Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, January 24, 1892

     Mailed letters to Bolton and to London (Johnston and Bucke), and then hurried down to W.'s for a five minutes' stay, finding he had had a rather restless night, and that the others noticed, as I had last evening, that there was a suspicion of the return of the hiccoughs. Still, he looked well as he slept—and breathed easily, though hunched somewhat in bed. He was on his back, color good, facial lines haggard—hands folded outside the covers. He did not move at my entrance nor did I disturb him. Then to Philadelphia. (Mrs. Keller says, "I look for the return of the hiccoughs anytime: he showed some trace of them after the visitors had gone yesterday." And again, "He is a weak man—a very weak man.")

     No definite word from Arthur Stedman.


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     9:05 P.M. Found at W.'s that he had had a bad day again, with some touch of dysentery. The result being that he was very weak. I had twenty minutes' talk with him. They were dosing him with paregoric and brandy. W. took occasion to applaud the brandy and wished for "more like it." How had the day been with him? "Poorly—poorly: I am low—very weak." I remarked, "That seems to be the problem—you do not get strength." He then, "You are right: I feel if anything a suspicion of weaker today than yesterday, but here I am—here I am." When I entered, he had asked, "Is Conway with you?" I think he half hoped Conway was along. But I had had no good chance to speak with Conway today. W. asks, "And what about the lecture? Was it worth while?" Whereupon I drifted into some mention of Conway's main points, to all of which W. listened. His impression was that this lecture would "help along the cause," and besides "recreate opinion in some quarters for poor Paine." Conway had told us about the funeral, but his description was pale compared with Ingersoll's. "Yes, indeed," said W., "the Colonel's was a flash of light."

     His recovery even to this stage "a marvel—a marvel," he reports, and adds, "But the remarkablest note to be made on the subject is this: that I live still—after all the whacks and blows I have had, after horrible perturbations, belly, mind, for years, years—that is the remarkable fact."

     He had looked over the papers some, "not much," and had seen the mail. "I am glad to see the fellows at Bolton got the bust: they seem happy of it and I am happy to see them so." Then, "I sent my advertisement to Bonsall for the Post, and I intend it ultimately for the New York Tribune. I shall have a number of slips of it and will give them to you." He had also written a memo for me to examine and show to Dave, giving his notes of stamp for book, adding "Walt Whitman's" to "Leaves of Grass" and instead of "Complete '92" making it "Complete" on one line and "1892" on another—and as he says "in a big figure which nobody can mistake. That damned thing as it stands now—the curl and

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the 92"
—it was written "complete '92"— "nobody will understand. This is now my own personal, authenticated volume—sealed, signed, made as it stands, by me, to so remain, if I can keep it, forever and ever. It is my ultimate, my final word and touch, to go forth now, for good or bad, into the world of the future. It is from this deep—yes, profound—conviction that I hope now, before I go, to see an actual physical book before my eyes, shaped and left to the last particular just as I, its author, the immediate person most concerned, approve and assent for its own—this book to take what fortune it may of men, of the future, of democracy, of the newer civilizations." I exclaimed, "I wish all that could be set forth in the advertisement. It would be a blazing sun." He only smiled. "Well, you will see the ad tomorrow, if Harry determines to print it." Should Dave object? He replied, "He won't—he will do it: his interests will approve me in this."

     Thence to talk of Young's article again. Did he wish it to be generally circulated among his friends? "Yes, I do wish it: it has eminent virtues." So I promised to get plenty of papers and send off to a long list. New England Magazine piece up again. I am to leave with him tomorrow. If Walt Whitman had only had an adviser or counsellor! "Yes, I suppose." And an abridged edition? "That, too." And with an odd burst and laugh, "And after that, damnation." Had Mead sent it? "It was good of Mead! Good of Mead!" Said of the books, "I did not autograph your copies today because I want you to have perfect copies, after the stamping is all adjusted." So two of the copies I took away and the third I left with him.

     Speaking again of his condition, "I am weak—weak—weak, but everybody is so kind to me, my weakness seems less than it is." But the pneumonia was all gone? "I don't know—I doubt if it is all gone." The doctors speak of nothing but weakness. "Yes, perhaps they are right, but that weakness is a solid saddening fact." I asked him frankly, "Do you anticipate strength?" And he owned up, "I don't dare do more than live from day to day, holding the reins well in hand, waiting for what may turn up, whether it be day or night."


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     Letter from Johnston (N. Y. ):
J. H. Johnston & Co.,
Diamond Merchants and Jewelers
17 Union Square, New York
Jan. 23rd, 1892.

Dear Mr. Traubel:

When I left you, you will, perhaps, remember that you promised to write to me or drop me a postal every day about Uncle Walt and not one has come. All we know about him is what we see in the papers or hear by accident. I met Ingersoll the other night and he told me he was going over to see Walt the next day which would be Thursday. He suggested his giving another lecture for Walt's benefit here in New York but I have not seen him since. Give my love to Walt. With kind regards to your wife, and with the hope that you will let me hear from you often, believe me,

Very sincerely yours,

J. H. Johnston


I wrote him: "Wait till we see what is to be the result of W.'s sickness."


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