Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, February 10, 1892

     8:10 A.M. W. now regularly sleeps at this time in the morning. A letter there from Ingersoll—of course unopened. I had one of my own from same source. Ingersoll going away and wishes to be kept informed of W.'s condition.

     Kennedy mails this from Transcript of 4th, from one of my letters to him: "A watcher by the bedside of Walt Whitman writes to a friend in Boston that he 'does not rally, but seems rather to go deeper and deeper into the stream—yes, beyond our best hope and throw. The four days past have been bad ones throughout.'"

     Last night brought a letter from Symonds, dated January 25th. How it has moved all! I read to Harned in his office and it stirred him to tears. Anne felt it to the deeps. Shall I show it to W.? If he wishes it, yes. But it is sad—sad. It must be answered before next mail—Saturday morning.

     Bucke's (7th) letter pathetic in its profound sympathy for W. Bucke's letter of 8th [also arrived.] He writes me assiduously. Is acting on my idea to proceed with circular for book. But I am opposed to getting it out while W. lives. This letter and that of 9th show Bucke to be in as uncertain mind as we are about the duration left W. On the 7th Baker wrote me beautifully from New York. I left this letter with W. and he read it "with a deep joy," as he said, adding in his remarks something about "the miracle of Baker's escape" and the "lovableness of the man, through and through."
Law Office, Robert G. Ingersoll
45 Wall Street
New York, Feby 7th 1892.

My dear Traubel:

You are much in my thought these days—days to you of trembling hope and dread, of life and death—nights of loving though anxious vigil. Love outlasts days and nights of weariness of the flesh, and hope uplifts and renews—but anxious fear wears. Be hopeful therefore by the bedside of the dear one—hopeful as you are heartful and loving,

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and your days and nights of watching will not phase you. But be careful that you hope—else you will bow beneth the burden.


Again give my love to the great patient, and again accept for him my high hope that he will see many more calm days—beautiful days—before his barque sinks beyond the horizon of our sight. When he sinks to rest, it will be the setting of a sun—a perceived setting—clear, cloudless, gorgeous, glorious to the world.

Mrs. Traubel's beautiful letter, in helpful stead of yours, was very welcome to both Mrs. Baker and myself. It was very good of her to write. We both return our love to you both! We enjoy your soulful utterances. The Colonel reads me all your letters about dear Whitman—so I am kept advised.

Now, dear fellow, keep your own health and strength just as far as you can—for every reason, and for all sakes.

Yours as ever,

I. N. Baker.

Mr. Farrell wishes me to ask if you will not find an early opportunity to write a line to Peter Eckler of 35 Fulton St. this city—the friend of W. W., who sent him a little cash contribution which it seems was not acknowledged.—Just a line saying that W. W. sends his grateful thanks, or whatever. You know what to say—but you say it as coming from W. W. and Mr. Eckler will prize it beyond measure—that's all he wants, a friendly mental handshake.

B.


As to Eckler, I must ask W. Miss Gould remembers W. and salutes him:
191 Chestnut St.
Chelsea Mass.



With loyal affection and best wishes to my dear poet. God bless him! Splendor of ended day/Be but the door/Opening the endless way—/Life evermore! February 1892. Miss Gould.


J. H. Johnston keeps up his interest in us, [writing on the] 8th. Mrs. George Whitman in to see Harned, the two having a long

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conference, to this effect, that the Whitmans will advance money for paying Mrs. Keller and her extras, I to continue my fund in its own way and to furnish such odds and ends as I find required and can pay for. Harned greatly pleased—found her very amenable to his suggestions—very proud of the tomb—very conscious of the situation. We find that W. made the Van Nostrand change in will at George's suggestion. It seems they don't need it. She will send Harned a check for $100 to start with today. This will end Bucke's anxiety very soon. She thinks W. hardly realizes his financial debt to Mrs. Davis.

     4:10 P.M. With Arthur Stedman. He called on me forenoon in Bank but could not have much talk then and at that time over book. Appointed for later afternoon. Then to Reisser's together—when, over oysters and, for him, a bottle of beer, we discussed the project of the book. He rightly judged some unexpected questions had risen with us. Brought proposition along from New York, to this effect: Memorandum of Agreement made this ____ day of ____ between ____ of the first part and Charles L. Webster & Co. of the second part, Witnesseth

The ___ of the first part hereby give permission to Webster & Co. of the second part to make selections from the poems of Mr. Walt Whitman, said selections to be made by Mr. Arthur Stedman, and to publish the same in such form as they may deem best, retail price not to be greater than $1.00.

They agree not to give similar permission to any other parties for a period of at least three (3) years from the publication of the book made as above designated.

In consideration the parties of the second part agree to publish said book in good form, to use their best efforts to make as large a sale as possible, to render an account every three (3) months of the sales made, and to pay royalty on all sales made at the rate of ten (10) per cent on the retail price....


We discussed points. I urged that this contract should definitely state quantity of matter proposed for use. He assented. Stated

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to him frankly the whole matter of our hesitation—also W.'s project of a book containing prose and verse. But this would not do—it would mar the consistency of their scheme. Arthur saw as I saw that W. would be robbing himself by a sale of the rights flush for $250 or any such sum: royalty undoubtedly better. He spoke of a volume from "Specimen Days" to be called "The Autobiography of Walt Whitman." I urged that "Autobiographia Walt Whitman" would be better. He took a note of this. But the prose volume was to come later on. He had come over specially to see me in this business. What would be our best form of procedure? I planned to go to McKay—get his views—then hurry to Camden—consult with W.—and meet Stedman at 328 at 7:30, ready, either to sign or to give judgment against. We spent a full hour together. My after discussion with McKay developed no opposition. "I am opposed to the contract, but if a contract is to be made, this is a good one." Arthur even asked, "What about Webster & Co. for handlers of all W.'s books?" I responding, "This is not the time to discuss that." Arthur claims that Webster means to pay W. very liberally—will in every way treat him well. He had come over prepared to sign a contract—not necessarily the one he had brought with him.

     6:10 P.M. At W.'s. He was and had been in quite bad shape all the day. Left Ingersoll's letter out for me:
400 Fifth Avenue.
Feby 9th 92

My dear Whitman—

I am going away to-day—first to Buffalo, then Cleveland, then Chicago, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Hope to be back by the 22nd inst.

Of course Traubel will keep me informed as to your condition.

I think of you hundreds of times a day and you are in my heart always. I have not given up hope by any means. You have a wonderful constitution—amazing recuperative powers.


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But there is one thing that ought to give you great comfort. You have done great good. You have delivered your message to the world. You have helped to emancipate the world. This is enough.

The Republic will hold your memory dear—

Yours with hope & love

R. G. Ingersoll

All the family unite with me and they all send hope & love.

And had pencilled a form of contract and design for me to submit to the Websters. I immediately went in and had a talk with him. He was in miserable shape and seemed to find it a struggle to talk—yet talked and insisted he should hear me out. I read him the contract. "No, I don't like that," he said. "We are not to give them any right to sub-sell?" I assented. He then, "I have written out my own notion of the book. Warrie will give that to you." I told him Stedman would be over. "Well, let him come—you will arrange something with him. I don't think I can see him or am up to a discussion of this thing. You know well enough, and enough to go on." And again, "That outline on the slip is my ultimate—it shows what I am willing to do." I protested, "It would break the character of their series." "Well," he said doggedly, "see what he says to it." Then he inquired, "What news is there? Arthur don't expect to see me if he comes over? Good! Good! I am passing through a period of frightful depression."

     I said to W., "I have a letter from Symonds." "What! Addington Symonds?" "The same." "And what says the good Symonds?" "He is very sick—perhaps is dying!" "Dying? Dying did you say? Tell me more about that, Horace." "I have the letter with me." "Good—then you will read me the letter?" "You wish to hear it?" "Indeed—indeed!" I went in other room and got letter from my coat pocket—returning, setting the light higher and going back to the bed. W. remarked, "Read every word of it, Horace—read it verbatim." I sat down at the left of

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the bed—he put his hand up at the left ear as sounding board. I commenced to read. He was instantly and profoundly moved. "The good John! Sweet John, too!" he exclaimed. And he warned me again, "Don't leave anything out, Horace, read it all—I can hear it all!" In the midst of the reading Mrs. Davis came in. W. saw her. "Well, Mary?" "Mr. Gilder is here to see you." "Gilder? Oh! I am busy now, and in a bad way besides. You, Horace—can't you go down and see him?" Mrs. Davis protested, "But he is right here—right in the next room. I had him come up." "Well, let him come in, but only for a minute. I am having a bad time." Gilder a minute afterwards appearing. "Why, Mr. Traubel!" he exclaimed, seeing me—approaching—shaking hands. Then turning to W. with great fervor. W. very warm, too. "So it is Watson. I am glad to see you once more, Watson!" And asked, "How are all things? How are Jeannie and Joe?" And readily receiving good reports of them and of Watson's wife—expressing gratification therefor. Gilder turned to me, "You were reading to him? Don't let me interrupt you. Go on with your reading, if I am not a disturber." I looked inquiringly at W. "Shall I go on, Walt?" "Yes, Horace." And I explaining, "It is a letter from Symonds, who appears to be dying." And W. further exclaiming, "John Addington, Watson! Poor, poor, poor fellow! Go on, Horace!" So I proceeded, though it was a pull at me to do so. When I was done, W. again exclaiming, "Poor, poor, poor Symonds! Sad—sad—sad!" The tears visible in his eyes and on his cheeks. "Poor fellow! Poor fellow! I had no idea of it." Gilder turning the talk into another channel, as if for relief, and W. readily following. "Your voice lasts you out well," said Gilder. "Yes, it is one of my best points, today," returned W. "But these are glum days, Watson, very glum—with no repair, no betterment—everywhere loss, loss." And again, "Since Ned Stedman has been coming here and swearing to it, I have sometimes thought that even in New York I have friends." Gilder breaking in, "Many of them, many of them, Mr. Whitman!" and W. proceeding, "Ned has been telling me I was not up to the truth about you fellows there—that you

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meant me better than I knew—and he set it down so hotly I have been wondering myself if my old opinions were not too straight—too much against—too full of suspicion. That would be my last and sweetest prize, tuft, plume, gift—Manhattan Island—my first love."
Gilder remarked, "I wish there was something we could do for you, Mr. Whitman." "There is nothing, Watson, God bless you, nothing—I have everything I need or want, every service. All of them are warm, watchful, unwearying, on my behalf—no king could have more than I have, if as much." A few more words, then good-bye. I lingered but a moment myself, said to W., "We will not worry you this evening—we will discuss that between us," and he assenting, "Do so, it will give me a clean bill. I am having one of my worst spells." Then I followed Gilder downstairs. He had come in a hansom and wished to hurry back to New York. Offered me a seat but I was not going that way. "I hear of Whitman often from Johnston, who sends your notes over."

     7:37 P.M. Arthur Stedman just arrived. Apologized for being late. Passed at once into talk, I showing him W.'s memo. While we sat there W. sent word down by Warrie that he would see Stedman a minute, but "only a minute"—no more. S. was starting to apologize and to refuse to go up, but I urged him and in fact led the way. W.'s greeting to Arthur warm, but his words few. "I am glad to see you again, Arthur. But this is one of my bad days—one of my worst—and I am not up to a talk with you. Take my love, dear boy—and take with you, too, my best remembrance to all the fellows in New York, telling them how you saw me here, and how truly I remember them all. Talk with Horace about the book: he knows my ideas fully—we have had a talk tonight. Settle with him—see what the two of you can do together. I am glad to see you, I was glad to see your father—but, as I feel now, I am not able to go on. This must do for tonight. Good-bye! Good-bye!" W.'s eyes closed most of the time. Arthur spoke something in return, in a low voice, in the midst of W.'s greeting, but W. did not heed. As W. dropped his hand Arthur turned towards me—I already commencing to

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move towards the door. He took the cue and followed. Downstairs—further talk then—then, after Arthur's good-bye to Warrie and Mrs. Davis, to Philadelphia.

     Arthur's deafness very marked. "Did he say anything?" he asked pathetically. (He had not heard a word.) "Yes, quite a bit." "What did he say?" I repeated it. He seemed pleased. "I did not hear, but I could see his lips move." Then again he asked, "Do you suppose he heard what I said?" "I do not think he did—he is himself a little deaf and you talked so low." Arthur said pathetically, "What a pity! But I was glad to see him: that was a good deal." W. had looked pale and worn. Arthur now asked, "Don't you suppose he saw my lips move?" "I doubt it: his eyes were closed." "Once when he was speaking I felt an extra pressure of his hand." Arthur comforted himself with this. After greeting Stedman, W. had seen me wandering about the room. "Who's that?" he asked, not able to make me out. I spoke up. "Oh! Horace! Well, Horace, take Arthur in charge—act as my representative. I am in bad shape tonight." Now on way to Philadelphia we talked the matter over. Arthur felt defeated, yet would try again. I saw he could not adopt W.'s scheme of a 300-page prose and verse book for a series of books of 150 pages in which prose and verse are kept separate. Arthur asked how to proceed. I advised—go back to New York at once—consult with the firm—write me a clear refusal, with a restatement of their own proposition. W. would sell out for $250 down. I opposed. Arthur said Webster & Co. would probably do better—advance $125 for book on royalties and make two volumes, one prose and one verse—though not with W.'s title-page. All this he should put into a letter, sending it to me tomorrow. That would give me Thursday and Friday evenings to discuss it with W. before Arthur gets back Saturday. Arthur tells me, "John Burroughs told us he thought Mr. Whitman would 'outlive all of us'—meaning by that the older fellows. I have no doubt he will live through the winter."


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