Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, January 7, 1892

     First to W.'s on my way to Philadelphia (8:20). He was sleeping—I did not disturb him. Remarkably good color and no hiccoughs. Warrie said first part of night very restless (which I knew, having been there) and early morning easier. I have note from Ingersoll this morning, which I answered by special delivery:
Law Office, Robert G. Ingersoll,
45 Wall Street, New York
Jany 6 1892

Dear Traubel

Thanks for your good letters. I will come & see the grand man if possible. The other day I sent him by express a few bottles of champagne—the dryest—& hope he will enjoy every drop. Give him my love. He grows dearer every day.

Love to you & Mrs. Traubel

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll


The champagne came yesterday—W.'s attention not called to it at the time. Indeed, those in house not knowing from whence it had come. I urged Ingersoll again to come—that it would do W. some cheer. Morse also writes from the West.

     I write Bucke twice a day—morning and evening. Frank Williams not yet about—nor further word from Brinton. To W.'s again about 6:10—and considerable talk with Warrie and Mrs. Keller. W. had passed a pretty easy day and even the doctors had felt encouragement. W. talked more than usual with them. Longaker the more hopeful one of the two always. Ate rather beyond his recent usual fare and the women even concerted that when they changed the bed he somewhat assisted them, which had not been the case for a week. In W.'s room and finding him evidently in an easy doze did not arouse him.


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     Bucke writes as follows from Toronto—5th:
Inspector of Asylums, Prisons, Etc.
Toronto
5 Jan 1892

My dear Horace

I came to this town yesterday on some government business—left directions that any telegrams were to be forwarded and would go from here to Camden if any sudden change took place. Hearing nothing from you I shall probably return home tomorroW. The last letter I had from you was dated 1 Jan. and I was much disappointed that I did not get later news before leaving home last evening.

I thought of something on the train last ev'g—what about the use to which the tomb is to be put over and above W., his father & mother? Has he ever expressed a wish on this subject or given any directions? There are eight crypts—are a number of them to stand empty? Or will the executive powers given Mrs. Geo. Whitman enable her to deal with this matter? I wish you would speak to Harned about this and let me know what you & he think. Would it be well to speak to Walt?

Always affectionately yours

R. M. Bucke


W. told L. again today he was done with the medicine—is averse to it.

     8:50 P.M. At W.'s again. Warrie and Mr. Bannan in Warrie's room playing cribbage. I tarried for a moment—took my coat and hat off and put on bed—then slipped through the part-open door, on tiptoe, into W.'s room—standing then in a listening attitude for a minute or two. Did he know I was there? No light—the fire faintly burning—the whole room black. Suddenly he called out, "Is it you, Horace?" —and I knew I was recognized. I went over to the bed—kissed him—sat down on bed. Our hands were clasped during the whole of the talk, and I knew it was with genuine love he pressed mine time and again as we sat there together. Certainly he was better. I was there nearly half an hour. His voice easier and fuller—breathing not oppressed. Hiccoughing slightly—no more. His loving warmth

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almost astonished me. Often in pauses he murmured, "Dear dear boy!" and pressed my hand—and once with almost a passion he cried, in his whisper, "Dear, dear, dear, dear boy—we all love you!"—in such a tone as drew all my life together into one sense of recognition and response. How was he? "I am here still—here still—broken up, maimed, useless—but here still." But I had learned he had spent an easier day. "I don't know. But everybody is kind to me. Mrs. Keller is kind to me—Warrie is kind to me. Everything I need—more than I need—seems anticipated." Had the bed become his throne? "I do not even need to ask. Everything happens. Yet this imprisonment in the bed is torture—is horrible. I shall try tomorrow to sit up in the big chair for five minutes if I can." But after a pause, "I must confess I don't feel much like sitting up now—so weak I doubt if I could easily turn my head on the pillow. But we will see—see." Referring to his nourishment, said, "It is little enough after all."

     Told him of Johnston's acknowledgment of the books. "Then it is clearly definitely conclusively settled that the books are arrived and in the right hands?" I was to go on sending the books. "Be very liberal with them—let them go to the right fellows: you know who—know as well as, better than, I do." What had he to say to Bucke's question as to disposition of the tomb? "I have no particular wish, except that father and mother be put there, I between them—you will clearly stick to that for me." I quoted Ingersoll's letter of the morning. "Good fellow! princely—royal"—and as to the "He is dearer every day" "Not me to him more than he to me." But as to proposed visit, "Perhaps he had better not come." Then a question, "Have you got the letter from him yet?" For a minute I missed him, "What letter?" "Oh! the letter sent last, there, before I was sick." I did remember, of course—yet not better than he—but I had not yet asked for its return. "I would do so, Horace, or a copy of it. You will need to use it." But he did forget I had read it. "Is it so? There my memory is treacherous." How alive he seemed! The very extent and general nature of his questions showed re-awakening. "Is there anything notably new, Horace?" "Someone

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wrote about you in the Arena."
"Ah! Is it heavy or light? Is it a plume?" I had not yet seen or read—only heard of it. "You will get a copy?" "Yes." "Good! Then tell me how much of the tumbler it fills up." "Suppose it leaves it empty?" "It won't be the first experience of that kind." And yet more of his questions, "Have you heard any more about Poet-Lore?" I related the story of the proofs. "That sounds like progress. Was it well set up?" "Splendidly." "That is a good start in itself." I mentioned their suggestion that I should cut Kennedy's slap at Methodism and my acquiescence. W. then, "I am glad you allowed it—glad. It is out of place: far better without. Not that I would defend Methodism." Also told him the story of "Walt Whitman as a lawyer" now going the rounds of the papers: WALT WHITMAN AS A LAWYER

The Verdict He Obtained Before He Became Famous.


How the Good Grey Poet Administered a Drubbing to a Tormentor

and the Verdict by Which He Was Acquitted of Assault.


The serious illness of the "good grey poet," Walt Whitman, has made him more talked about lately than he has been for years, and has brought to mind through some of the older people many stories of his early life and experiences. There is one especially good told of an adventure he had when he lived with his father in Babylon, New York. The old gentleman occupied the Minturn Place, west of the village about a mile and a half. It was in 1840. The budding poet, then about eighteen years of age, had just returned home after his venture in journalism in Huntington. His success had been marked; in fact, it is questioned whether it should not be put down as a miserable failure....

He was a popular favorite among both sexes in the village, and many jolly yarns are told of those days which, no doubt, the now aged and suffering poet can recall with pleasure.

One of the stories called to mind is the arrest of the poet for an assault upon a young man named Benjamin Carman. The Carman farm joined the farm occupied by the Whitmans. A trout pond formed the boundary. In this pond Walt delighted to fish. On a certain day while Whitman was sitting in his boat angling Young Carman conceived the

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idea of annoying him. He first threw stones so as to disturb the water near the fisherman. Seeing no effect upon the stolid fisherman, he got in his own boat and commenced leisurely rowing around in the vicinity of the poet, to the total destruction of fishing. Even this annoyance failed to call forth any reproof or remonstrance, and Whitman fished on as though nothing was annoying him. At first the lad was careful to keep beyond the reach of the fishing pole, but finally, his suspicions being quieted by the manner of the fisherman, who in a casual sort of way plied him with various questions, asking if he were not a namesake of Benjamin Franklin, and engaging him in cheerful conversation, the boy edged nearer and nearer, until, coming within the swing of Whitman's fishpole, the poet caught him unawares and thrashed him unmercifully, breaking his pole and inflicting quite severe injuries upon the boy, dismissing him with the admonition that, next time he refrain from interfering with his fishing.


But this was not destined to be the last of the matter. The elder Carman, in rage at the castigation of his son, swore out a warrant for Whitman's arrest before Justice Joel Jarvis, of Huntington.... General Richard Udall, afterwards a member of Assembly from Suffolk, appeared as attorney for Carman, while Whitman pleaded his own case. The jury was made up of men who thought more of common sense than of law. The foreman was John Edwards, an Englishman, full of stubborn persistence, prepared to insist upon having his own way.... General Udall made a clear case. The evidence was not disputed. Whitman, when he summed up his defense, told the jury the facts in the case. He admitted he had trounced the boy, but pled in justification that Carman had interfered with his vested rights and had made himself a nuisance, and the nuisance had simply been abated. The jury filed out. They were out but a few moments and returned into court.

The justice resettled his steel-bowed spectacles so that he could more readily look over them and asked: "Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?"

"We 'ave," said Edwards.

"What is it?" asked His Honor.

"We find 'e did not 'it him 'ard enough," said the foreman.

The uproarious laughter which greeted this verdict the justice was unable to quell, and in his righteous indignation broke his spectacles in his endeavor to sufficiently express his disapproval. When quiet was restored he explained to the jury that they must find a verdict of

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"guilty" or "not guilty," when the spectators were again convulsed by the answer of the sturdy Yorkshire gentleman, who stubbornly insisted that the only verdict of the jury was that "Whitman 'ad not 'it 'im 'ard enough," and after repeated attempts to get matters right, the prisoner was discharged and the verdict stands today that "the plaintiff was not hit hard enough."


"Give me the sharp lines of it." Then, "Yes, it is substantially true, substantially true. He had me arrested, but the sympathies of the community were all on my side." When I quoted the verdict of the jury, W. laughed—the first I had heard from him—and the effort choked and made him cough. When he had recovered he said, "It was rich—rich. The foreman was a William Cobbett sort of a fellow. But they make the story too long—a stick and a half or two sticks would be enough for it." Afterward in speaking of his "defeat" of the doctors and their confession that they were puzzled, he laughed again, and again choked and coughed, and found himself hiccoughing. Mentioned that Stedman's lectures had begun. He called Stedman "generous," and then asked if I had heard of the safe arrival of the book. Advised me, too, "Watch the mail—keep a sharp eye for our affairs." Had he no sense of greater strength? "None at all." Did he expect to get out of it? "Not by wishing." Asked likewise, "How is Anne?" and murmured, "Darling girl!" Further, "Have you heard from Bolton?" "While you were low I cabled every day and they cabled back their love." "Good boys, all!" "And when at last I cabled that you were better, they responded, 'Joy!'" "Noble fellows! But the joy? Alas!" When I said my letter from Doctor was postmarked "Toronto" he asked, "What is he doing there?" and I had to explain. When at last I told him I must go, he remarked, "I suppose—I suppose! Well, good night! Best night! Good night, dear boy!"

     I returned to the other room then to make up "Leaves of Grass," inscribing copies for Warren and for Symonds, Mrs. Fairchild, Forman, Dowden, Bush, Gilder, Williamson, S. Weir Mitchell, J. K. Mitchell, Howells, T. Williams, Edelheim, Josephine Lazarus, Adler, Baker, Poet-Lore.


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     Cable from Wallace today: "Thanks for letters. Love to Walt and all. Wallace."

     I added a couple [of lines] to Mrs. Keller's notes today: 8 a.m. Had a quiet time after 1 A.M. Sleeping at this time.

9 Awake. Position changed. Wished only water.

11 Dr. McAlister came. Also Dr. Longaker. Mr. W. not inclined to talk.

11:30 Ate one egg, small piece of toast. Drank one cup tea.

12 p.m. Quiet.

1 Small bowel movement—involuntary. Had bed changed, was washed and rubbed. Was not much exhausted. The hiccough did not come through it.

2 Sleeping.

3 Awake. Took three mouthfuls toast. Drank small quantity milk punch.

3:20 Said to Mrs. Davis, "Mary, you did not make the toast as I told you this morning—wet with tea." Said he would eat a little in that way. Asked about the champagne Mr. Ingersoll sent. Said, "Mary, I want you, Mrs. Keller and Warren to have a swig of it. The doctors too. Horace don't drink it, I believe. If he does, give him a glass." Asked how old Mr. Button was. Said, "I want to send him a bottle." The first day he has taken solid food twice.

[H.L.T.'s notes:]


9:20 Called Warrie. "I think I'll have to be laid on the other side."

10:50 "Warren, get a little ice and put it into that milk punch. Bring it up in a glass if you wish or take this down." And when Warrie came back, "Shall we have a drink of it?" "Yes." Warren said to W., "We are looking for a ball of twine." "Yes, I think you will find it over on the table." W. was shifted again.


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