big audience, to break the last barrier. There must be

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 89] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
preparation, but it is not such preparation as interferes with the bubblingness I have in mind. Tell this to Bob, or"
—with a laugh— "words to that effect."

     Letter from Bucke dated 17th—much of it in reference to W.'s Lippincott's prose:
17 March 1891
St. Patrick's Day!

My dear Horace

I have had your long and interesting letter of 12th a couple of days. No, I believe I never mentioned W.'s Lip[pincott's] prose piece to you—I did not feel there was much to say—I was glad enough to see and have the piece but it would be absurd to declare that I think it would in any way enhance W.'s fame—I think it commonplace and almost entirely a repetition of what has been said and better said before but still there are lines and touches in it that we should not like to be without. And on the whole you put it too strong when you speak of me being "disappointed by it."

I guess your English Canadian Unitarian minister is a good deal of an ass—Canada is drifting away from Great Britain and towards the U.S.A. as fast as it can and the last election (5th inst.) shows the trend very plainly. We must and shall have commercial union with you very soon and that probably means political union in the near future.

My dear boy you well deserve all the congratulations you have received or can receive for your Lip[pincott's] piece—it is a true inspiration and beyond all question will do noble service for the good cause. Are you thinking at all about our W. W. vol. these times?

Love to you

RM Bucke


     Now I hear from Kimball more definitely and favorably:
Treasury Department, Office of the
General Superintendent
Life-Saving Service
Washington, D.C. March 18, 1891

Dear Sir:

In compliance with your request of the 13th instant I transmit by mail to-day copies of all the annual reports of the Life-Saving Service

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 90] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
issued up to the present time. To mark the portions written by Mr. O'Connor would take so much time, and delay the transmission of the books to you so long, that I have not attempted to do it.


If you should come to Washington hereafter, and desire to confer with me, will you be good enough to give me notice a little in advance in order that I may arrange to be here.

Yours very truly,

S. I. Kimball


W. smiled when he read the letter. "That's the man," he said, "that's the fellow. He vacillates—you can turn him on a thumb. Keep on—on!"


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.