Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, January 23, 1892

     In to see that all was right at W.'s (8:20 A.M.)—and as he was sleeping soundly hurried off to Philadelphia. Bucke's letter of 20th goes into some detailed mention of W. The morning's mail brought me letters from Johnston and Wallace, also: Johnston's of 13th, Wallace's of 12th.
Anderton, nr. Chorley.
Lancashire, England
12 Jan 1892

Dear Traubel

I have had quite a busy evening & must cut this letter short. I have been writing copies of your last letter, & of a pretty long one I received from Dr. Bucke yesterday to send to Symonds & Carpenter. And I will try to take press copies for Forman & Rhys. And I have just finished an 8 page letter to Symonds.

My thoughts are with you daily, & concentrate with memory & imagination & many emotions on the room in Mickle St. where our dearest friend & hero lies stricken. I cannot write as I would. It is no time for long letters or for philosophising (except as one can in one's own heart). It is ours only at present to assure you of constant daily sympathy & love, to tell you that our hearts are with you, grieving as yours grieve, hoping as yours hope, & in the worst disaster & pain & death, rejoicing as you rejoice in immortal faith & hope & assurance.

My dear poor friend! The blow falls heaviest on you, yours the daily care, anxiety, work & toil. All the greater our sympathy & love. Be strong & courageous, & God bless you.


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Pardon me if I again ask you to take care of yourself. Be wise to spare yourself where you can, do not attempt too much, run no risks of breaking down under too heavy & too numerous burdens. For Walt's sake, for your wife's sake, for all our sakes, be careful.

I wish I could help you. But I am powerless. Only my love & sympathy go out to you always.

I have kept delaying to send the books you asked for, though I have got them. I have no heart to send them now, nor would you care to see them.

Someday I mean to send you two prose books of Carpenter's which I have lately read & like immensely.

Please to give my heartfelt love & good wishes to your wife (may I simply say "Anne"?) & to the Harneds & to all the friends.

My heart is sore for you dear friend. Be wise, be strong, & emulate Walt's serene faith & constant cheer.

With love always

Wallace

P.S. If Walt is well enough to heed, give him my dearest & tenderest love—always the same.


No letter from these to W. Burroughs is more definite and strong towards W. than for some time—writing from West Park the 21st:
West Park, New York
Jany 21. 1892

Dear Horace,

Your letter & its good news is very cheering, tho' I have been watching the papers closely & knew Walt was better. If he gets able to be around out of that house into a clean sunny room somewhere—if he could only be taken to Atlantic City—I think he might take a fresh start, & find some satisfaction in life yet. I should certainly have his house turned inside out & well shaken & aired—& should not ask his consent.

Your essay is the best piece of work of yours I have seen; parts of it are remarkably good, but you must forgive me when I say I shall not be satisfied with you till you write in a more simple & easy style. You

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do Lowell full justice & Walt too. I wrote a paper on Walt for the Critic of about 3000 words, & having got my pen in, have kept on writing,—may turn out something on him I will care to print. I find it hard to take an independent view of him—a view from the outside & to avoid falling into a strain of eulogy. It is over ten years since I read him with any attention or sympathy & I find on coming back to him after I am done with Emerson & Carlyle & Arnold & many other things, that he sweeps me along the same as ever. He can be surveyed from so many points, he presents so many different outlines like a high mountain. Give him my warmest love & tell him I am again in my little skiff coasting up & down his shores. I hope I can again run down & see him this winter.


Very cordially yours,

John Burroughs


Sharp came in with Stoddart about noon. I advised him to go over to Camden, but to make his stay with W. the shortest possible. Tried to persuade Stoddart to attend Sharp, but he would not see it, having business engagements to keep him in Philadelphia. "Besides, I do not feel that I should annoy or weary the old man." Sharp cordial, and grateful, he said, for my note.

     At McKay's secured copies of the green book at last (got three: one for W., one for Bucke and one for myself). Then to Camden.

     6:10 P.M. Reached W.'s and went immediately into his room. He had not been asleep for some time. Cordial greetings. He still reported his state "only so-so," and contended that his day had been "spent poorly—poorly," though the nurse gave another report. He had read papers and the mail—yes, even looked over a part of the accumulated mail, which he had Warrie bring him. Had he written more letters today? "None at all—I did not even attempt it." And no strength yet evident? "No, I make no gains." Sharp had been over. "He came with a Miss North: we had a pleasant little visit together—but it was very little—they were hardly in before out. What a big fellow he is! You like to look at him, he is so set on his pins, so ruddy." Stoddart had not got over. I hoped to see Conway at a reception tonight. Had W.

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any message? "Yes, my best respects! Tell him I am here, very low, very low—but holding the fort, after a way—not yet surrendered. Yet very near surrender-point. Tell him I was, am, glad to hear he is to speak about poor Tom Paine tomorrow—tell him it is a good cause—none better." I remarked the singular odium which is so hard to shake off Paine's shoulders. "Yes, it is pretty horrible. Do I think justice will ever be done for Paine? I do—I do ardently. The right man will finally come. Is Conway that man? I am not sure, one way or the other. I would give a good deal, however, if I could listen to him tomorrow. You will be there? Well, then, I shall have to depend upon you to report to me." I remarked that I could not shake off the impression Ingersoll's account of the Paine funeral had left on me. "Nor I—nor I!" exclaimed W. "The Colonel has a great dramatic faculty, too!" Crauch dead. "Yes, I see it. I only knew him slightly—met him two or three times." Had brought over a number of Stars. He wished one copy left with him and would give me tomorrow names of some he wished me to send copies to. Room dark—did not therefore read Burroughs' letter—but repeated a great part of it, and all its substance. He remarked as to the last paragraph, "That is criticism, and good, too." And urged me, "Keep writing to John—make him our manifest."

     Exhibited copies '92 Edition, in the green. Would he look at them now? "O yes! If you will bring the candle." Which I did, setting it on the bed near his head. He turned the book over and over. "This, of course, is the edition I swear by." Lettering was: "Leaves of Grass Edition '92." He argues, "Would it not be better to make it 'Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass' and the '92 '1892,' and big? Because we have had editions and editions and editions, and this is to be in future the only authentic and perfect. And I want to make that evident—evident not casually, but radically. I think we had probably better have these changes made." And again, "What a book it makes now—how plump! And with a pretty touch, too, as made up in this shape." Promised to autograph copies for Bucke and for me. By and by—after looking book all over and through—he asked me to

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lay it aside for him, near the bed. "I will examine it more critically tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am satisfied—even as it is—though I prefer to have the changes in the stamping attended to: they seem to me to have a bearing on our history." (Now and then the hiccoughings.) Still allows, "Strength does not come—not at all. And will it? I do not know. I seem now and then to smell it, but no more. So far it has not appeared—nor its corners even." Held my hand warmly on departure. "Bless you, boy! This is a hard monotony to bear!"

     In talking with W. I told him of advance sheets sent McKay and shown today by him to me of article by Walter Blackburn Harte in the forthcoming February issue New England Magazine, Whitman the subject. W. simply said, "That is interesting—very interesting—from his standpoint justified. We have to assume that he speaks his message, which is not to accept but to question. And we know that is part of the game, against which we must play but which stands for a vital something—a card thrown down by an honest opposition."


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