Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, March 9, 1892

     Stopped in at 328 at 8:15. W. had passed a fairly restful night, as compared with the night previous. I went in and looked at him, but he did not wake up—not wake, even when I went up to the bed and fixedly regarded him. Face rather better—not altogether without color. Hand very white. He lay left. The early light—no sun—shining into his face from the north. Room very hot—almost suffocating. Not a letter for him. Has soon accommodated himself to Mrs. Keller's absence and even to Warrie's new time. I sat down and wrote postal to Longaker, appointing today at six, as we had missed yesterday. McKay proposes to print a large edition of "Leaves of Grass."

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Sales mounting up. Bucke's letter of the 7th full of curious speculations:
7 March 1892

My dear Horace

This morning came your letters of e'g. of 3'd, 2 of 4th, 1 m'g of 5. The prospect ahead is black enough. I cannot tell why W. coughs & chokes when lying on his right side it is in consequence of some pathological condition left by the pneumonia but I do not know what. I note what you say about your psychological experience. You are probably on the eve of experiences that will make those you speak of insignificant—you are on the border land of Cosmic Consciousness. Will you cross the line? I hope you may. St. Paul's experience to which you refer was the oncoming of C[osmic] C[onsciouness] in his case. Keep cool all will come right! Walt's silence simply means he has nothing to say. I do not see any thing strange about it—it is the man—read "I sit & look out" p. 215 L[eaves] of G[rass] I think that explains it fully. He has no life—no inclination to talk about the old interests—he will not talk about his sufferings as common men & women use.

I am curious to see whether he will speak of any mental experiences with the oncoming of death. I had asked Mrs. Keller to watch him and remember any indications he might give—try to be on hand yourself—and to make sure speak quietly to the new nurse if an intelligent woman—it would not be amiss to have Mrs. Davis & Warry quietly observant, if you could manage it without saying too much. I can hardly imagine W. dying & making no sign but he may. Best love to Walt. Love to Anne.

So long!

R. M. Bucke


Longaker sends me a card, which confirms Bucke's reasoning. I receive from Arthur Stedman an explanation of last week's note:
Charles L. Webster & Co., Publishers,
67 Fifth Avenue, New York
Mar. 8th, 1892.

Dear Traubel,

Harper's Magazine announced in the last number a poem & two portraits of Whitman for the next number. The portraits are reproductions

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of the Alexander pictures. I have seen them (some time ago) & don't like them, but it will all be a good advertisement.


Faithfully,

Arthur Stedman

P. S. I would, so far as possible, suppress further accounts of W.'s illness (unless he becomes very ill) as some of the papers have begun to make disagreeable remarks.


It will please W. to know of this. He inquired just the other day, "I wonder if my Harper's poem is lost irretrievably?" We thought they intended it to appear at his death.

     6:05 P.M. Just in time to see Longaker, who had sat down to write a message for me. "Oh!" he said, "I won't go on: you are just the fellow I wish." What was new? "Nothing new. The old man is just about as he was. He loses subtly, surely. Apart from that, there is no change." How was his pulse? "Rather up—still at 80." And his respiration? "Not so good today." He had already been in to see W. and wished to go in again before leaving. "I shall write to McAlister and say I shall resume the case and that he need not, therefore, come every day: that I will hold him for emergencies. That is your and Bucke's wish?" To which I assented. How did W.'s general condition strike L.? "Bad—it is very bad. But duration is a feature I would hardly care to enter upon." Was the end likely to be heart failure? "Quite." L. had no fears over the lung symptoms, right side. He felt as Bucke does that they were left by the old bronchial trouble—not serious in themselves. Then we went in to W.—Longaker to the bed. "Well, good-bye! I shall have them give you an injection for that lower bowel trouble: there seems to be some deposit there." W. asking, "Is it so? Is that the trouble?" "Yes, and I think you will then be eased." "I hope so, Doctor." And then their good-byes over again. I simply shook hands with W. and went out of room with L., who, after a bit of further talk, left. Will be over again tomorrow. I urged Mrs. Davis to go downstairs, she and Warrie to eat their supper while I watched. She went below but Warrie was

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not awake yet. Had been in bed from 1:30. I then went in W.'s room and stood or sat there a full quarter of an hour, not venturing to say anything or even to discover if he was awake. He breathed hardly and regularly—now and then a slight cough. Lay with face to window. I could see it there in the dim light. The reflections of that moment sharp and crowded. His voice tonight thick and poor. Called for neither mail nor papers today. Indicates no outside interests whatever. Never speaks save when spoken to. His remarks to Mrs. Davis, on watch from eleven, commonplace and simple, and only in reply to questions.

     Mrs. Davis' notes: Was turned a number of times, but upon the whole passed a quiet night. Laid longer on his right side than heretofore. Done no talking.

8:30 a.m. Was turned on his right side. Asked for ice water, the first since 11 P.M. last night. Still quiet.

9:30 Was turned to the left. Had ice water. Was told that it was a sun-shiny day. Asked if it was cold. Asked him if he wanted mutton broth for his breakfast. Said yes.

10:30 Was turned to the right. Had his face and hands washed. Then ate his breakfast of mutton broth. Still quiet. Mrs. Davis gave him his breakfast. Only said, "Good morning, Mary dear." ...

1 p.m. Turned to left side. Said he had had a good sleep. Called me as I was leaving the room, "Mary, if the doctors come, you come in and talk to them."

1:55 Still on left side and very quiet.

2:30 Turned over on right side. Commenced raising phlegm at once.

3:10 Turned over on left side.

3:30 T.B. Newberry, a Methodist minister, called. Did not come in. He said he was attending conference in Philadelphia, was a stranger here and to Mr. Whitman, but said he would like very much to strike hands with him if he was able. I told him he was not.

4 p.m. Still on left side.

4:20 Turned over on right side.

4:30 Dr. McAlister here.

5:20 Was turned to left side. Said he would like to have mutton broth for his supper. He ate quite a large bowl of it. Asked me what day it was.

5:40 Drank a little champagne.



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Find note from Salter at home, lifting an old thread, which we have several times examined:
2000 Mt. Vernon
Tuesday morning

Dear Mr. Traubel,

I have just written a line to Mr. Wallace (Bolton, England) & am going to copy a part, for I want your help on the same point.

"I confess I have never known much of Whitman & am now beginning a thorough study of his works. I find myself fascinated & stirred & uplifted by much that he says & I believe with him in the sacredness of the body. I have been endeavoring to put the best possible construction on any passages that might seem to favor license; & I have been tolerably successful till this morning, when I came on the poems entitled 'Native Moments' & 'Once I Passed thro' a Populous City.' You & Dr. Johnston as lovers & students of Whitman will doubtless remember them (they are on p. 94 of his complete works); with the best will in the world, I cannot see that they celebrate anything but licentiousness or 'free-love.' Will you tell me if you understand them differently?"

Let me close with the same question to you.

Cordially yrs

Wm. Salter


Once he quoted from "Song of Myself": "I shall turn the bridegroom out of the bed." Literal—where is imagination? The wings clipt.

     12:20 A.M. Rang bell—all quiet at 328. I could stir no one up. That proved that things were well. I went home, satisfied in spirit.


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