Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, February 11, 1892

     8:10 A.M. W. had passed his usual restless night and now slept soundly. Face pale, breathing easy. His mail very scarce. To Philadelphia. No time to see McKay. No reason. Letter from [Everett N.] Blanke asking for a portrait of W. and autograph. Will broach the subject tonight.

     6:15 P.M. W. awake and so I went immediately in for my talk. Had found at W.'s this letter from Dowden awaiting me:
Feb. 3rd

Dear Mr. Traubel,

If Walt Whitman is in a condition to receive a message, give him my love & heartiest thanks for his gift of L. of G. which I value highly. I trust he may yet have some strength & good in life. It is a comfort to us to know that he is so loyally cared for.

Since the book came, I have been in bed, rather seriously ill with influenza & bronchitis, but I am now recovering.

Very sincerely yours,

Edward Dowden.


Although the room was very dark, W. knew me and called out, "Come right over, Horace—tell me the news." I produced Dowden's letter at once, turning up the light so I could read it to him. He was pleased—expressed his pleasure in warm words—and his regret that D. was sick. "The influenza has cut a broad swathe this time." Any further news? I asked him about Eckler. "I know the man, but I forget about the money—forget entirely. Yet it is very likely I got it." He is very urgent about the facsimile. "Yes, I wrote it in ink. I had some indistinct remembrance of having heard that ink facilitated things. They have a way at Bolton of doing these things so well—paper—ink, even—that even my eye is cheated." Had he a message for Symonds? I was to write, "Tell Addington how you see and find me here: tell him we love him—tell him the tide is going out—tell him I slip

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away—am wearing, wearing—am worn and tired—day by day realizing the departed strength. And, Horace, do you give him hope for himself: he will weather the cape and have many days ahead of him yet. We love him! And as for life or death, we love him—and love is the best of either and of both."

     Asked me how "the good Harrison" was (meaning Morris). Alluding to intense excitement in world of stock over a big Reading Railroad deal, "That is one world, I suppose. I read a bit of the long accounts this morning: it is a mad world." Told him Stedman proposed coming over Saturday. W. asked, "What is he coming for?" "He closes his lectures Friday, and this will be his good-bye." "Oh! you mean E.C.? Let him come." I had sent word to Stedman—don't get to W.'s before noon—W. assenting, "That was right." Gave me message for Ingersoll, "Tell him I am here, weathering bad weather out in a fashion, with a suspicion of losing—little real hope of having anything better than I have now. Give them all my love, too, and safety for the Colonel."

     W. asked me, "Who is in the next room?" And when I said, "Warrie for one," he seemed doubtful. "Warrie? I thought he was gone." Warrie heard him and hurried in. "I thought you were already off, Warrie?" Warrie then approached and took W.'s hand, "Good-bye, Mr. Whitman." "Good-bye, Warrie! Don't stay long—and don't let anybody run away with you." Warrie going off laughing and I saying, "A fellow who's big in as many parts as Warrie is not easily run away with." And W. assenting, "True, and Warrie is very cute. Indeed, all of us fellows who brush about the cities are obliged to be cute." But the minute after I told W. of Blanke's request, "I will give it to him." "When? He wishes it at once." "Now. Can you find a picture? Catch Warrie before he goes—he will hold me up." I did find Warrie lingering still in next room. Together we hunted a picture. "What shall it be?" W. asked, and I said, "The profile." "Yes, that or the Gutekunst phototype." I scouted for profile and finally found one of Johnston's reproductions of it. "That will do," said W. When the card was in his hand, "Now come,

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Warrie."
"Pencil or ink?" "Ink," he said. So I got ink and pen ready. Warrie handed him his glasses, which he adjusted himself. I lighted the candle. Warrie put his strong arm back of W. and lifted him up. I was at hand with light, pen and ink. W. breathed hard from the effort—wrote "Walt Whitman" first—stopping at "m" as if to resume strength—and then followed with "Sculptor's photo: Feb. 11, '92"—stopping again at "Feb.," closing his eyes—then finally making a desperate lunge for the rest and getting it. I took the card and he sank back exhausted. The signature very shaky—ink and pen put back on table. "That is done, Horace," he murmured. "And you will see that it goes off?" —which I did, going into the next room and writing Blanke a letter describing the origin of the photo. W. called for "grog"—said, "I am very weak." And again, "I do not seem able to do anything anymore." Also shortly asked to be turned. Before I left I went in again—kissed him—stroked his forehead and hand. "Bless you boy for all you have done and do—bless you, bless you!"


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