Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, February 2, 1892

     8:22 A.M. Found W. awake after restless night. "I hope yet for a good nap," he said—after warmly greeting me. "But things are mainly against me—I seem to struggle with an adverse tide." I went into next room to look for my mail. In the meantime Warrie went in to W.

     Warrie: "Well, do we feel like a better day?"

     W.: "Oh! I don't know, Warrie."

     Warrie: "How is the side?"

     W.: "Sore everyhow. I guess it might be worn through. It's here"—indicating— "all this spot."

     Warrie: "I thought you moved your legs and felt better last night."

     W.: "Ah!"

     Warrie: "You don't seem to get any strength, though. If you could get that, it would overcome the rest."

     W.: "Yes, that would be a great move."

     Warrie left room and I re-entered. I had scribbled all this down on my knee—standing in doorway. W. had said to Warrie, in the night, "The brandy holds out well." Warrie laughingly

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replying, "But it's all gone now. This is the last swig." W. thereupon, "Oh! that's too bad!" Now W. reports the fact to me. "Is there any more where that came from, Horace? I think that is the best I ever tasted—yes, beyond all odds, the very best: it's a bracer merely to smell it: it has done me a heap of good." I promised more, telling him of a man I knew who always asserted, "I mean to live handsomely on handsome things—the best of every kind. If I can't get the best, I can starve. And if I starve, I can starve handsomely and depart in a handsome poverty." In spite of his pale face and wearied look W. took this up with a bright peal of laughter. "How good that is!" he exclaimed. "And so subtle!" "It is the bottom life of all true art," I remarked. "Yes, a deep plumb!" he appended. Joe Gilder had sent me proof slip of Burroughs' "Mr. Howell's Agreements with Whitman." I proposed to leave it with W. "Yes, do, Horace," he said. "I will do my best to read it today. It ought to strike a true note—it is in John's field."

     Restless in the night. At 4:15 he had Warrie turn him—again at 4:30—again at 4:45, and then again at 4:50. Yet he says to me, "It is fairly easy at times." Has not yet autographed books for Bucke and me. "I will do so if the hand will permit. But I am weak—ambitionless. The spirit is always willing." And he remarked again, "This is a losing game." I remarking, "But it may be a long time before the last man is taken—all life is a losing game." But he shook his head, "The last move is near, Horace, near. But—God bless you—God bless you all, all are good to me—true steel—all." And after a further loving word from him for Bucke and another for Ingersoll, I passed out.

     6:10 P.M. Telegram from Ingersoll, received at Bank: "Give my love to Whitman and to it add my hope that he may recover." When I had met W. and passed greetings and he asked me, "What of the boys? What news?" I had this to divulge, he responding to it with several warm phrases, among them, "The dear fellow! Always loving and great!" Then he asked me, "Is there new about Ingersoll? Has he come to new and new and new light? I wonder, often." I replied, "The women who sing

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often mellow up at 50, losing brilliancy, but gaining in power to pierce men and hold them."
W. affirmed, "That is so, that is truly so—I could quote cases to fit it." I then continued, "Ingersoll has gone further up—the branches have spread: he shelters more than he did," etc. W. at that, "I see—and I guess it must be true. He is full of life—full of all forces of growth." He directed me to table to get the Burroughs proof. I struck a match and looked it up. Meanwhile W. reported, "I read it carefully, several times, and like it a good deal. It shows that John has not lost his ability to fetch in delicate game or to strike a powerful blow. The article is along the lines of your Poet-Lore piece—treads much the same way—and like yours is a bit artful—for which there are reasons why, plain to us. It is admirable, admirable—covers the case. Even Howells ought to like it, for it follows out the logic of his position far better than he does himself. John is cute—he has made a direct stroke, straight to central reasons—and leaves his impression there." He wondered, "Will it appear in the next issue of the Critic?" I asked if I had not better send a copy of the '92 edition to Joe Gilder. "Haven't you done so already? Well, do it now. Joe may profitably have one." Had the day been easy? "It has been a sleepy one—I don't know about the ease." I had brought the brandy. W. wished me to "present" his "compliments" to Falkenberg and to say, "It is the best brandy by all odds I have ever tasted and it is a credit to your cellar."

     Quoted the following to W., in a general way: WALT WHITMAN'S FAD.

He Used to Parade Broadway Wearing

a Star-and-Stripes Necktie.

Notwithstanding his residence in Washington; his stay in New Orleans, where he did some good newspaper work; and not counting his long vegetation in Camden, N. J., Walt Whitman was in every fiber a thorough New Yorker. Why not? He was born, seventy-two years ago, in a little village over on Long Island, and, like most Long Islanders,

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naturally drifted to this town. My old journalistic friend remembers him here thirty-five years ago, when he first put out his "Leaves of Grass." This city was comparatively small then, and Walt Whitman was as conspicuous a citizen as any—knew everybody and everybody knew him. He was a marked figure on Broadway—a most manly man, as vigorous and virile as his own poetry. His very personality impressed itself on all passers-by, and men, and even women, turned around to look at him. He was almost the first to make the now fashionable fad of the flannel shirt in Summer his all the year round convenience and comfort, and the broad collar was turned over a silk American flag. His ordinary wear was a neat suit of workingman's clothes. Whatever he might be called, a Democrat or a Republican, he prided himself upon being "one of the people." Brady, then famous as a photographer, was the first to capture Whitman, and thereafter every photographer in town displayed colored pictures of Walt, especially to show his American flag scarf. There were omnibuses in those days—"stages" they called them—and every driver knew Walt Whitman; and up and down Broadway the poet was prominent, often for hours, beside a driver on the box. The lively street was his studio in which he made his pictures of the people and his studies of humanity.


[Advertiser, Jan. 10]


He said, "It is all untrue—all of it. I never wore a tie—or rarely—and if I did, it was a black silk one. I dressed in black anyway at that time." When did he adopt grey? "It must have been from 1860 to 1865." After a pause, "Perhaps earlier—or perhaps had its suggestion earlier. You know I was in Louisiana—spent some time in the South—yes, before the war—and I must have acquired or hit upon grey while there. This stars and stripes business is new and false. I never heard the story before, but"—with a merry laugh— "I have heard as bad and worse." Had he any message for Bolton? "Nothing particular, I guess." Has done little reading today and no writing at all. Mentioning Bucke, W. says, "I often wonder to myself whether if anything happened to take Bucke away from the Asylum—whether it would not be worse for him, worse for it, worse for all? He seems so fit to be there and so great—greatest—in that work."


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