Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 193] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sunday, May 10, 1891

     7:10 P.M. W. at the parlor window, a shawl pinned about his shoulders, looking pale and thin by contrast with the picture as I last remembered him there, in the summer of '90. As I came up, he waved his hand, "Ah! Horace!"—and Warrie, who sat with him, came and opened the door. Greeting inside cordial. I sat down by his side. How had his day been? "Quite poorly—just about the same. I have nothing to brag of nowadays, Horace." Had he read plate proofs? "No, not a word—not a word. As I told you, I would have to trust that to your vigilance." I had read—found little except his many forgotten apostrophed d's—and these he said he did "not desire to fix, now it is so late"—as— "they are not essential anyway—never worry or unnerve me!"—laughing. In other respects he conceded my corrections. He had written in the Ingersoll piece that "50 or 60" were present. I told him there were but 32 plus the waiters. "Well, set it right," he said. "You know, of course. I had the feeling that 50 or 60 were there." He put on his glasses—looked from time to time as I pointed out changes, in all of which he concurred. "I am confident you have fished out about all."

     Says as to New England Magazine piece, "It has two defects: it should have included this chair"—clapping the arm as he said it— "and a picture of Mary." Further, "I wondered how it came that 12 copies were brought here through the Post Office—even delivered at the door. For we know four pounds is the limit." I suggested, "It is a special dispensation: they grant you several at the Post Office." He laughed and asked, "How?" I joined his laugh—he seemed so to enjoy it—and responded, "Don't you remember what they told me? That they never weighed your matter—let it go through as you stamped it?" To which, "Yes, now I do. And that should advise me, that as I have run out of

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 194] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
four-cent stamps I might use some old threes I have. Though as a usual thing I overstamp letters and papers, when I am at all in doubt about their weight."

     Warrie spoke about the monotony of Sunday. W. then, "I suppose that is as the preachers want it, and worse. For they think, if everything else is suspended the field will be left free for them."

     I called attention to this from Open Court—quoting it—not reading: A great deal of sarcastic humor has been showered upon the various incongruities which have grown out of the Pension imposture; as for instance, the ridicule cast upon the old patriot who applied for a pension because he broke his leg in "jumping the bounty," and upon the other, who did not go to war himself, but caught the rheumatism owing to "the overstrain of mental anguish" which he suffered on account of those who did. All that kind of amusing banter is laughed at as the rollicking mockery of the journalistic funny man, who enliveneth the dull corners of the newspapers; but here is an actual case which will make the professional jester serious. In the Review of Reviews for February appears a letter from Walt Whitman, dated January 6, 1891, in which he says: "I am totally paralysed from the old secession war time overstrain." This was not written in irony, but in sober earnest, and it will probably silence the critics who sneer at Walt Whitman's pension. At the time he received his injury, the poet was about forty years old, and although he did not overstrain himself enough to go to the war, he did not escape its calamities, for now at the age of seventy he finds himself paralysed by "the old secession war time overstrain." It is not necessary to pretend like that for sympathy, because all men will sorrow for a poet in distress; and if his poems entitle him to a pension, let him have it, for poetry, and not for a "war time overstrain."


M. M. Trumbull.

At first he said, "I must not advise you about it, but we might let it pass." I responded, "I don't like the sneer. Besides, I have something to say about pensions in general—that you and O'Connor, as much as any man who went in the field, should

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 195] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
come within the arcana,"
etc. Whereat he said, "I know nothing about Trumbull—never heard of him—but that shows how little he knows about me. The story is quite opposite to the thing he hints out there. I was myself the individual who stamped the whole matter out, or tried to, when an appeal of that kind was made. You remember it—it was several years ago—it was proposed to bring the matter up in committee—have it passed. I was communicated with about it, I think by a Massachusetts member. Wasn't it Loveridge [Lovering]? I at once wrote, discountenancing the whole thing, in the strongest English the language and my command of it would allow. There never could have been a mistake about that. Though the fellows nevertheless pushed it—it went through committee. I reflected then whether I should further disavow it or wait till it had passed the House, when I would be eligible to refuse it. But it never passed, and there the matter stopped. I have always had a dislike for the very idea of the pension—for me. It is a part of our blood—my brother George—others of our best friends—alive, resenting it. I was not entitled to it—was not in the army—not at the front. Nor was I in any need at all. I had enough and some to spare—have had for several years. And this, taken with my natural disgust, easily disposed of the question for me. You may write all this if you choose—it is authority—it is the plain fact. This man has no glimpse of it."

     Said he had sent a copy of New England Magazine to Symonds. Asked, "Tell me, Horace, what's the latest you know about Ed Lindell?" I replied, "He has been back at the ferry a week—looking pale enough at first, but is now regaining his color, though he complained to me today that he could not shake off the lassitude and bad stomachic symptoms."


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.