Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, March 15, 1892

     At 328 at 8:15 A.M. W. had been through an ordinary restless night. Warrie just turning him to the right. Was a very picture

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of death—eyes closed, color gone, hand thin. Warrie proposed to turn pillows. He objected. Yet usually welcomes it. Says nothing save monosyllables—seems to have no strength.

     Our conversation will illustrate his weakness. I stood in doorway. He saw me (his eyes spying after Warrie had turned him):

      "Horace"—a struggle, a cough.

      "Yes, me." I advanced. His hand lay on the chaired pillow. He opened it, my hand dropping to its clasp, which was weak.

      "Morning."

      "Morning—and a fine morning, too. After a cold night."

      "Cold?"

      "Yes." Then after a silence, "How was your sleep?"

      "Middling." After a pause, "News?"

      "Nothing—nothing for us."

      "Arthur?"

      "I haven't heard from him yet—but expect to."

      "Hope so."

     This reference to Stedman shows how closely he thinks up and in affairs. I asked again, "Have you had a look at the Telegram?"

      "What?"

      "At the Telegram."

      "Yes."

      "Was it right?"

      "Very—good."

      "Do you feel any return of strength?"

      "None—none."

      "Loss?"

      "Always—more—more."

      "I am on my way to work—to the busy desk over there in the big town."

      "Luck!"

      "I tire of it at times."

      "No doubt."

      "But I stick to it."

     He smiled, "I know you do."


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     Warrie had left the room. I reached over—kissed his hand. "Good-bye—good-bye, Walt."

     His face lighted up, "Bye—bye."

      "I am sorry you must suffer so."

      "It's—right."

     Every word a struggle. And again I kissed him, and heard him say, "Bless—bless." Coughed—choked—breathed heavily. I turned as I reached the door. His eyes opened. He smiled. That smile! And after I had gone I had yet to go back. Again to see him, to have his smile. In next room Warrie. I stopped to say a word. Then W.'s bell rang, Warrie hurrying to W. at once.

      "Will you go over left again, Mr. Whitman?"

      "Yes."

     And was turned without speech on either side. Warrie said to him, "When you turn next I will try to wash you a little and give you your breakfast and get you in shape for the doctors when they come." He only answered, "Oh!" and closed his eyes.

     Longaker calls McAlister to meet him today at twelve. W. if anything a bit worse than yesterday. The weakness abject. The body frightfully sunken in. The legs strangely various in color—in tint—dark and light—giving every evidence of bad circulation and constrictions generally.

     I look for an early collapse. After reaching Bank I wrote Arthur Stedman, divulging W.'s suggestion and asking him to wire answer. I likewise followed up my last night's note to Ingersoll by another, not more hopefully freighted, again inviting him on.

     The papers still in the dark and we will leave them so till positive signs appear. The Post sent a boy up yesterday.

     Stopped in on McKay. He opposes "Leaves of Grass, Junior" on the ground that it will interfere with the sale of the complete book. Waits for me to hear from Bucke.

     Edelheim sent me $25 today.

     5:50 P.M. Again at 328. Longaker had left the notes for Bucke. Today's was as follows: "W. looked up as I entered his room—extended hand, giving mine quite a firm grasp. I said, 'You are

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a little stronger today.'
He replied, 'Yes, a little,' and then closing his eyes he again apparently slept—breathing heavily with no disturbance of pulse. Respiration ratio however 22-88. Had an enema this morning and a large stool, mostly formed. Urine eight ozs. in last 24 hours. No breakfast save two cups cocoa. Dr. McAlister and I think there is perceptible failure of strength during the last few days."
Longaker here about twelve. Evidenced no disposition to enter into particulars with Warrie or Mrs. Davis. Telegram here from Ingersoll, evidently in response to my letter: "We all send words of love and hope." Mrs. Davis read it to him and he exclaimed, "Dear dear good man! You are all good, Mary."

     Mrs. George Whitman here today but did no talking with W.—going in—holding his hand—both being thus content.

     Wallace's letter still lying there unopened. As W. was awake I took telegram and letter and went into the room, standing by the bed. He recognized me and extended his hand. "Again here, Horace!" "Yes, to find you better, I hope." "No, no, no." "Are you not stronger today?" "Not any way changed." "I hear you had a telegram from Ingersoll." "Yes, I did—the sweet, dear, grand fellow!" "And here is a letter from Wallace unopened." "Open it—read it." Which I did and to which he said nothing. "I am about to write to Bolton." "Oh! Good, good." Any message? He only shook his head. "What else have you there?" "Only the telegram." "Oh! I thought there was another letter." "I have not heard from Arthur Stedman yet, but expect a telegram, perhaps here." "Good! And yet I think I was too late." Told him of Edelheim. "Good fellow! Generous fellow! Have I seen him? Do I know him?" And then, "We are compassed round by great loving arms—care—good-will the best." As to Dave and a new wave of books, "Let him do it. Yes, give him an order for the plates." Then his recurrent question, "Any news?" (Lying left—his leg out on the chair.) Remarked as to Stedman's criticism on my Poet-Lore piece, "Stick to it—it's the only way." Suddenly there was a great noise of whistles about the city. "That's six o'clock," he said. I called them

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"chimes" and he joined, "I like them." I quoted Joe Gilder's letter of 11th:
The Critic Co.
52 & 54 Lafayette Place, New York.
11 March.

Dear Sir:

Will you kindly let me know wherein the 1892 "Leaves of Grass" differs from earlier editions,—& whether there is any variety in the style of binding, etc., of this latest edition. Also the price in papers & any other form, & whether there is a regular trade discount.

Very truly yours,

Joseph B. Gilder

I am very much obliged for the copy sent me by you at Whitman's request.

"Wherever does it differ?" asked W. "Why, in being complete—which is difference enough. Tell him the paper-covered books are not for sale." "I will send him one of the ads." "Yes, do that. I wonder he did not more readily catch on." After a pause, "Is it still cold?" "Yes." "How is this room?" "Not as hot as usual." "Is the room cold?" "No, but not as hot as usual." The fire rather neglected. Did he feel cold? "No, I am comfortable enough." His head was warm but his hand very cold and damp. Finally I said, "I am done with all that is necessary—now I will let you rest." He pressed my hand, "Well, bless you, you are always good to me." "No, only as one having love." He repeated that as if to himself, "Only as one having love," and then spoke directly to me. "Anyhow, Horace, we are quite easy about that, which is enough." And I felt the further fervent grasp of the hand and left him.

     In next room talked with Warrie and Mrs. Davis and wrote three letters—to Johnston, to Wallace, to Symonds. Suddenly there was a ring at the bell downstairs, Mrs. Davis answering it and bringing up a telegram, which proved to be for me and from Arthur Stedman and of this import: "Will add it to present title."

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I instantly went into W.'s dark room and to the bed. He was not asleep. "Ah! Here again, Horace!" "Yes, a telegram just here from Arthur." "Is it so?" I then quoting. But he said quite energetically, "That will not do: I don't want it added—I want that to be the title: 'Leaves of Grass, Junior,' with 'Junior' spelled out, made unmistakable." "Shall I write him to that effect?" "Yes, instantly." "Dave disapproved of the whole thing." "Why?" I explained, W. saying, "I suppose if Dave objects outright I would be disposed to withdraw the proposition." And after some minutes of silence, "I should want the title-page to be 'Leaves of Grass, Junior—selections from Walt Whitman's poems by Arthur Stedman.'" Inquiring, "Will you remember that?" "I have written it down, here at the edge of the bed." "Good, good: you always find a way!" And I could hear a gentle laugh, not being able to see him at all. And finally he advised, "I will have you write Arthur at once and see Dave again—if you will." I wished him another "Good night!" and went into the next room to finish my letters, writing to Stedman the proposition outlined.

     While I stayed he called to be turned right—when the inevitable coughing and choking. In three minutes he wished to be set left again. Neither time had he a word to say.

     11:20 P.M. Warrie on duty. Turned at 11:40. Rang bell. Warrie hurried in. "Want to go over to the right?" "Yes." Instantly commenced to cough. Had previously lain in thorough quiet. "Want the pillows shook up?" "No." (Usually felt it a refreshment. ) "I'll be in in a minute or so and put you back." "All right." 11:49 rang again to go back. Still coughing. Said nothing whatever. Seemed to groan slightly when touched. So it goes—is turned twice each hour—spending only ten minutes of that time (sometimes less) on right side. He relaxed again to his deadly quiet, breathing in short breaths and as if in labor.


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