Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, January 14, 1892

     Glimpse again of W. in forenoon—he slept. Peace come at last, after a bad night. Another postal from Garland, and word from Chambers that his book had not arrived yet.

     Later on further word, and fuller, from Garland:
211 North Capital St.
Washington, D. C.
Jan 13/92

My Dear Traubel,

Infinitely touching is that letter inscription "from the sick-bed". Did he really think of me? If he did he has paid me the greatest tribute of my life. Does he realize the work I am trying to do? The best part of my success is that it has come while I am doing a work whose spirit is in part Whitman's and thoroughly reformatory. I am a reformer—a radical—a promoter of Democracy and yet the people sustain me in it. I wish Whitman could realize that. I tell you the whole temper of the republic in letters as in politics is changing. Whitman's prophecies are be[ing] realized. Not in the exact form in which he seemed [to] expect them but in spirit and interior purpose they are coming. Convey that assurance to him if he can listen.

His enemies are almost gone. Those who know him admire and love him. My extended travel and study of literature make me capable of speaking decisively here.

Once again Hail and

may it not be fare-well,

Hamlin Garland


Bucke's letter of 12th very indeterminate as to W. We are all in adding darkness and fear.


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     Mrs. O'Connor's acknowledgment of book (12th) very sweet. (When I told W. of it, he declared, "She is with the sweetest of them all—a perpetual fountain of loving sympathy and feeling: dear Nellie! dear Nellie!"). Many telegrams and letters required of me, in all directions, and the days are full of inquiring, at home or in the Bank or often on the street. A Record reporter hunted me up for some notes touching W.'s religious views. After much talk he went off promising me a proof before mention of matter. The Record, like other papers, has matter in type ready to throw in on any sudden news of W.'s death.

     6:10 P.M. At W.'s, but he slept. Looked fairly easy. Did not talk.

     8:05 P.M. In again at 328, seeing W. almost immediately. Mrs. Keller on watch still. Hearing W. tap with his cane we went into the room together: she lit a candle and set it on a pile of books near the door. (Had been out to buy him some ice cream.) Mrs. K. and I together lifted W.'s head higher on the pillow. "Pretty high!" he cried, "high as you can"—and we got him almost in sitting posture. He took the mug of cream himself and fed slowly, talking to me between and full of questions, on which I had to answer and satisfy him. He seemed very feeble, and the words struggled forth, one at a time, in disconnected tones but coherently. Did he feel any zest tonight, as if from an introduction of new strength? "None at all, none—I do not feel a bit stronger—indeed, I have wondered if I was not weaker. Today has been easier—the hiccoughs less frequent and troublesome." When I told him, "Tom has the grip and is in bed!" he cried, "That makes me shiver!" And when I said Whittier had yesterday been taken down, he cried again, "Poor dear old man! If it gets good hold, things will go hard with him!" Koch and Dixon on track of the germ—thought they had markedly gained it up. W. shook his head, "I suppose—yes, medicine makes wonderful strides—in the meantime the cause of all the trouble—the virgin, the first seed—where is that? They do not find it—it is undiscovered—perhaps undiscoverable."


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     W. declined Mrs. Keller's offers of assistance in eating the cream. Once when she came in he remarked, "You see—I am eating it." I putting in, "It is an old task"—and he, "And a good one, I hope: it has stood by me from boyhood." Then to me, "What news for us, Horace? Anything particular?" To which I responded by mentioning the Illustrated American of the present week, with its five pages and three portraits of W. "Who could have done all that?" he asked. "Was it William Walsh? I suppose it likely. Favorable? Oh! I guess it was Walsh. I do not forget the great send-off in Lippincott's once." I quoted the paragraph about W.'s power to express sympathy, etc., etc., and the mention of his book as in that respect "almost without parallel in literature." W. suspended with the cream and looked at me, "Say that again, Horace." And after I had said it, "Are they the exact words?" —adding upon my assent, "I guess they are Walsh's—yes, Walsh's." Asking me further, "What of the portraits? Are they good?" Remarking when I spoke of the Thayer and Eldridge picture, "You mean the one with the fat pudgy head?" Finally inquiring, "We seem to be getting a remarkable swing, nowadays—eh?" And after a pause and another mouthful of cream, "All of which reminds me, Horace, that we should send Walsh a book. Send it care of the paper, Bible House, New York: that will reach him—follow him up." Our talk was very desultory and broken on his part from the difficulties of speaking. He said to me after some pause, "I want to send a book to John Newton Johnson, Mid"—(spelling his name—calling it "odd")— "Marshall County, Alabama." I looked inquiringly and he seemed to know why for he immediately added, "Yes, it is the queer fellow, but I want him to have a book." Further, "And Stoddart, too—yes, now you remind me—by all means—and with my best affection. Stoddart has stood by us like a hero." I had not Schmidt's address and he could not give it to me—and I had half-forgotten Rolleston's and he failed me in that, too. "I think it County Wicklow, Ireland: it would find him at that—but there's more—more," and that more he could not achieve.


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     By this time he had finished the cream and Mrs. Keller came in and took the mug. He remarked that the position we had put him into was "a comfort from its mere novelty," and added, "What a big thing it would be if I could sit up now and then, if only for two minutes at a time." But "I am possessed by a weakness which drags me down, a helpless, hopeless wreck." I quoted him Garland's letter and he seemed doubtful about the assertion that opposition was mostly dead. But "there is no doubt about Garland," however this claim might prove. Asked, too, "Is it really true that Howells leaves Harper's? What a princely salary! It takes a fellow's breath away." Referred to the Harper's Weekly editorial on W. "What was its trend?" "Towards deference to you as a free man rather than applause of the book." "That must be Curtis: it is very Curtissy." Telling him I had only just learned of Tom's sickness, he advised, "Go to see him—give him my love. Tom must not get sick."

     Now approached him—kissed him—saying, "I will go into the next room—will work there. You are tired. If you think of anything else, call me." "I will, Horace—bless you, bless you!" Then, "You won't want this light?" (candle). He, "No, take it along—I want no light." Spent an hour in next room writing and addressing books and postals for Stoddart, Eyre, Gilchrist, Morse, Kennedy, Walsh, Stead, Rolleston, Sarrazin, Schmidt. W. very wide awake. Suddenly, in 15 minutes, I heard him call my name, and found, on going in, that he had thought out the complete Rolleston address. And again, later on, he called "Horace," and on my entrance, "You have Walsh's name down, Horace?" Told him Harry Walsh had left Lippincott's. "I am almost sorry, though I don't now why I should be."

     He suggested snuff, that he might sneeze the hiccoughs away. And snuff was brought him. When I left at 9:30, he rested quietly and was without hiccoughs: the first night so free.

     Went up to Harned's but only saw Gussie. Tom in bed—no serious attack. McAlister had been in there to report W. weaker. Wrote to Bucke and to Johnston (England) at home.


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