Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, January 18, 1892

     Never miss a morning. Always in to see W., if only for a few minutes. Did no more than greet him this morning. He seemed drowsy. Gets his best sleep from four to ten or so. Looked pale and blue. But was cheerful in the few words he spoke. "Later on I shall try to read a little." Day bad—rainy and slushy.

     Two letters from Bucke today—Jan. 15th and 16th.

     6:10 P.M. To W.'s but as he had had an unquiet day and slept now I hurried away again, to come down after tea.

     (Said W. yesterday when I spoke of a lustrous star over the southwest, "Brave star! Is it Jupiter or Venus? Brave, beautiful star!" Saying to W. I wrote the doctor twice a day, "Dear Doctor, and dear boy! Keep it up—it is all he has now!")

     8:18 P.M. Reaching W.'s found Mrs. Keller and Warrie playing cards in Warrie's room. I went across into W.'s room. He immediately recognized me and called my name. He seemed to cough some and raise some phlegm. Can he be getting cold? His hands under the cover. "I will not put them out," he explained. "I am very cold, very"—yet extra blankets on the bed. How had the day gone? "Not horribly, altogether, though it has been horrible enough. I have had some dysentery, but seem quiet and safe noW." Involuntary passages—several today—and he in what he called "abject terror" of them. "Yet I read some, even looked a little at the mail, but it goes slow—I am so weak—so useless." Asked me to send a copy of Poet-Lore to Charles Eldridge. "He was always William's and my friend—and he will appreciate—will measure up—this piece." What message for the Doctor today? "None, especially. Give him my love and send him for me Logan Smith's letter, come today from Paris—I gave it to Mary

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to put away."
(I found it subsequently in next room and sent to B.) I had a letter from Ingersoll. Went over to gas, turned it up—then back to bed, reading W. the letter:
400 Fifth Avenue
Jany 15. 92

Dear Traubel,

A thousand thanks for your good letters. Is there anything that the dear man wants? Has he the best medical attention? Let me know if I can do anything to cheer the last days of the great poet—greatest on the continent—so far as I know in the world. Give him my love and the love of us all. Mrs. Ingersoll and the girls join with me always in love and hope. I made a little after-dinner speech last night before Unitarian Club. I send you the paper containing the few words.

Be sure and tell Whitman that we are thinking of him nearly all the time—thinking of him as he lies near the sea. I wish he had children to hold his hands and press their kisses on his lips. Love to you and Mrs.

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll


He was much moved. "Beautiful—beautiful for the Colonel!" he exclaimed. "And did he say, in the whole world? That is very significant—very—from him. It is noble—noble—noble of him. Tell him, Horace, that I am well-looked after—that I am satisfied everything is done for me—doctors, nurses, all—or everything I know—or which seems to me required. Thank him for the champagne—say I have had two what I call champagne days—two—and he was uppermost in my thoughts. I felt that was the very best. There are two kinds of champagne—the wet and dry—tart and tartest—and his was best of best, tartest of tartest. Now, what of that speech of his? Did you read it? Could you leave it with me tomorrow? I have no doubt it would be a great lift to me if I could read it. And as for reading it, I may try." And again, "You will write to Ingersoll? Then give him my love—my love for all: for wife, daughters—and though I am hard beset, assure him not the least of my benefits is his, their,

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love."
I had delivered "Leaves of Grass" to Stoddart. He busy—no talk—but grateful, and sent love to Walt. W. asks, "And you say Harry Walsh is going or has gone?" "Has gone." "Oh! I was thinking, Horace, that it was Harry, not William, who wrote the Illustrated American piece. I am quite sure of it." I confessed I did not know H.'s fingermarks. W. then, "I don't know that I do, but I feel him in it." Referred to hiccoughs—how happy, in a sense, all days, with them gone. I remarked, "What the sickness won't do for a fellow the hiccoughs seem calculated to effect." He laughed, "That is true, and I can laugh over it now."

     Repeated to him my interview with McKay. McKay not opposed to assenting to Stedman's proposition but advised care in treating with Webster, who is slippery. Would ask from Stedman pages and ems on each page proposed and then limit him to that. Was not sure but it might help sale of "Leaves of Grass." W. now tells me, "That is satisfactory. I leave the rest all in your hands, to watch and guard, to hear and decide." McKay owes W. money. He offered to settle in December, when it was due, and while W. was sick, but I had advised him to wait. W. now advises me, "You settle with him: we might as well have the money. You know the account as well as I do. I authorize you—give you full authorization—to go on just as if you were Walt Whitman—and of course Dave understands the relationship." Inquired about green book. Expected in a day or two. McKay lost sheet for stamps W. had sent over. W. now, "I guess you will have it all right, anyhoW. The only thing I really insist upon is to have 'Edition '92' on the cover." McKay's wife very sick and W. condoles with M. "What a trial-time for Dave! Tell him we wish him well out of it, being deep enough in it ourselves!" His memory served him well. He could specify the greater part of McKay's indebtedness. I offered to write letters for him. He assured me, "I may have to ask it." Wished a copy of Illustrated American for himself. He declared, "I seem to be watched night and day by the utmost vigilance, and that is a great comfort, everybody seeming to have it in their hearts to treat me well."


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     Mrs. Keller's notes: Mr. W. passed a comfortable night, excepting feeling the desire to evacuate from the bowels much of the time. Had a large movement early in the morning—4 A.M.

8 a.m. Still feeling discomfort in bowels. More quiet than two hours ago.

9 Drowsy but not sleeping soundly. Has slight cough with a rattling and raising of phlegm.

10 Was bathed—face, hands and back. Said, "I feel great lassitude." Added, "Washing quite wakes me up."

11 Asked for Press and mail. Ate toast and broth.

11:30 Had involuntary action of bowels. Drank coffee, 1 cup.

12 p.m. Had large movement. Took 1 teaspoonful paregoric.

1 Sleeping on left side.

2 Still sleeping quietly upon left side. Slept 2 hours.

3 Had milk porridge. Ate nearly 1 quart milk.

4 Took 1 teaspoonful paregoric.

5 Easier than before.

5:30 Turned to left side.


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