Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, December 19, 1891

     Matters grow gloomier. W. is worse. This morning the following letter from Longaker:

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Saturday P.M.

Dear Traubel,

As far as I know I shall be at home this evening. W. W. is no better. I expect to be over to-morrow morning; but should I be detained then in the afteroon early. As ever

D. Longaker


Could not get up there in the course of day but wrote him. At W.'s he had left me a little note to call on him. As he had left a like word last night, I felt the gravity of its atmosphere. He had pronounced W. worse to Warrie and with "chances" against him. Premonitory note from Bucke, too. W. very weak—the cough increased, though yet mild—the mucus however coughed up copious and disheartening. Shows a disinclination to be aroused—this even to Warrie and Mrs. Davis when they attend him. Longaker advising Warrie however to keep him moving. Somnolent—asks for sleep, rest. Endeavors today to use the catheter unavailing, Warrie having to operate it for him. Darkness thickens—my heart trembles on its throne—the end not unprobably near.

     To my mother's house a few minutes (this my birthday—a solemn birthday—my mother giving me with tender hand an old cherished copy of Tasso). Then home and after supper to Longaker's, who frankly said to me, "The prospects are all against us. I do not expect a sudden demise. His heart works well—there is not likely to be heart failure. But I expect that within four or five days, or in about that time, this mucus will so thicken as to quietly drown, suffocate him." While we sat there, reporter came in from Press. Longaker reserved with him, I not so much so— "as I preferred," said L. on the reporter's retirement. L. thought it well to divulge but not for him to do it. What should I do with Bucke: summon him or still wait? Longaker seemed not to know what to say, nor I. Yet L. was sure of the end—sure the chances of a mistake are reduced to the infinitesimal. I told L. enough of the Harned-Walt episode to show him its importance. He advised that Harned get it at once.

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How could it be done? We arranged for a meeting at W.'s at 9:45 tomorrow—Harned to be with us. L. will see W. and will urge the business with Harned. "I can tell him his danger very frankly. It makes no difference to Mr. Whitman. I noticed yesterday that he cared little, which side the blow fell. He is beyond all such fear. A little more stimulant of whiskey will aid him. A bad sign with him is his somnolency—his disinclination to be woke up." Longaker would be better prepared in the morning, too, to crystallize his opinion. Solemn talk—an hour or more. Then away again—downtown—stopping in at Press office, seeing city editor and one of the reporters.

     To Camden—a cab at ferry—driving up to W.'s. Warrie and Mrs. Davis still up. Went into parlor and we had some talk, I submitting the substance of the bad news, they hearing full of feeling, expression. Stoddart and Gilchrist in at different times today, neither knowing W. was sick. Warrie says W. took his medicine last night at ten, twelve, two, then at four kicked—spoke of its bad taste. Today more willing—tonight markedly so—even proposing more whiskey in one of the punches.

     Warrie wrote Johnston today. I have sent serious word to Bucke by letter, which he will get Monday morning.

     Weather perfect—cool, mild—clear skies. The Press men getting ready for W.'s death.

     Buckwalter also called to see W.

     No chance to show W. Mrs. Fairchild's tender note and its Christmas remembrance:
191 Commonwealth Avenue.
December 15

My dear Mr. Traubel,

Christmas draws near once more; I remember that last year you were good enough to charge yourself with a commission for me. May I ask you to repeat your good offices?—and to buy something for our friend that he wants or needs with the enclosed five dollars? I wish it were more! but misery cries with a louder voice than love in this modern world—and with so many sick and sad I cannot think of my own selfish pleasure in giving first.


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May Christ be born again indeed in the hearts of us all. These are my warm Christmas wishes for Walt and you and me and all people.

Very cordially yrs

Elisabeth Fairchild


Acknowledged to her today.

     When I showed W. Gilder's note the other day, he exclaimed, "Just enough! And the practical right word!"

     W. at last turned up Kennedy's Tennyson postal; which, now Kennedy divulged, has a curious significance:
Sat. Morn. 6 A.M.

Dear W. W.

I shall count it a distinguished favor to get the loan of that Bucke letter anent T. Tenn. was the bright particular star of my youth and early manhood—is a man who makes this dull earth godlike, & immortality not at all strange. I will sacredly respect yr wish as to mention & will be extremely careful not even to mention it to any dangerous person whatever.

W. S. Kennedy


     The fellows all greatly admire Ingersoll's letter of 12th to W.:
400 5th Ave.
Dec 12. 91

My dear Mr. Whitman,

A thousand thanks for the "Leaves of Grass" and many many more for the inscription.

As soon as the book came I read to a party of friends the "Mystic Trumpeter" and we were all stirred to the very depths as though by the blast of a trumpet. What a beautiful, hopeful, imaginative, tender, prophetic and superb poem it is! Then I read Sea Drift—The Guests from Alabama, and then "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed"—and we all agreed that there could not be found in our literature three poems to equal these in intensity, tenderness, philosophy and dramatic form.

The only objection I have to the book is that it purports to be finished—with you, while there is life there will be song. You have not

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reached the journey's end, and, while a grain of sand remains within the glass of time, there's something left unsaid that we, your friends, would gladly hear. You must not say Goodbye!—wait and let that be the last.


Thanking you again for the book and especially for the loving words

I am as ever your friend and admirer

R. G. Ingersoll

Mrs. Ingersoll writes with me in thanks, congratulations and regards.


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