Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, February 8, 1892

     8:15 A.M. My morning round and glimpse of W., who was in his sleep, but coughed considerably and was feverishly flushed. In his mail a letter from Hallam Tennyson, which I did not open.

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Took set of '76 books to Philadelphia and delivered to McKay, giving him 20 percent on the ten dollars. Long talk with McKay over Arthur Stedman's letter. Did he agree with me that Webster was up to a bright trick in issuing the Whitman volume out of its order? Undoubtedly! For with me he saw Webster's anticipation of W.'s death and what would then be the demand for "Leaves of Grass." Would this interfere with complete book under such circumstances? We had the same affirmative instinct on this point. Under the conditions Dave advised against book, though aware all copyrights are in our hands. I suggested referring to W. either for power to act or some absolute ground to work upon. Note this, also: Arthur ignores the "Children of Adam" poems completely—bring to W.'s attention. I wrote George Whitman to meet Harned tomorrow.

     5:48 P.M. Warrie and Mrs. Keller at supper. Mrs. Davis on watch. I went several times in W.'s darkened room—stood there—sat down—but he breathed heavily, did not seem to see me or to stir. Now and then a slight hint of hiccoughings—I made no move to disturb him. I had retired to the back room and got into some talk with Mrs. Davis, when I heard W. cough violently. She went into the room, finding this had awakened him, and told him I was there at which he called out at once, "Come in, Horace—come in—come in." Greetings warm. I saw at once W. was in bad shape. Talked with great effort—was pale—hand very hot. I stroked his head and found it cold as ice. Our talk various. Told me of the Tennyson letter. "It was from Hallam—cheery, hearty, sweet. I wrote a few words on a blank page of it and sent it off to Bucke: it was very short—without ornaments, superfluities—drove straight to its purpose, which was, good will." The envelope still lay on the table. He had also written to his sister—told me old George Stafford was dead. "He is to be buried tomorrow. Poor George! I want Warrie to go to the funeral." Referring to the many offers everywhere to help him, "I am in no need—I have for years now had more than enough—get along easily—things seem all provided for me." (This also the substance of his reply to a question of the

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Telegram reporter's.) Bucke called my attention to fact that Harte's New England Magazine piece appeared among the book advertisements—so we are mistaken. W. asks, "Isn't that a devil of a place to put it?" I left him copy of magazine, of which I had got him several today. Inquired after his feeling of strength. "There is none," he replied. And then, "Bad—bad—bad—bad—bad! Horace, it is wearing me out. I am slipping away—slipping, slipping—the tide is falling, I feel the last turn." I asked, "Is it so bad as that, dear Walt?" And he responded—taking my hand—looking at me, "You all try to buoy me up—you are brave—you have fought like lions, hyenas—doctors, all: but, dear boy, we must not deceive ourselves—no, there is no gain in that—we are at the last twist of the road, the very last." Then said to me further, "These are all bad days: they don't give us any rest. It is the one strain of a song—the same, evermore the same." After a pause, "Tell me, when do you intend writing to Dr. Johnston?" "Tonight." "Oh! Well, I have a message for him—a message to this effect. Indeed put it in my own words." I whipped a sheet of paper out of my pocket and wrote in the dark as he dictated. "Say to him, Horace: Walt Whitman says, colon." I laughed, "You are very specific." "Yes, I suppose," laughed himself. "Well, put in the colon, then go on: If entirely convenient, facsimile the letter of February 6th and send it copiously to European and American friends and to all friends anywhere." After a pause, "You got that? Send it word for word. And give him some addresses, if you wish, or think it advisable." He relaxed, closed his eyes, and for full five minutes nothing was said on either side. Then suddenly he remarked, "You will find a letter from Leonard Brown on the table over there." I searched it out and held it up. "That's it!" said W. "Tell Dr. Johnston to send a copy—a facsimile—to Brown. Give him Brown's address. I would advise, don't you write to Brown—the other letter will serve." And speculatively, "As I understand it, the fellows there at Bolton have an inexpensive way of facsimileing, and they do it wonderfully, too—wonderfully—so well as to deceive me, even me—for they even adopt paper of the

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same color and weight—give it every way the show of genuine, if it can't be genuine."
I read him Mrs. Fairchild's letter, to which he responded, "Brave devoted rare woman! We treasure every word. Tell her, Horace: say I heard it and feel its weight and respond to it, to her, with all my love." Then I still continued to sit on the side of the bed and to read him letters—now, Rolleston's, January 26th:
Birnam, Spencer Hill,
Wimbledon, London.
Jan. 26th

My dear Traubel

Whitman's L. of G. 1892, has just reached me, being forwarded from Delgany. Coming at this moment, when one fears that every mail will bring us news of his death, it touched me more than I can say. And it is just such an edition as I wanted & did not possess before. My warmest thanks to him & you, which please convey to him if you can. You must be happy indeed in being able to serve him in these last days of helplessness & assuredly you have the affectionate thanks & sympathy of all who love him here.

Please note my address. I have left Delgany for some time & have knocked about the world a good deal since. Things going there have a good chance of being long delayed if they arrive at all.

I got "Goodbye My Fancy" at Putnam's the other day, a serene & beautiful book. How strange to learn from it that American magazines can even still reject his contributions without making themselves ridiculous!

When last in Germany the German L. of G. was doing well. I read very cordial & very penetrating articles on it in the best literary journals—the Gegenwart of Berlin etc. Certainly their reception of him has shown more insight & comprehension than that of lands where his own language is spoken. Here, however, he is really becoming a classic now a great change has taken place during the last dozen years or so. You find his books in the Free Public Libraries, for instance. I fear things in America are still backward. There is not enough genuine culture there, than which nothing so surely emancipates & ennobles the taste. I mean the culture gained from absorbing the spirit of the great Greek poets & thinkers—the men who faced the problems of the world & its phenomena in the freest and sincerest spirit ever known.


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I hope to send you a small Plato volume of mine ere long. Goodbye till then.

Sincerely yours

T. W. Rolleston


He responded to this letter with a warm, "God bless him, too! The good Rolleston! And that which you read me from him about Germany is very interesting—almost startling. You ought to tell that to Bucke. On Greek culture? Read that again—read it slow"—and then W. put his hand up to his ear, his head turned my way, and listened. "Kennedy ought to hear that about the magazines," he suggested. "Altogether, Horace, that is one of the best of our recent letters. It goes near bottom." Then repeated to him the substance of my talk with Dave. As to Arthur's avoidance of the "Children of Adam" poems, "That rather surprises me—yet I understand, too." And again, "I want to leave that matter principally or wholly in your and Dave's hands—you to decide the yes or the no, and the ways of the yes or the no, only insisting that whatever is done, the Webster volume shall make 'Selections' very obvious and conspicuous, so that no one may get the book under a delusion—under false representations. Indeed, selections is cardinal to the performance—the first condition—to be set forth and made plain before anything else is done. I know of nothing more essential to our purposes than to have the world realize the approved volume—the '92 edition—as the only really complete and satisfactory presentation of our case. So that this little side speculation must not interfere with, or take the place of, the main scheme. I can see Webster's little trick." I had boldly said, "These fellows, the Websters, evidently think you are about to kick the bucket—that you will soon die—and that they will have this volume ready and will flood the market with it. Dave thinks it would at such a time injure if not drive out the complete book." "Does he think that? Do you think he thinks that? If he thinks that, then I think it had better be blocked for the present. But I leave it with you. Here would be another proposition—for Webster to

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take both prose and poetry for cash down, right in so much absolute: 100 pages for $100—250 pages for $200. How does that strike you?"
"It is too cheap." "Too cheap? I wondered if they would pay it." "They would pay more. At your rate you would sell the book for $300." He laughed, "You seem to discourage it." "I do." "What will Dave do?" "I don't know, but if you wish, I will find out." "Do—ask him what he has to say to it. I think from the publisherial, Websterial point of view it would not seem preposterous, but from Dave's it may have other leanings." I stood at the foot of the bed. "I am quite set about 'Selections,' Horace—that is an unalterable condition—but I am willing to abide by what you fellows say."

     Read W. the postal from Forman. "Poor Buxton! He too is down sick! We are a sick world this winter. But I am glad he is not seriously set about. Take good care of Rolleston's new address, Horace, you may need it." Referring to Stafford again, "Poor George! That's the last of him!" I received Bucke's two letters of 5th today, alluding to some of their features to W. "Doctor keeps up the quick round of his life." The brandy nearly out, W. asking, "Is the barrel empty? Is there any more of it, Horace?" And was a bit inclined to joke over it. Twice he laughed at things I said. Also reminded me, "I have a letter from Wallace: I gave it to Warrie to put in your way to take—it belongs to you. It is a loyal breath of sweet favor, a loving breeze from across the sea."
Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England
28. Jan. 1892

Dear Walt,

I cannot tell you how glad I am to write to you again with some confidence that you will be able to read it yourself. I only pray that you may recover sufficient strength to enjoy some measure of comfort and ease.

The last 2 days have been a happy joyful release from the heavy cares & anxieties of several weeks past. Do not think us thoughtless or inconsiderate, or altogether selfish that we welcome your partial

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recovery with so great a joy. The world has seemed to us, during your illness, half emptied of its warmth & love. We have learned, in bitterness & grief, how much the love between us means & how deep it goes. And it is an immense joy to us to find that it is to be ours still.


The last mail brought letters from Traubel which were the first to give us solid grounds of hope. And it astonishes me to find how gladdening & vitalizing is the joyous sense of release—as of a long & heavy load removed. May God bless you & give you comfort & strength.

Horace has been marvellously good to us, as well as to you. Daily & faithfully he sends us bulletins of your condition, and under trying circumstances & heavy press of affairs steadfastly shows us loving kindness like a brother's. I cannot thank him or respond to his kindness as he deserves. Perhaps you, whom he loves & reveres as we do beyond all others, will thank him for us? That will please him best of all.

I will not write much now, but I am very happy in the prospect of writing again. My dearest love to you & my most fervent prayers & good wishes are yours always.

Wallace


I, too, had letters from Bolton—in fact, a whole budget: Wallace 25th, 26th, 28th, 29th and Johnston 27th.

     10:38 P.M. Passed a tall, glassed, sandy-whiskered, fine-looking fellow at Third and Mickle, finding him afterward to have been the Telegram reporter, come at last, who had seen W. a minute, got his package, waited some time for me and gone off, intending to take midnight train to New York. A few minutes later saw W. while Warrie was turning him. He alluded to the New Yorker, "He has come and gone—he got his message, but we had no prolonged talk." Looked pale and unrested. Complained of his side. Longaker still tells me, "My luck is, to see Whitman at his best, whenever I come." The pain in the side still a mystery to us.

     Warrie writing to Wallace. Asking W. for a message for the Staffords, he received but a few brief [words], of rather dismal import. Wishes Warrie to go to the funeral tomorrow. Much cough, considerable mucus raised, some little hiccoughing evident.


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