Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, March 17, 1892

     Always at W.'s a bit mornings to make sure affairs are in good shape there. Found him apparently in sleep. I went into the room. He did not indicate his knowledge of my presence. Yet did not breathe quite automatically, as a man in sleep. No new developments of any character. With a night somewhat easier he may have an easier day. Shows his wonderful self-control—will not expend energy talking or by any uncalled for exertion. Longaker says, "It seemed to me nip and tuck between Mr. Whitman and my next door neighbor—and my neighbor is now dead."

     Missed McKay this afternoon, going there with intentions to feel him on the question of thinner paper for "Leaves of Grass."

     6:10 P.M. When I arrived W. was on his right side, coughing some, seeming to be uncomfortable. I waited till he rang for a turn to left, then went in with Mrs. Davis. Our talk then quite long—at least longer than recent averages.


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      "Ah! Horace!"

      "Yes! Another day gone."

      "I thought I would see you this morning."

      "You were asleep when I came."

      "I suppose."

      "I am glad to hear you have spent a better day."

      "Do you hear that?"

      "They tell me so."

      "Do they? Good for them. But for me?" He shook his head.

      "They are all eyes for you, sitting watch for every sign of improvement, and they think they have found some today."

      "I should like to know it!"

      "This is a hard month to pull through."

      "So is any month—for me!"

      "You seem incredulous."

      "Haven't I call to be?" After a pause he resumed himself, "Pretty cold out?"

      "Yes, and snows again."

     Mrs. Davis had left the room. I sat down by the bed. "I have heard from Arthur Stedman."

      "So Warrie told me. What is the amount of it?"

     I quoted (from memory). He regarded me scrutinizingly.

      "That would seem to show the book is far on the way."

      "That's my reading."

      "Nevertheless we'll push our case."

      "You do not think much of his suggestion?"

      "I think more of my own."

      "But suppose yours is impossible—what do you think then?"

      "I don't think then—then I drop it. After all, it is their case, to set right or left as they choose."

      "Well, I will send Arthur your message."

      "Look on the table here—a little yellow sheet."

     Pretty dark but I found the sheet.

      "Have you got it?"

      "I think I have"—going towards the light.

      "What's the first line?"


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      " 'My idea is...'"

      "That's right—you've got it. I want them to see my idea as there set down—then to reject or adopt."

     His sheet written today on a yellow sheet, with blue pencil and red ink. Not bad—nervous in places—spelling bad.

     I suggested, "If they should adopt this, it would not agree with their page headings."

      "That would not matter."

      "I am afraid I think it would—at least that they will think it would."

      "Another thing, Horace: tell Arthur we want to see all the proofs—particularly of the life."

      "All of them—poems, everything?"

      "Yes, it is best—particularly of life, of title-page. We ought to see them—must see them."

     Seems to forget Arthur Stedman edits the book—that we do nothing. Yet I answered him, "I will deliver your messages faithfully. We will see what they come to."

      "What have you there? Another letter?"

     I had taken Bucke's note of the 14th out of my pocket. It reached me this morning [some portions crossed out by H.L.T. and words between slashes added by H.L.T.]:
14 March 1892

My dear Horace

I have your letter of Thursday e'g. and your two letters of Friday. I note what you say abt. W. not being able to lie on his back nor right side more than 5 minutes and the left side being sore to lie on. Had I a patient in such a fix as this I should put him on a water bed—and on that he could lie on his back—& so could W. If the case is really so bad as seems from your letter a water bed should be procured at once. Will you speak to Longaker? Do you think W. would tell you anything about his own experience of "Cosmic Consciousness"? Would you try him some day if he was in better trim than usual? Do not say that I asked you. Tell him (for instance) that the doctor says that Christ, Paul & Mahomet all had C[osmic] C[onsciousness] but that W. W. is the man who has had it in most pronounced development—then try

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and get from /ask/ him something about it, where he was and what doing at the time it first made its appearance? Did a luminous haze accompany the onset of C. C.? How many times has the C. C. returned? and how long remained at a time?


If you could quietly induce W. to talk about this experience it would be /it will be/ most important to me and interesting to thousands—to many millions in the end—but I fear he will say nothing. If I had known as much a few years ago (abt. C. C.) as I do now I would have got some valuable statements from him but now I fear it is too late.

Tell Walt that my heart is with him there in Camden always and always

Give my love to Anne.

So long!

R. M. Bucke


      "A letter from Bucke."

      "Read it."

      "Do you care to hear?"

      "Always—always! Dear Doctor!"

     I wrote Bucke this forenoon urging in amount: if you wish to know what you question of in this letter (as to cosmic consciousness), write me again and again of it more specifically and I will refer the letters to W., perhaps without success, yet perhaps to some issue. This letter I had put in such a way as not to read amiss. Now I read, easily, after having turned up the light. He interrupted me quickly.

      "Don't get the water-bed now."

      "Bucke says it will undoubtedly ease you."

      "Never mind—not now—wait a bit."

      "It would give you sleep—consecutive sleep. Longaker thinks that is a great desideratum with you."

      "Ah! I suppose."

      "But you know about the water bed?"

      "O yes! It is large—you lie full on it—it is rubber filled with hot water—the water remaining hot from 24 to 48 hours."

      "I see: but why shouldn't you have one? Longaker thinks it would lift you way up." (At my request Warrie had referred to L.)


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      "Not now, not now—let it rest."

      "We want you to rest."

     He laughed lightly, "It is a problem, a problem—insoluble—ever more insoluble." After a pause inquiring, "Is that all Bucke says?"

     I proceeded with my reading. At the mention of Christ, Paul and Mohammed he interrupted me.

      "Wait."

      "Well?"

      "What was that first name?"

      "Christ."

      "Oh! I see: well, go on."

     Several times he asked re-readings till I had in fact re-read the whole letter. At one moment he looked at me so curiously I thought he was going to speak, and stopped. He saw why.

      "Nothing," he said sententiously. I resumed.

     After I had finished, he murmured, "Doctor has given himself a great task."

      "He is anxious to have you help him at it."

     He looked at me, repeated, "It is a big, big, big job!" and then was silent. I waited to see if he had more to say. He added nothing. Closed his eyes. Suddenly was very pale.

      "You don't wish to be worried with such a thing now?"

      "I am easily worried: everything burdens me."

      "You have had a busy day—for you?"

      "Yes, got my rest on the bed—wrote my sister at Burlington. I am very lame. There's little of me left."

     I leaned over, kissed him and he pressed my hand. (His hand so cold, yet so responsive!) His "good night" was faint but clear.

      "Shall I turn the light low?"

      "Yes, very low—I do not need it at all."

     Again, "Good night," his and mine, and my quiet retirement.

     Mrs. Davis in the little room. We talked some. She has strong feelings against Bucke and wishes she "may never see him again." She has heard that Bucke spoke to someone of her

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"neglect" of W. She descants at length on her duties and performances in W.'s interest, now over a term of years.

     W. certainly brightened up some, though he shakes his own head doubtingly. Longaker over again and McAlister met him here. W. did not look his improvements, but talked with more vigor, or with something towards vigor, and with interests more evident. After consulting with McAlister today and when asked about the water-bed, L. had remarked, in answer to McAlister's question, "Is it worth while?" "He may need it for some time," adding, "I am not prepared to predict anything after our past experiences with Mr. Whitman." W. ate a good deal better. This afternoon Mrs. Davis asked him what he would have. "What have you got?" and they settled upon a meal between them. Yet when it was prepared and brought he waived it and said he guessed he would "have some fried oysters"—fried after a way by which they have known how to please him. Few signs, however, of such fickleness. Once or twice he complained of Mrs. Keller, "She will let me starve."

     The neighbors next door to the west claim that their cellar is made wet by water from W.'s alley. Mrs. Davis spoke to him about it the other day, he only answering, "Yes, from mine or some other!" He is quite glad to have the ring to lie on. Yet at first objected to that as to the water-bed now. His side better today. The lotion which did it good he now refuses! Is a curious contradiction. The pain in the left leg if anything increased. Coughs less. Mentally keeps run of all his affairs. W. signed the two checks today and Warrie banked them.

     Wrote Arthur Stedman giving him W.'s proposition of title and saying that for myself I did not frankly like it. Urged him for immediate answer so as to set the matter at rest. Advised against "Leaves of Grass Junior" in conjunction with "Selected Poems" for the title, and said I thought W. did not always see that he, A. S., was editor and responsible for title-pages and arrangements—yet that W. was disposed to help make an authoritative volume.


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     Bucke's letters of 15th and 16th full of meat for our affairs here. Shall read parts of them to W. and send questions to Longaker. My letter writing grows to immense proportions.


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