Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, March 5, 1892

     8:15 A.M. W. not sleeping. Had just been turned. Only greeted him—no more. Paler than yesterday morning. Still wears the curious armlet. In his mail a letter from Wallace and one from Dixon. I was there but five to ten minutes, and only in the room a minute. Received at Post Office this letter from Gilder:

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Editorial Department
The Century Magazine
Union Square, New York
March 3rd, 1892.

My dear Mr. Traubel:

It has been a scheme of mine for some time to either edit myself—or else to get someone else to select—a book of poems of the city of New York. Such a collection would be incomplete without extracts from some of Whitman's poems. I do not know whether this is the proper time to make inquiry. I suppose his literary executor (whoever he is) could give consent.

My idea is not at all commercial, however, but purely patriotic, it being to increase the civic pride of the people of Manhattan Island. My best love to Walt.

Yours sincerely,

R. W. Gilder


Thought best to wait—not refer to W. just now. This makes another demand on him for "Leaves of Grass." They are becoming plenty. He will no doubt grant. Bucke writes, date 3rd. Bucke's recent prognoses on W. all remarkably fulfilled. Mrs. Keller goes about middle of next week. I inform Bucke that we propose to have Warrie and Mrs. Davis pair off nursing and put a girl in the kitchen, that I shall submit this to Longaker and if he objects we will respect his objection and get a skilled nurse again to succeed Mrs. Keller. W. has not yet been told of the change. I hear again from Wallace, Feb. 23rd. These letters strangely inspire me. My work great—from early morning to midnight—putting correspondence in all the odd moments of all the hours of the day. Ups and downs hard to bear. Wrote Ingersoll this morning again—also Baker—and of course Bucke. Mailed last night's letter to Wallace.

     6:30 P.M. After a busy pressing day, back again at 328. Mrs. Keller in W.'s room—had just turned him—was closing blinds preparatory to lighting fire. I strolled in upon her. W. instantly spoke up, "Ah! Horace, is it you?" and with my "oh yes!" I was instantly at the bed and grasped his reaching hand. Asked me

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then instantly, "How goes it, Horace? What is the news? Have you the Critic? Any news there? I don't feel in humor, strength, for more than a look, a quick glance (yes, a dull one, too) at the papers nowadays—and I suppose I miss most of the best things." Talked laboredly—lying right. (Curious, that choking: is it a straying, lingering touch from December?) I quoted Gilder's note. He asked, "Should we object? What do you think?" And again, "I don't see why we should object, any reason against." I asked, "Shall I write him, then—say I have referred to you, and you assent?" "Yes, put in those words—they will give him what he wishes. That ought to make an odd, good book, rightly maneuvered." And he inquired, "He don't say which poems he would use? I don't know but it would be well to find that out. Anyway, I leave it in your hands." Then again, "We seem to be in demand. What does it all mean?" Had he read Stedman's first lecture, in current Century, thoroughly? "I have seen it—yes, looked it through—but hardly read it. It is very kind whenever it mentions us—very warm (good Ned! good Ned!): yes, very genuinely ready to take up arms for us."

     How was his day? "Very miserable—very miserable: I feel myself strangely breaking up—and so lame—even in the right arm." "Even in the last fortress?" "Yes, Horace, even there: you describe it well." Pulse, however, only 80. Longaker had been over. No despair on score of pulse, though acknowledging it to be bad and dreading it might get irregular. Splendidly regular now—no beats dropped—but "weak as dishwater." W.'s complexion strange—hardly any warmth—white and blue—with parchmenty texture and curl. He talked of his eating, "I have enjoyed what they set out for me. I get quite as much as I wish—yes, as much as I should have or need." Could he eat strawberries? "I guess the plain food will serve." "But could you eat them? Would they hurt you?" "Oh! I could! Perhaps could even relish them. They would not hurt me. But where are strawberries now?" "Southern—they are already up in our markets." "Already the spring! Already the spring!" he murmured, and as he looked towards the window, "It must be a brave night:

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is the moon up?"
I quoted Heine, "The moon is up and shining," and he continued, "In the old days it was such an hour I took for my walks." He "wondered" if I found the room too hot? And said of himself, "I seem to live in a land of perpetual cold." I held his hand this evening through our whole talk, and often I felt it press mine with warm feeling (I sitting on edge of the bed). He seemed finally to indicate so much effort in talking that I leaned over and kissed him and said, "Well, good night: you are tired—you don't wish to be worried." "Yes, I am tired, but I am always tired: but I suppose it is best. God bless you, Horace!" And as I kissed him again, "That's for Anne!" he murmured. "Bless her too, darling girl!" And as I laid his hand down and slipped away he repeated, "Bless you—bless you! Make the days serve you well!" I put a chair near the bed, put a pillow on it and he dropped his hand on the pillow, saying pleasantly, "Thanks! Thanks! I see you know."

     I had not gone from the room five minutes before he rang vociferously, Mrs. Keller hurrying in and he asked to be turned. "It won't do," he said, "that right side baffles me." He said nothing during the operation, and when done and the light down she came out to me again. We talked briefly. She leaves Tuesday, says she leaves with "regret." "I did not know how much I was to become attached to him." When she told him of her departure he said, she reports, "You can't—you can't—you can't," and to her, "But I must, there is no help for it," he replies, "That's the worst news I've heard yet."

     11:45 P.M.

     Warrie: "Come over again?" (Turned from left to right.)

     W.: "Yes, Warrie."

     Warrie: "Having it a little easier?"

     W.: "Well, I don't know—bad enough."

     Warrie: "Yes, the best is bad enough—fine night out."

     W.: "Fine, eh?"

     Warrie: "Yes, stars are out, moon, clear, cool."

     W.: (as he was turned over he said) "I suspect that'll be a short tack."


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     Warrie: "A nautical man couldn't say it better."

     W.: "Is that so?"

     Warrie: "A long tack, a short tack, then about ship."

     W.: "That's it, is it? It sounds like a cube!"

     Warrie: "You get the best sleep if any on the left side."

     W.: "Eh! I suppose!"


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