Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, November 27, 1891

     8:05 P.M. W. on his bed but not asleep. Shook hands with me. I went across to his chair and sat down. After a bit he rose, sat on the edge of the bed, his back my way. Talked a little while in that position: his back bent, his voice clear, the situation wholly strange and bathed in pathetic charm. Says, "I feel very bad—these are evil days: I seem to live in a cloud. Yet the outward days are beautiful enough! I have been looking over to the north, into the great skies. It is a great treat, to be able to do only that!" Complains of weakness, however. Warrie has almost suspended the rubbings. But W. says, "We'll have to go through the motions—keep up the form!" But says his body seems sore—all his body from the hips up. Warrie reports, "I can see a great change in the last two months. And lately he has taken to eating less." But this tomb business is to some extent worrying him. He said of that tonight, "I have entire confidence in Tom. I know he will drive 'em to the wall. Tom is wonderfully cute, and with great power. And of course he must not budge an inch from his original position—must keep all the advantage of that. We must not yield: it is a gouge, yes, an attempt at forgery and its benefits. We must defeat it!"

     How had I passed Thanksgiving? His own "so-so." "What could a fellow do, jailed and bound?" Asked me, "I'll get you, if

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you will, Horace, to untie this handkerchief about my neck. I can't get at it."
I had to reach under the beard, and easily did it. Then after I had re-taken my seat he called me up again. "One good turn deserves another. I'll ask you now to tie the new one on!" Laughing merrily. I had him hold up his beard as I did it. "I don't know as I ought to ask it, but it's asked and done, and I suppose we both are agreed that it is well done and done quickly!" Then, "These are several of the handkerchiefs I have left. Oh! I have lots and lots given me—silk, linen, every kind—and yet when I want a handkerchief, it seems the hardest thing in the world to turn up. They are stolen, stolen—not so much as they used to be, however, when I was downstairs. These things come from all directions, but they do not tarry long." It seemed greatly to amuse him, and he went on, "I spent a day at Mt. Vernon—a whole day, many years ago—and an old fellow I met there (I went about with him some) told me the relic-hunters were there in abundance and without their consciences—any of 'em! They would hack away at everything. He told me of a patch of ground they at one time cultivated: said that the more they worked, the worse the ravage—till finally the job was given up."

     I alluded to Theodore Stanton's papers on Lincoln in some English review and his remark that Lincoln was never known to endorse Christian orthodoxy even in its mildest expression. W.: "No, nor endorse anything else. What did they ever know him to endorse in that line? Nothing at all—simply nothing." The original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation had contained no reference to God—no use of the word—till a cabinet minister suggested it and Lincoln waived the issue. W. says, "Now—In God we trust! When I think of this story, Horace, and many like it, and think of the filthy, vile, low, vulgar rot of that man Talmage, sent out every week, almost every day, from Brooklyn, I am quite determinedly willing to say to Ingersoll, 'Go on, Colonel! Whack away: the hardest blow you can strike will be none too hard for that damned crew!' No, Horace, no! There's nothing so vulgar, so alien to this time, age—to science—as what

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nowadays whistles about as religion. It is mere pretense—masquerade."

     I had just got a letter from Bucke (26th) at Post Office. W. read. As he did so, "He is severe on Reinhalter. No, Doctor, not quite as bad as that!" And yet "bad enough," W. added. "A letter written with Doctor's careless dash, anyhow." "As all letters should be written!" I put in. He then, "Yes, all letters. I agree to that." "I'll send him one—yes, probably two—copies, when the book is out." What about books anyway? "Can you report progress on 'em?" Then we discussed means and ways—I shall run up to and urge Oldach tomorrow. W.: "I am anxious to see the book—have its concrete evidence that all is right. Everything set in its true angle."

     The Poet-Lore people wrote me prompt acceptance of my article, as follows: "We hereby acknowledge receipt of your favor of to-day enclosing ms. We are sorry it is too late for Dec. We have, however, announced it for Jan. and will send you proof." I hardly expected it. They must have been moved. I said to W., "It was extreme—it was positive—it missed no emphasis." "Good for the girls then!" I entered into some talk of it. "You have got it into the right strain, Horace, I have no doubt. You got all the extracts in? Good—good! I always feel warmly towards a good extract, if it proves a good weapon, but extracts for the sake of extracts? That is lame—that carries us nowhere."

     Johnston's English postal (7th) alluded to Bolton Chronicle extract from Record. W. had dictated the main part of that to a reporter here. Some points exaggerated afterwards. Puts his condition in rather bad color. The Brentano people not very well informed. They say they have an 1860-61 edition for five dollars, and call it first. Perhaps even this is a fraudulent Worthington book. W. again asserts, "I don't see what the fellows hunger after the fleshpots for—the old editions. Why don't they leave that for collectors?" Bucke's letter of 23rd answered my question: how had W. recently been writing him (in what spirit and with what frequency? ):

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23 Nov 1891

My dear Horace

I have yours of 19th. It has rained here steady since 7 P.M. friday last past and looks just now as if it might rain 3 more days.

I send you with this Wallace's paper—if he told me to send it you (as probably he did) I have entirely forgotten—I have another copy so that which I send is for you to keep. If you would send me those Tennyson notes I would have them type-written and send you a copy in that shape corrected (for no doubt I should recall in going over them additional material). I have the MS. of the Montreal address and will give it you next time you are here or I go to Camden. I don't understand what you say about the impossibility of getting up a green L. of G. What are you doing about the cover of the New Edition? Will the cover not be changed?

Yours of 20th this moment to hand. W. does not write so often as he used. Wrote 31st Oct and 4 letters & a postcard since—letters fairly cheerful—not nearly so down as I have know them other times. Last letter I had from him was dated 18th. No I do not want copies of big book—money is pretty tight with me at present—everything goes into the meter. We are finishing it we hope to have something with money in its belly before long. How is Anne? Give her my love—best wishes to you—wish I could spend a couple of weeks in your neighborhood.

So long!

R. M. Bucke


W. remarks, "I wonder myself if that meter business will ever bring the Doctor anything. There are suspicions, not."

     I received "college" songs today from Johnston, three of them. Duplicates, too, but no word what to do with these. Find however that W. has none. Presume they are for him. "I, too," he said, "only got a vague brief letter from Wallace: he leaves the details of their jamboree for a future letter, or for Doctor Johnston."

     W. has been reading "The Wandering Jew," some prose piece (vol.) sent him by a Western lawyer (I am not sure about lawyer, but think that). It "did not interest" him, but "proved a curio." Told W. now for first time title of Poet-Lore piece: "Lowell-Whitman:

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A Contrast." "I like that. That sounds almost handsome." "I put Lowell's name first, for obvious reasons." "Yes, that was right. The reasons are obvious to me, too. All reasons I know point the same way." When in type could I get him slips of it? "I should want 10 or 20." Harned has gone to Washington and Virginia, taking young Thomas with him. W. thinks, "That will be a great trip for the boy, a great one. But I am anxious to have Tom get back, too." Among letters he gives me is "a simple complimentary one" from a woman named Webling:
2 Camden Gardens
Shepherds Bush Green, London, England
26. Oct:1891

To Walt Whitman. Dear Sir

It is my birthday and I am so grateful to you for the comradeship of Leaves of Grass that I must write today.

I am an artist & paint portraits sometimes miniatures.

My mother and sisters have just reached New York. The girls are quite young and going to give Recitations in the States and Canada. I hope to come sometimes but as I am a worker I must wait until bye and bye.

Thanking you again and again and with greeting

I remain, most sincerely

Ethel Webling


And another from Dwight (Friendship, New York) offering him asylum there, hearing W. was in distress. W. asked me, "Do you know what an apiary is?" "No." "Not a suspicion of it?" I laughed. W. thereupon, "You are as bad as Warrie, who made all sorts of wild guesses. The fact is"—bursting into laughter himself— "the fact is, I didn't know it any better than you. It seems to apply to bee supplies—such things. You have found the letter on the table? Oh! Let me see." I handed to him. He examined. "Yes, that's it! What a noble impulse in that man, to write such a letter. It ought to go on record some way."

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Harry L. Dwight, Manufacturer
and Jobber of Bee-Keepers' Supplies
Friendship, New York
11-24 1891.

My Dear Sir:

I read in the papers that you are sick and in want in your old age.

Now Mr. Whitman, I am not wealthy, but will be proud to have you come here and live with us. I own a small home and will be only too happy to assist you. Kindly let me know by return mail if the statement in the papers is true. I sincerely hope it is not. I have a copy of your "Leaves of Grass." You have always been my favorite poet, and I think it a shame that you should be left in need.

If circumstances are such that you need not come here or do not want assistance, I trust you will pardon this letter. It is written in all sincerity and truth.

Your humble Admirer,

Harry L. Dwight


Then, pathetically, "The world is full of kindness, too. With all else—all the poison, worse—kindness, too! Our philosophies all need to be revised!"


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