Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, March 24, 1892

     8:18 A.M. At W.'s. In my hand an astonishing document—notice from Providence of the marriage of Mrs. O'Connor to Albert L. Calder. I peeped in W.'s room and seeing that he was awake (Warrie had just turned him left), went in and up to the bed. He offered his hand. Sick and sad—the complexion a strange thickish yellow. "Mrs. O'Connor's silence is explained." "Oh! How?" "She has been getting married." "What?" "Married." "Oh! Oh! Oh!" And he looked at me, "Is it so? Married?" Seems to have taken his breath away: he was serious, smiled, then was serious again. I quoted the formidable document. He murmured, "Nellie—Nellie—married?" And I had no time to stay. We shook hands again. He wished me "Good-bye!" in a

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weak tone. "The night? Oh! It was bad—about the worst of any!" Longaker sends me three or four days' bulletins. I quote: March 18. 12 noon. W. apparently sleeping, but on touching his wrist to feel pulse he at once looks up. "Doctor" is the only word of greeting he used. Passed a fair night and was able to lie on right side 20 minutes at a time without the usual distressing cough. P.88—R.20. Hands cold. Complained of some pain in left leg during the night. Tongue moist and clean. Urine 10 ozs. Breakfast about as usual. He is not quite as bright as yesterday, though no positive change for the worse has occurred. Mind perfectly clear, hearing especially is sharp. The lack of energy is again very marked. Emaciation also progressing.

March 19. 4:30 P.M. W. awake. Seems a little brighter but says he thinks he will let Mary do the talking. He however extended his hand to me as I entered. Had just ordered his supper: raw oysters, mutton broth and toast. P.84—R.22. Extremities less cold. Urine 12 ozs. A rather better state of affairs than yesterday.

Sunday, March 20, '92 9 a.m. "Had a bad night—is not able to lie on right side at all!" was Warren's account. Lying on left side nearly an hour asleep all this time. Some involuntary fecal discharge during the night. Entire dorsum is reddened, especially over and above the entire crest. Urine 6 P.M., ie. 15 hours, 8 ozs. R.21—P.88. Turned. Almost constant coughs during the ten minutes that he was lying on right side. Ordered an enema. Before I left however he asked for bedpan. Also ordered rubber to be covered—a soft covering. When he awakened he greeted me with, "I am glad to see you, Doctor." To my questions as to pain he said he did not have any. Does not look as bad as I have seen him.

March 21. Saw W. at 12:15 P.M. He was awake—seemed glad to see us, and greeted Dr. McAlister with, "I have missed you, Doctor"—the doctor not having seen him since Thursday last. To his inquiring as to how he was W. replied, "O worse! worse!" Was lying on his back and soon called for Warren to turn him. Before he was turned, I carefully noted the condition of the two sides, which is as follows: skin over left trochanter and outer aspect of leg more healthy. Left flank ecchymotic—right not so. Right foot slightly edematous—left foot not. The entire skin is scaly and the extremities are slightly cold. Nose a little

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reddened. Tongue moist and clean. A large evacuation followed the enema yesterday. P.84—R.20. Urine 8 ozs. Requested Dr. McAlister to examine abdomen but he found nothing definite.


March 22. 12 noon. Met Warren going out, and stopping him he told me the only new thing was that W. had said, "The devil's broke loose"—making this remark with reference to a small fecal discharge into the bed. Using the bedpan he had a large formed passage. I asked him, "Have you any pain?" "No pain, but a wretchedness—a general distress," he replied, "and the phlegm." Continuing after a pause, "Dr. Parker's dead." I told him I had not noticed the account, and also asked, "To which Dr. Parker do you refer?" "Dr. Parker of Philadelphia: you must know him—Dr. Andrew J. Parker" was his answer. "Of course I knew Dr. Parker—the pupil, disciple and friend of Leidy and a quizmaster in the University when I was student there 17 years ago." This ended our conversation. I saw he was fatigued. P.84—R.23. Urine 10 ozs.


Johnston's letter dated Bolton, 12th, gives an account of his last lecture on W. I wish I could refer it to W.
54 Manchester Road,
Bolton, England
Mar 12/92

My Dear Traubel

Another budget of letters from you & one to each of us from Anne claim our attention by this mail. For each & all we thank you & send grateful & affectionate responses to you both.

The most important items in the budget were the copy of Dr. MacAllister's & Dr. Longaker's reports re Walt. These are to us invaluable altho' so sad & sombre in their import. Yes! I do fully realize the gravity of the symptoms & can but too easily fill in the details of the picture whose outlines you & they sketch. And I quite agree with the Drs. as to the probable cause of the symptoms viz malignant disease as that alone will definitely account for them all & for their past history. The absence of any palpable tumour does not negative the diagnosis in such a case.

I had an almost similar case here 2 years ago—in a much younger man tho' & never shall I forget it. If this diagnosis be correct in Walt's

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case what a terrible prospect is before him (what slow, inch by inch, dying). Poor dear old man! It is heartrending to think of it.


Oh that the Strong Deliveress Death wd come unfalteringly & release him from his agony!

And I am much concerned about the effect of all this upon you, dear friend & comrade true! Again let me urge upon you the absolute necessity of husbanding your strength & not squandering it all like a spendthrift scattering his patrimony. Foolish as the money-prodigal as he is a wise man compared to the health-prodigal, because there can only be one supply of health in each man's lifetime & you must bear in mind that your store is invaluable not only to yourself but to the great cause we all have at heart.

Last night my essay on Whitman came off before the Bolton Literary Society—a society composed mainly of Browning worshippers—2/3 of these being ladies—nearly all belonging to the so-called nobs (alias snobs) of Bolton.

I spoke for an hour & 35 minutes & at the conclusion I encountered quite a small storm of adverse criticism—our Rev. J.R.C. Hutton (president of the Soc) being my only supporter—one of their chief objections being on the score of style, many of them contending that this man's writing was not poetry at all!

Here are a few of their points of objection: W. not a poet at all except incidentally. I assign him too high a place altogether. He is not the most typically American writer. American Literature must be a continuation of English. W. not the egotist par excellence—other poets' books quite as much the expression of themselves as W.'s is of himself. Democracy scarcely worthy of a Bard at all. Nothing in W. wh was not better put in others. W. does not idealise things—photographs them, instead of painting pictures of them etc etc etc ad nauseam.

It was not surprising that W. shd meet with opposition from those people whose whole training, aims, sympathies & ideals are antagonistic to his teaching—wh indeed could hardly fail to be resented by them, as it rubs them all the wrong way. But I doubt not the paper will have its good effect. It may lead some of them to read him & try to understand something of him & his great message instead of criticising & condemning without knowledge as they evidently did last night.

Please thank Mrs. T. for her splendid letter. I hope she is keeping better. We have had a terrible week of cold & blizzardy weather here—& you have had your share too, I read.


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Again thanking you for all your tender loving words & with best love to you both

Yours ever

Johnston

PS I sent copies of the facsimile to Schmidt & Brown as requested.


W. said to me a while ago, "Johnston is pluck—pluck: he could make a stiff fight—no doubt has many an occasion for it." Wallace comes in again—enters my house and heart—now by words of cheer and loving warmth dear and helpful in the saddened watch and struggle.

     Arthur Stedman acknowledges my sketch of an advertising page. Wrote him that I was looking up the books promised and asked for a set of plate proofs of the little book.

     6 P.M. At 328. W. not asleep. Turned to right and coughing steadily, so that soon there came the back turn. I then went in and had a talk with him—briefly only. He had been better the day through, brighter, than yesterday, yet looked much the same. Fades out—as he said again to me, "I seem to sink—sink—sink, yet never to reach bottom." And after a pause, "Yet there is a bottom." When I quoted Baxter, "'I hope he will enjoy the green of spring,'" he closed his eyes ruminatingly, "The spring—yes, it is here—but the joy of it? No, no." Told W. of Bucke's long letter on cosmic consciousness, not thinking he would wish to hear it today, as proved the case. "Let us postpone it," he urged. Had he looked at Harper's? "Yes, a bit: only a bit. The pictures? Oh! They are not ours—they lack in most everything." And he asked as to the poem, "There are no liberties taken?" I had asked this question myself, and he urged me, "Compare—compare—compare," meaning with the old proof laid aside for "Good-Bye." Narrated the story of Johnston's discussion at the Bolton lyceum. He was a little interested. "I guess Doctor carried himself high: yes, that goes without a word." But he added, "No, I had best not hear it. I am so easily worn out."


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     And now he inquired, "What particular news? Any at all?" I put in, "You have a great hunger for news: more than I can satisfy." He laughing very softly, "I suppose, but I have to get everything in brief—or not at all." Nellie MacAllister had sent in some violets, with her cards, but W. was unable to see them. They had to be laid in the next room. Calling his attention to Bucke's alternate titles for the selections, he answered me, "It is too late, if it was worth while any time." Then immediately apprised me, "John Hay sends me a check for a copy of the green book. Have you sent Doctor's to him in Canada?" "No, it is here yet." "Well, take that and send it to Hay—you can get another for Doctor. Send it to New York." After a pause, "You know his address?" "No." "Well, you will find his letter in the tin box over there." I crossed the room, got the letter. "I will leave the check, take the letter." "All right." But Hay's address was Washington. W. said, "I did not know it: the fellows float here and there, moor only a while in one place." W.'s idea very vague—seemed surprised when I read Centennial edition. Got package from the other side of the room on the table. At his request put that and a paper copy up together.

      "I have a letter here for you to take to Dave," and explaining, after a lapse of a minute or so, "It is an order for books with autographs. I can't autograph, but perhaps Dave can make some arrangement to satisfy him." Also called my attention to several other letters, of a reverential kind, written by strangers, in a shifting idiotic and manly style. I was not with him more than 15 or 18 minutes. On my good-bye he pressed my hand ardently. "You will go on the water-bed tonight." He only saying, "Oh!" Not objecting.

     Longaker said when spoken to about W.'s brightness, "I expected it," and advised us to get W. on the bed at once.

     Warrie goes to bed and I have arranged to be down after eleven and help in the transfer.

     At 6:22, Warrie going in. "Want to go over?" He only pointed. "Want the pillow shook up?" "Yes." No unnecessary

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talk. Commenced to cough instantly. Made up express package for Hay containing Centennial edition and copy of paper book.

     Mrs. Fairchild has sent on a little box with an explanatory note. I doubt if W. can touch the wine: it is too strong and rather of an opposite tendency to what would best supply his needs.

     Bucke's letter of 23rd arrived, and again is word from Johnston, written four days later than letter reaching me this morning (16th date). W. will feel glad to hear Johnston has received acknowledgment of facsimile from Schmidt.

     11:25 P.M. On hand to make the transfer. Mrs. Davis exhausted—Warrie just up. "Look at that sheet," Mrs. D. said, motioning to her diary on the table. And I found it indeed an exhibit. W. had been turned four and five times an hour since supper. Warrie soon up. Implements are ready. We would wait for the next signal from W. and Warrie would then broach the subject. This signal did not come till 11:45, and from that time on we proceeded with despatch.

     There was a hole bored in the door from W.'s room into the hallway. Through this the hose was stretched, and out into the bathroom, and there attached to the spigot. Mrs. Davis asked W. how he was and he said, "Restless! Restless!"

     Warrie addressed W., "Horace is here: we had better put you on the other bed now."

      "Eh? Is Horace gone?"

      "No, he is here. He and I will shift you together."

      "Oh! Oh! Is it best?"

      "It'll be easier for you I hope."

      "Do you mean to do it at once? Get ready for it?"

      "Yes, now."

     He said no more—offered no objection. Very weak—voice full and breath quick.

     We instantly and busily set to work—the three together. Warrie and I carried the lounge into the room and laid it up close to the fire, head south. The coverings were then taken off the bed

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and when W. lay exposed Warrie put his arms about him and W. in turn put his arms about Warrie and so Warrie lifted—the transfer being quickly and dexterously made—though greatly to W.'s exhaustion. As he was dropped on the lounge, he moaned piteously and cried, "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!" six times, as if in misery and dejection. And he cried again, "Higher! Higher! Warrie, the head! Lift!" And though Warrie lifted he still cried, "A little higher." His feet fell helplessly towards the floor and I picked them up and adjusted them to the lounge. Lifeless, cold, no response, majestic. I covered him first with a blanket and then with a counterpane. Warrie hurried away—Mrs. Davis and I going to work on the bed—removing sheets and blankets and placing the great rubber mattress in position. W.'s face was full in the light. "Does it hurt your eyes?" I asked, motioning towards the light. "No, no: it is all right." The hose was attached and the flow of water then began—Warrie returning. W. as pale as death. I whispered to Mrs. Davis, "He could not look worse if he was dead. It is almost enough to make one afraid of the result." His breath came and went in gasps. At one moment he cried, "Breath! Breath! Breath! Breath!" And again while I was working at the bed, he opened his eyes and addressed Mrs. Davis, "Will they put me back?" Oh! the music and pathos of that tone! I looked up. He was as if on the brink—about to break. My heart stood almost still. Stretched along the lounge, death itself might have come then and there. We had great difficulty getting him in a comfortable position. We put pillows about him and a chair at the side of the lounge against which for him to lean. Again while Mrs. Davis and Warrie were in the next room he looked at me as I busied about and asked, "Done? Done? Done?" And I touched his forehead and responded, "Nearly," and he murmured, "Good—bless!" We all worked with the best will we knew, and in a few minutes enough water seemed in the bed to receive and buoy him. Warrie then went up to W.

      "We are ready now, Mr. Whitman."


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      "Ready?"

      "Yes, all ready. Shall we lift?"

      "Yes."

     I seized the bedclothes from the lounge and Warrie leaned over W., putting his arms about him.

      "Don't be afraid of me, Mr. Whitman."

      "I'm not afraid of you—I'm afraid of myself."

      "Here goes now—we will lift."

     And it was done with a real power which in Warrie always reassured W.—I clearing the way and Mrs. Davis ready. The return was even better than the coming off, and immediately W. was back—yes, and afloat—his whole body lifted. He said nothing, but cried, "Oh! Oh! Oh!" mingled with low moans. We watched him. Warrie asked, "Is it easier?" and I saw W.'s lips move but he could not speak. Yet regaining enough power to express himself he cried, "Lift—lift," and Warrie lugged away till he was high up on the pillow. His face was ghostly, his eyes shut, the hands dropped lifeless. It would have seemed as if he would collapse—the last thread break. We were all concerned. We continued to run water into the bed till it was pretty well filled. I felt the bed—I touched his feet (cold! cold!) and the hands (cold! cold!) and a clammy sweat out on the forehead—the thick mucus in the throat rising and almost drowning him. It seemed almost a crisis. Had we run too many risks? In a few minutes Mrs. Davis asked, "How does thee feel now?" and he responded feebly, "Better." "Pillow! Pillow!" he said again and they put an extra pillow back of the head. Mrs. Davis asked, "Will you have a pillow for the left hand?" and he replied, "Yes." But when she brought the pillow, he had not power to lift his arm to it—she, seeing the struggle, helping him. And she thrust a handkerchief into that half-open hand, but he did not close it, as usual (several times has lost the handkerchief lately—always keeps one in his hand). Suddenly however, he essayed to thrust the bedclothes back but was too weak to do it. Warrie asked, "You wish them back, Mr. Whitman?" And

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he replied, "Yes," and Warrie adjusting them he said briefly, "Good." Then we left him. Mrs. Davis turned the light down. The whole time consumed in this was 35 minutes. At 12:20 we were done. I stayed some 15 minutes longer. Once he called feebly, and Warrie going in he asked for some water. I wandered in with Warrie then and he seemed already better. My heart was relieved. Home, then, and sleep.


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