Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, February 19, 1892

     At 8:15 called in at W.'s. After his good day he had experienced a trying and disturbing night—with frequent turnings and obviously prevailing unrest—even now did not sleep. I had only a word with him and a shake of the hands. He looked all he had gone through, having great weary lines along and down his face. Said his night had been "bad—bad—bad," and that "now" he was "weary to the last point of patience." My mail brought me intelligence from Burroughs of the "publisherial" fate of his late writing on W.:
West Park New York
Feb 17, 1892

Dear Horace:

Your card rec'd. I am feeling much better, but not yet well. Does the nurse use the flesh brush on Walt? If he can stand it, I would have it used.

My main article on Walt's poetry is nearly finished. I cut out a lot of material from it & made up two short articles of about 2500 words each & sent one to the Christian Union on "Our Poet of Democracy" & the other on the art phase of W.'s poetry to The Independent. The C. Union writes that it is just what they want & that they will soon print it but that they will have to put in an editorial protest about his art!

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The Independent returns theirs & says in effect that it would be eating their own words to print it, that they have been rather severe on W.'s art & aims etc. The articles are both rather slight & contain no thoughts that are not very familar to Walt. I shall try to cut a little deeper in any longer paper for some magazine.


The returned article I shall use elsewhere. My love to Walt. I hope Annie is well again & that you open the check draughts of your hurrying life now & then.

I sit here facing the river & look out on the white level plain dotted with the ice harvesters.

Sincerely,

John Burroughs


And likewise, Bucke's letter of the 17th. To Bucke's urging anent the book I replied that I could not add that to other labors now—it would have, then, to wait and I believed he would realize the situation. Found the green book at McKay's and took four of them for W.

     6:10 P.M. At W.'s. Bad day, very bad—the presage of yesterday false and swept away. Involuntary action of the bowels this morning and very weak ever since, with more signs of hiccoughings than any recent day. Coughs pretty markedly, and raises mucus. I saw him but about five minutes. Said he, "Glad to see you, boy—welcome, welcome!" The day not good? "Miserable—nothing worse," and advised me, "Our talk will have to be a short one tonight—I am sleepy and tired—all wrung out." Told him Burroughs seemed better. He replied, "Good John—we all love him!" And as to the Christian Union and Independent, "That is news for you and Bucke"—as if he had himself resigned interest, saying then ruminatingly, "I have done nothing today, nothing—only laid here, suffered." And he was frank to say, "It is discouraging." Remarked the book I had brought over. His face lighted up an instant. "That is tangible evidence," he said. "You have them here?" "In the next room." "All right—I am glad to know they are available at last." I stayed no longer—he spoke with great effort—hiccoughed

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some—voice not strong. "Good night," I said, "Good night," and he pressed my hand and replied with his own "Good night! And God bless you!" I thereupon leaving—or going to door—he, however, instantly tapping for Warrie and asking to be turned (Warrie just coming on duty). Warrie tried to engage him in talk but it was of little avail.

     Warrie saluted him, "Here we are: do you feel like sleeping tonight?"

      "I feel bad: it isn't sleep so far, though I was just dropping into a pleasant sleep."

      "You're feeling easier tonight and last night and night before than what you have been?"

      "Just this moment."

      "How's the grog?"

      "All right."

      "It's raining out of doors—it's going to be wet."

      "Wet?"

      "Yes. Does the weather affect your side?"

      "No, not that I notice. If it gets cold—the side—then it hurts: more that than the weather."

     And from then on all Warrie's questions (many) were answered only with "Eh" and "Oh."

     Striking change in W. My many exuberant letters of forenoon already knocked off their feet. Went into next room—wrote a short note to Bolton—then went home. Not out at all this evening. Intended to see Harned, but he went to the theatre. W. started in for a restless night.

     Bucke's letter yesterday came in the last mail today. He is much alive to things here—bravely so—and sage advice falls from him rich as milk from a coconut:


18 Feb 1892

My dear Horace

Since writing I have 2 letters f'm you written 15th and one written morning of 16th. You are a good fellow to write so constantly not only

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to me but to many others. I do not see how you do it and all your other work besides and as W. is likely (as far as one can see at present—cancer or no cancer) to live weeks or even months (tho' I cannot imagine how he can do it) I would suggest (and this is very unselfish on my part for I enjoy getting your letters very much) that for the present you drop down to one letter a day returning to the 2 or 3 if occasion seems to demand. I agree with every word you say about the MacDonald (sculptor) matter and so we may consider that settled—in any case I should not think of making engagements or arrangements without the full knowledge & concurrence of you & H.


I have not yet received Saturday's New York Telegram which you mention having sent on m'g. 15—it may come yet—I think you had better (by all means) take any money they will give you for W. and add it to the fund.

Say—look here—let us have none of this talk about "ends" and "throwing up of sponges"—we have got to see the end of this job we are in first of all. I wish you would go to your bed earlier and stay in it longer and try to spare yourself a little—as it is you are living too close to your limit of endurance—my dear boy do try to take things a little easier. I should not mind W. or his manner, he is sick and feels bad. I guess he (to a certain extent) resents the attentions of friends, they weary and annoy him—if he feels that way the remedy is to leave him more to himself & the nurses.

Re descending colon—of course I do not say there is malignant disease—I only suggest it—but "flatulency" will not account for the long continued pain and tenderness in that region—there arises the ?. Does W. give a fair report of his sensations? For a long time I have wondered if he was not a little melancholic (when you got right down to the critter under his calm and cheerful manner) perhaps a little hypochondriacal. It is hardly fair to use these strong words but there are no others to express my meaning. Centric disease causing paralysis is commonly associated with a mental tilt towards mania or melancholia and it is saying nothing against W.'s habitual & splendid sanity to assume that he shares with his fellows in an obedience to the laws of pathology. Altogether (psychologically, physiologically and pathologically) Walt presents a series of problems that will keep the world speculating for a while.


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I shall be pretty interested to have result of Longaker's examination of W. Hope he will make it thorough.

Love to Walt to Anne & you.

R. M. Bucke



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