Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, March 30, 1892

     Burroughs awake and at work early. Writes his letter to the Post. Nobly indignant. Special letter from Mrs. O'Connor and money for wreath, which I ordered at once. The day came in radiant and mild. There had been prophecies of a storm, but the storm did not appear. When I first looked out, the sky was absolutely cloudless and a sweet fresh wind was blowing from the north-west. And blessedly electric was the sea-blown cry from Bolton: "With you in spirit. Love to all!" In the mail came nestling words from Kennedy and Miss Gould:
Tues (March 29, 92)

Dear Traubel

I did not hear that end had come (was much shocked) until Monday morning. All day yesterday the sad consciousness was with me. Or rather I kept trying to realize that that pleasant cheery voice was no more. I went out and bt. all the N. Y. & Boston Sund. & Mond. papers—a bill a foot thick!—Please send me any news or papers you can conveniently.

W. S. Kennedy



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My heart is sair, sair. I am reading his favorite book, The Border Minstrelsy, those homely ballads of the people.


33 Mt. Vernon St.
Boston, Mass.
March 28, 1892



Not condolences, but congratulations I send upon the death of our dear Walt Whitman; for the mortal has put on immortality, and faith has become sight. Death has revealed more life.

I regret that I can not be present at the Memorial service. But I shall consecrate the hour to loving thought and grateful prayer.

Most sincerely

Elizabeth Porter Gould


Flower somehow got hold of my Garland telegram and sends me Garland's New York address. (Later Kennedy and Garland both appear.) Then came a postal from Garland.

     I wandered away from home at early ten, leaving Anne to go to Harleigh in a carriage with Mrs. Longaker. To Western Union office, despatching several further telegrams. A few minutes, too, with my mother, and some parleying at the Post Office. Finally to 328 Mickle Street, arriving 10:40. They had just admitted a group of people who passed by the coffin (set in the back parlor), thinking soon to have the curious throng over with. But somehow this was merely the taking down of the bars, as it proved: for this group was followed by another, and these by others, as if risen by instinct from all quarters of the wind, till a magic stream was in full play, and no break was at all thenceforth possible. The line grew longer and longer—it was silent, sympathetic, curious, expressive. It stretched out and up the street and then north through Fourth to the railroad—and it continued its reach and play for three hours till, at 1:50, we were compelled to stem and refuse it, in order to prepare for the cortege. Between twelve and one it took the simpler aspect of the laborers, off for their dinner hour. Letter

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carriers, policemen, railroadmen, ferrymen, school children, merchants—who was not included? I caught glimpses of tradesmen and familiar faces in all walks—men whom W. had known well and seen often and those to whom his kindness and gifts had added and stored precious affections. Said a ferryman out of the line to me, as I stood there, "I have a picture—a portrait—at home, just in the frame he gave it me in." Really spoken in eloquent tones of pride. Bucke was already there, sitting by the window. The gas was up in both rooms, the shutters bowed. Ingram sat near Bucke. Harned sauntered around. Half a dozen reporters already in the parlor or hallway. Mrs. Whitman in the kitchen. George with us in front. Mr. Simmons and Warrie managed the line, and Warrie counted as the procession passed along. The several wreaths had been placed on or near the head of the coffin: Gilder's, from him and wife; Stedman's, with the poem; Lezinsky's, marked "Un Pilori"; some palms from Mrs. Whitman; Mrs. Fairchild's; Aldrich's; one marked "from Nellie and William O'Connor"; and several other sprays, from persons known and unknown, one or two with touching notes attached.

     Three or four reporters were over from New York, one from Frank Leslie's with a camera. (At one point Simmons broke the line, so as to enable this man to get a picture of the back room.) They questioned Harned about everything, the will included, and asked after names and distinguished friends. All much exercised about Ingersoll. No word or sight of him this morning. They came to me, "Had we better telegraph an inquiry to New York?" "No, there's no help if he don't come, and if he does, this will not add anything." At one moment an excited reporter ran in to me and whispered, "There's a report Ingersoll will not come." "Where?" "Out on the streets there." I went to the door, curious. The street was alive with curious, interested, solicitous groups, and the line was dragged round the corner still. Already private carriages were drawn up at various places. Overhead the clear blue—the day mild. The throng sedate, serious.


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     Kennedy came along in great excitement, agitated, disturbed. He went straight to the back room and had his look at W. and then joined us in the front parlor. Looked well—color good—quick of movement. "What a change," he murmured, "from the days I saw him in '88! Yet so sweet, too—nothing of his sweetness gone!" And yet was so little collected as [not] to know any one of us without new introductions. Burroughs was next to come. Bucke said in a low voice to Burroughs, "Did you ever see anything like it, John? It is a complete surprise to us all." And Burroughs himself stood for some time, fixed in observation of the moving line, which seemed to have no end. Kennedy was quickly damning the papers that they had no idea or word for W. Some critique read on the way over raised his blood and ire. Burroughs now remarked to me, "I would like you to read this, Horace, before I send it off"—holding up his Post letter. I proposed going upstairs, and we took Bucke along—Kennedy soon following. We lounged in W.'s room and I read the letter aloud. Burroughs said, "I want you to criticize it. I shall not be annoyed." But we had no criticisms to offer, the feeling being so clear, and agreed that he had said a good thing well and no more needed be done. Kennedy could not get above his agitation, but Bucke urged, "Don't worry about this. You've got a thousand things of the same kind to meet with and fight over yet, so you may as well keep cool." "But it's damned brutal—I can't help it!" "Never mind: you won't help matters by getting mad."

     Miss May and Calder Johnston appeared before long on the street and after coming in in the line, stayed in, I taking them upstairs. And by and by Mrs. Whitman brought in Miss Helen Price. Bucke knew her last. She was personally strange to me. She remarked, "I have heard of you often enough—yes indeed—and now I am glad to shake you by the hand." Well built, good color, glasses. Clifford joined us, and Loag, and still further along, Johnston. I sauntered into hallway and downstairs several times, standing at the foot of the stairs as

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the line passed me. Harry Walsh appeared, with hearty words, and Joe Stoddart, ruddy, dark, rotund. Conway, too, finding his way in. He said to me, "I came over from New York especially to attend W.'s funeral. He was a grand fellow." Turning to others, "He himself gave me a copy of his first edition in Brooklyn. I have known and acknowledged him from the first." (Keim, Reading Railroad, Philadelphia, had brought Conway over.) Quite a group gathered about Conway in the hall and he talked a good deal about his Paine. "I came over here only a few weeks ago, to talk with Walt about Paine. I got a good page from him, simply from our talk then, though at that time he was dying, and we knew, when he parted, we would never meet again. He knew Colonel Fellows, who knew Paine. Oh! Yes! The page is very valuable—very." Turning to me, "When did you talk with him last, to any effect?" "Thursday." "And he was perfectly clear then?" "Without a fleck." "So it was when I was here. I was astonished to see him physically so far gone and yet with his mental powers undimmed." They talked of pictures of Paine, and Johnston had much to say that interested Conway.

     Brinton came along, and next Frank Williams. I took them upstairs and with Bucke and Burroughs arranged the order of the speaking, having each understand his place and no introductions. Frank rather pale. Has suffered much. But determined to go through this. Morris came in the house with Arthur Stedman, and Talcott Williams I found in the hallway with Julius Chambers. Williams solemn, serious—Chambers merry, fine, full of life. Next Tom Donaldson, then Harry Bonsall. Whole row of reporters in hallway, ranged up the stairs. People curious to see Walt's room, but we soon cleared them all out and locked the doors. Gilchrist came in with Ed Stafford. Someone was sure Peter Doyle was seen somewhere in the crowd, but I saw nothing of him till we had got to Harleigh, when he was pointed out to me (by Burroughs) up the hill, twirling a switch in his hand, his tall figure and big soft hat impressively set against the white-blue

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sky. (Returning, we stopped our carriage, seeing him on the road, leisurely walking, and Burroughs called him, he running up, shaking hands all around and calmly talking some to us, as to himself and Walt. Is on a Providence line of railroad. I told him of Mrs. O'Connor. Seemed immobile, not greatly moved by the occasion, yet was sincere and simple and expressed in his demeanor the powers by which he must have attracted Walt.)

     Horace Howard Furness entered, trumpet in hand, quiet, sweet, fine—tender with word and greeting. He asked for a lock of Walt's hair. My mother and sister Tillie fall into the line, and come in and go out with it—faces full of memory and love. (How often has Tillie come to him with messages and gifts! And his, to her, always a sweet considerate word, freighted with feeling.) My father would not come here, though he went to Harleigh. "I want to paint a picture of him—one that is worthy of his best days, in the flush of his life—and so I must keep the old image, without this pallor and show of death." (My father a man of exquisite organization, vibrant to all enthusiasms and impulses of beauty.) Mrs. Davis and the members of her household in the back room—the kitchen—and there, too, Mrs. Whitman sat; George, however, mostly front (quiet, taciturn, seeming in wonder). Burroughs not very well, probably from a surplus of feeling. Harned came back, bringing Gussie. How strangely the line flowed and flowed—the human stream, with its many waves of feeling: as when old women, gazing at the quiet face, or even schoolgirls, went out, weeping, sobbing, with halting step. Some dropt flowers—some only their tears. Once, when I stood in the doorway, I met Chubb's eye, out in the gazing crowd. And I thought I saw then, too, Garland, though it was not till we were leaving Harleigh that I felt sure he was present. As it came near two and Ingersoll had not yet appeared, there was again some anxiety, and I was again hunted out by reporters, curious to know if I felt any way confident. But at eight minutes before the hour, there was a murmur in the

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street and some commotion at the door. I heard the name repeated out into the street and everywhere, "Ingersoll! Ingersoll!" quietly, slowly, no noisiness, yet as if a sensation was created. At the same time Ingersoll's tall form appeared in the doorway, and his wife's in front of him, slowly edging their way in. Ingersoll was dressed in an ordinary dress suit, and wore a derby hat. He looked depressed, but his color was good. I pushed forward—we shook hands. "Ah! Traubel! It is all over—all over and passed, and here I am." A tone and word too hard to bear. He was carried into the front room, greeted by friends, looked at, wondered over, all attention centered upon him. Mrs. Ingersoll modestly made a way for herself to the back room, near the coffin, where I sought her out and we had a few brief words. "We are just over from New York," she said. "Robert only got home this morning, and we had no time to wait." I responded, "We are relieved to have him come." And she said thereat, "Oh! We would come. It was close to Robert's heart." By and by Ingersoll came back and looked into the coffin, slowly shaking his head—again and again swaying, doubting, sorrowing; and I could see that tears sprang into his eyes. Mrs. Ingersoll asked, "He is much changed?" And he only said, "Yes." Ingersoll turned to me and said, "Traubel, I did not want to come—no, I did not"—pathetic, shaking head and looking again at W. with head poised in thought. He had little to say to anyone in response to greetings. An old lady sat on the sofa and said to someone near her, "I read every word he writes, but I hate him." Mrs. Ingersoll heard this and turned to Gussie to ask, "Who is the good old lady?" I introduced the Ingersolls to George Whitman and his wife. (Again I went to the doorway—again the clear sky and the curious awed groups of gazers—the street dotted with them—and the waiting carriages.)

     Then the final view of W.—George and his wife kissing the quiet face, and I went in with Burroughs. Oh! that moment! And I pressed my lips to the calm brow, now unresponsive,

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but memoried over with the traceries of joy and care. The beard combed and not quite freely flowing and playing as of old, but the lips very sweet, not set—and the fine nose and line of cheek and brow and arched eyes past description. Burroughs wept—and I?—yes, I wept, too—for somehow even this dead form reached up to me, as if for a last embrace, and I held it in my arms long and long and pressed it with a passion of love. And Burroughs there, alone. I took his hand, and together we stood, gazing, thinking, remembering, loving—consoling, he me and I him: and then a gaze backward and the calm face there, undisturbed, warning as to content and visioning us the future. (Could I have written of that strange head, with all its changes! The sunken temples—great cups—the nose lost from its breadth—the lips thinned and blue, yet the pallor not sad to see.) And as we stood there together, I heard the lid drop, the door closed, the face forever shut out, the new life begun.

     Together we passed from the room. I had not seen Bucke. Had he come in at all? I think not—nor Harned. And to save the pressure of feeling I busied myself with others in getting the pallbearers together. Attendants carried the body slowly out, and at the door it was given into the hands of a group of W.'s friends, Talcott Williams and Morris among them. The flowers, wreaths along. Slowly the hearse moved off. (My heart smote me: his last ride—now, into the rift and mystery!) And slowly we filled the carriages prepared. Burroughs, Bucke, Longaker and I came last. I think Ingersoll had his own carriage. He had loitered out into the street and away—the figure of most interest to the persistent crowds. The cortege turned slowly through the town—up Fourth to Federal, out Federal to Haddon Avenue and then wound along the high road to Harleigh. The day still bright, cloudless. Burroughs quiet—Bucke profoundly moved by the popular aspect the day had assumed, and Burroughs responding, "Yes, it would have been Walt's own wish." We passed the many familiar spots—passed

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the tollgate (the curious man to whom Walt had given some books hurrying to the door to say, "It is Mr. Whitman's funeral! Good old man!"). And saluting me as our carriage passed.

     Present at house or Harleigh: Ingersoll, Mrs. Ingersoll, Burroughs, Bucke, Harned, Traubel, Gilchrist, Mrs. K. G. Traubel, M. H. Traubel, Matilda Traubel, Morris Lychenheim, Agnes Lychenheim, Mrs. Julie Gilbert, Kennedy, Garland, Chubb, Stoddart, Conway, Julius Chambers, Arthur Stedman, George and Mrs. Whitman, Longaker, Reeder, McAlister, Ed Stafford, Miss Helen Price, Pete Doyle, Mrs. Mary Davis, Warren Fritzinger, Harry Fritzinger and wife, Joseph Gilbert, T. Williams, F. H. Williams, Brinton, Ingram and daughter, Bonsall, Donaldson, Joseph Fels and wife, H. H. Furness, McKay, Judge Garrison, Harry Walsh, William Walsh, Edelheim.

     Floating in from the West with the afternoon letters this from Morse, sweet and strong:
St. Louis
2720 Pine St.
28th Mch. /92

Dear Traubel—

I wrote you last week, but fear my letter did not reach you in time for the message to Walt. However, there was no necessity for it. I had a feeling all day Saturday that the end was near & began my plans for a small bust the size of the small Emerson. I staid in studio until half past six studying the few photos I have with me, while you and others were bidding him goodbye.

I hope it can be arranged so I can have a copy of the mask which of course will be taken.

You spoke of books. If there are any you think would interest me and be a memory of the man, please do send them.

I took Harper's out to Larned Sunday morning, & he read Walt's poem on death as his opening with excellent effect.

You are overwhelmed with many things to do, so I will not take your time with a longer letter. It will be interesting to see the press notices of his death. The papers here are of little account. One calls him

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a 4th century Goth with no poetry in his soul. Lend me papers at your leisure with accounts of his burial.


Yours most truly

Sidney Morse

Remember me to Harned. He has been a good friend, & intelligently so.

And Mrs. O'Connor sends me a note which would have much rejoiced W. had he been here to know it:
Boston, March 29, 1892

Dear Horace & Annie,

Your telegram announcing the death of our beloved Walt was forwarded me here, & I got it yesterday. The Sunday papers had the news, & tho' it could not be unlooked for, it was at last a shock & surprise,—death always is, even when you are sitting by the side & waiting for the last gasp.

My thanks forever to you both, & to dear, dear Annie for the loving & faithful record she has kept for me from day to day of the changes & fluctuations in the conditions. I have meant to, & wanted to write to you both a long, long letter & tell you of myself & my new outlook;—but sickness & death, & the engrossing cares of my new life kept me so occupied from day to day that I could not get time to write a long letter, & a short one I could not send, as that could not say the half that I wanted to tell you of my new life.

I think I told Annie in Washington that I had known Mr. Calder ever since I was eighteen years old, & long before I knew William, & before he knew the lady whom he married, & in all these years our friendship had never been interrupted. My daughter & his second daughter, Helen, were intimate friends, & from my sister, Mrs. Channing, living in Providence, the intimacy had always been kept up,—but it was a warm, congenial friendship, & no more,—& so I did not question the future, & when I came into the family to "assist Margaret in the household cares" as Mr. Calder put it, I did not dream that I could ever marry him, or any other man. I tell him that no one will ever be half as much surprised as I am & I am very sure of that.


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But I hope & think that I shall be able to add, not only to his happiness, but that of his children, of whom he has four now living. His wife died five years ago. I think it was his loving devotion to his children & his sweetness & goodness at home that won me at last,—for though I have known him forty-four years, I had not known him at his best till I knew him at home.

You see the acquaintance began when I was 18. That was 1848, as I was born in 1830.

I sent cards to you all, & and every day before I left I wanted to write a long letter to Walt & to you, if he was able to have it read to him, but Mr. Calder's illness, and it was the first in his life, made it out of the question for me to get the time.

Now dear Horace & Annie, will you let Dr. Bucke read this letter, & will he take it as if to himself, for I want to tell him all, & want all of my friends & William's friends to know Mr. Calder by & by.

I said to Mr. Calder that it was "impossible for me to think of marriage, my life was too full of memories, too full of the past,"—but he answered that so was his, & he should no more expect me to forget than he should forget. I knew his wife well, & it is a tie between us.

Well, as you see, I did change my mind, & have changed my name, & that is what I did not like to do. I wonder if any man knows what he asks, when he asks a woman to give up the name she has borne for thirty & more years. I propounded that question to Mr. Calder, but he insisted that while he should not like to change his—etc.

Will you give me address of Mr. Kennedy? I could not find it, & so could not send him a card.

Will you tell me, when you can, any details of Walt's last hours? He is not out of my thought a moment, & the old days & times come back so vividly.

I will let this go now, & send a word later.

Remember, dear ones, that it is only in name that I am changed, & am still your loving & sincere friend.

Ellen M. Calder

We return home on Wednesday, to-morrow, so send to 34 Benefit St. as usual.

My love to Dr. Bucke.



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Mrs. Gilder had written "from Dorothea" and "ivy and violets" on a card with her gift of flowers.

     After the funeral, at 328, Bucke standing in the hall with George Whitman, called me. "Listen, Horace, what do you think George is saying?" I found George incredulous as to the great applause greeting his brother today. But Bucke said, "It is coming. Did you hear what Ingersoll said? Great as any—perhaps great as any that ever lived. Wasn't that enough?"

     I sat with Walt years ago one day at the river's edge. A mosquito alighted on his forehead. I warned him of his danger. He asked, "What?" and added afterward, laughing, "They don't poison me: I never was stung by bugs, spiders, mosquitoes—by the tribe of petty insects: no"—laughing again— "not by bedbugs. Somehow I am constituted against them." And once in his room I called his attention to the fact that a mouse was down at his feet, seeming to linger there without fear. Again he only remarked, "I suppose, and there must be others," but did not stir.

     Walt's teeth have easily left him. Some remain to the present, but the front teeth, upper, are mostly gone. He never has needed or submitted to dental operation. Now and then he will lose a tooth. He took one from his mouth in my presence and laid it on the table. "There—that's done for. I'll have no use for it again"—with a merry look. I found the tooth to be full of decay. He remarked, "I seem to lose them all that same way, without difficulty or pain. They just simply agree not to hold together any more."

     Walt again dwells upon this, "I regard Ingersoll and Symonds as my greatest victories: Symonds at the very crest, summit, of scholarship, erudition, out of the old world, its institutions, habits, ideals; Ingersoll, broad, expansive, ample, cute, generous, courageous, happy—perhaps the most vital and spontaneous man on the planet today. These are plumes indeed, justifying, explaining, illuminating." And he murmured after a pause, "And such dear fellows, too, simply as simple men—Ingersoll a child, wayward, sweet, leaving good flavor everywhere."


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