Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, April 15, 1891

     5:30 P.M. Spent a pleasant half hour with W., but he did not appear in good condition. Explained, "I was out today—got out at last—I suppose was out about 20 minutes—but it was a curious experience. When I found myself in the sun, on the streets, among people again—the blare, everything—I was totally blinded, almost—everything obfuscated—my head swam, my hearing dulled—all my senses seemed to desert me. I could not stand it—my brain whirled—was in a ferment. And even now, hours gone, I feel the effects. And it was a revelation to me of two things: my sight is going—going markedly—and I am weak—very weak—my legs will hardly hold me a breath—but for Warren and Mary I would have fallen." I said something about "the eyesight of most people, suddenly put in broad sunlight," and he responded, "I allow for that—Warrie solaced me by saying that his own eyes felt the strain—but there is more to be said than that—more, more." But on the whole had it not done him good? "I cannot tell—just now I have a certain sickish feeling it has left me. Perhaps the morning, as you say, will tell me a better story. But don't worry," with a laugh, "I shall persist—I do not mean to yield." And further, "It was a beautiful day—very warm, warmish—and everything tempted. I could not have resisted. But things seem to be slipping away—yes, going." Mrs. Davis told me afterwards that he had constantly urged caution in them as they helped him down and up the stairs, "Keep hold of me! Keep hold, Mary! Keep hold, Warrie, boy!"—and that immediately on return he asked for lemonade—something to drink. She spoke of his thinness—that it had never before so impressed her. I also had letter from Bucke about his sickness.


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     W. wrote Dr. Johnston about his trip. He said to me again, "The sculptor is here, at last. I give him the first reception tomorrow. It appears he will not have a room in Camden. The only room Warrie could find him—here in the neighborhood (two doors east) would not do—so he says he will look up a room in Philadelphia—perhaps with Eakins or some other artist he may know there." I suggested Boyle, who is now in town (near Broad Street), knows O'Donovan, and talked with me last night about him. W. at once "impressed," as he said, with this. I should give Boyle's address to Warrie.

     W. called my attention to this in today's Post: Horace L. Traubel, whose recent articles in several of the magazines on Walt Whitman, have attracted considerable attention and discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, contributes an article to the New England Magazine for May, called "Walt Whitman at Date." For the last twenty years Mr. Traubel has been a constant companion and friend of the poet at his Camden home, and in this article he reveals more of the man personally in his daily communion with his fellows than has ever come before from such a reliable source. It might be truthfully said that Mr. Traubel's observations, enthusiastic disciple though he be, are more accurate, and therefore more interesting than if they had actually been the result of the poet's own introspection; for even poets cannot see themselves as others see them.


We held an indignation meeting over it. No proof—no sign at all at any time that it was so near printing! W. insisted, "You are quite right to get mad about it. It is unheard of—to rush such a thing through without giving a writer his chance to a final revision." I would write at once, W. advising, "Do so without fail tonight—though all the indications are against us—all the signs are that the thing is absolutely printed, if not out." (Later, at home, I wrote Mead very positively on the subject.)

     Gave me a letter from Bucke dated 13th, "recounting another set-back," as W. said:

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13 April 91

I went to Toronto Thursday last (9th inst.) intending to stay a week and do a lot of things—but rather curiously, my foot, which had been a little sore for a couple of weeks became much inflamed the same night I went down so that I had to make the best of my way home the next day—I have suffered a good deal of pain and loss of sleep with it and am still confined to my room but am mending.

I have your card of the 7th and your good letter of 8th and 9th and am glad to see that you are no worse. I have asked for leave of absence frm 26th April to 1st June. No answer yet—if I get it will spend part of the time at Atlantic City and part (I guess) at Ingram's. I guess the grip (which I had pretty bad about end Jan.) left something behind it (as it is apt to do) and I am suffering largely f'm that, whatever it is, but it has not taken on a serious form and I guess it won't—

Lovely weather here bright air warm—will write again very soon

With love

RM Bucke


W. urged me to write—to "send our sympathy"—adding, "I can't get over my notion that Doctor is utterly rash, if not foolhardy."

     I met T. Williams at Club last night. He said, "I am on the track of that piece," but had not found yet. Miss Belghannie there—should she come over? Write to W. when? I said, "No, come over, two of you together—take the risk. I think Walt will see you—and with you, her." W. now said, "That was judicious. I like Mrs. Williams pretty well—she has always been good to me"—but no more. "Agnes," he said, "and a lady—a friend—came in to see me this afternoon—and we had a sweet little time—for a minute, together. She is always welcome." I had this little note from Bob today:
My dear Traubel,

I send you a little article on Spirituality with best regards to Whitman and yourself,

I am as ever, yours

R. G. Ingersoll




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W. said, "Oh! You must let me see the manuscript. It will no doubt be a great enjoyment to me. I suppose Bob never wrote anything that was really dry." W. afterwards, "I wore my new hat today. It made a great dash." Then I told him for the first time, "It was from Mrs. Fairchild." He then, "The noble woman—oh! how noble—and many reasons mine to thank her." I spoke of her as "a big brave woman." W. thereat, "She is not big." I explained, "I mean big in spiritual senses." He then, "O yes! I see, the mantle of Elizabeth—of Mrs. Gilchrist—has certainly fallen on her. But I was going to say, that like Mrs. Gilchrist, she is a small womanly woman—very womanly—yet with the outlook all ways upon the currents of our time, life—the age." Talked with Harry Walsh last night. He thought it "very likely" that William had written the Illustrated American paragraph.

     Harry thought W. asked low prices. Should not mark his prices. Would get more not. They laughed hilariously over the Truth incident. I told W. and he said, "Well, I can say that I felt I was paid enough for the piece—yet Harry's advice is valuable, too." I had told H. [that] W. always welcomes him. W.: "Yes indeed—I like the boys, whenever they come."


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