Skip to main content

Monday, June 4, 1888.

Monday, June 4, 1888.

Ferguson referred to me this morning several questions about which I had to confer with W. [See indexical note p259.1] I went to Camden in consequence this noon, reaching 328 at a quarter past twelve. Found Harned there with two of his children, Mrs. Davis also, all of them in the parlor, anxiously regarding W., who lay on the sofa. What was the matter? My alarm was instant. But W. was very cheerful: "I seem to have had since last night three strokes of a paralytic character—shocks, premonitions. That's all there is to it. [See indexical note p259.2] Don't worry about it, boy." He held my hand warmly and firmly. When he drove off from Harned's yesterday with Doctor Bucke he was in great good humor and (for him) apparent health. In the evening he undertook to sponge himself, in his own room, alone, and while so engaged fell to the floor, finding himself unable to move or to call for assistance, lying there, he thought, helplessly, for several hours. When asked why he did not call Mrs. Davis he said: "I thought best to fight it out myself." [See indexical note p259.3] He added to me: "I have had many such attacks in the past—they do not alarm me—though I am aware they do not signify good health." This morning two perhaps lighter attacks had followed—one of which, the last, that from which he was recovering on my arrival, having somewhat affected his speech. "I never suffered that entanglement in my former experiences," he explained. Harned was present when this occurred. No doctor there. "Don't get a doctor," commanded W., adding humorously: "I think of it this way, you know: that if the doctors come I shall not only have to fight the disease but fight them, whereas if I am left alone I have but the one foe to contend with." [See indexical note p259.4] Mrs. Davis happening to say: "I hope it will all pass off," he replied: "I guess it will but if it does not it will be all right." W. attributes the trouble to his "infernal indigestion" suffered of late. "I have passed through hells of indigestion." [See indexical note p260.1] Harned suggested: "Fast for awhile—cut your belly off." W. smiled. "I am aware of the need of caution but I am aware also of the fact that I must keep the fire going."

Harned and the others going into the hallway W. turned his head towards me and said: "Well, Horace—you want to see me?" adding at once—"Sit right down here and tell me what it is." I demurred. Would it be all right? "Can you do it now?" "O yes, I am much better." While I was opening the proofs he went on: "Besides, this attack is a warning to us to hurry the book along all we can. [See indexical note p260.2] I may dance my last dance any day now. So do not be afraid—we will push right on—right on—till there's no pushing necessary, possible, any more." He took my hand—held it saying: I feel more and more my dependence upon you—I feel more and more that you are to be depended upon: God bless you!". [See indexical note p260.3] He put on his glasses and examined the proofs, talking rationally and clearly. He answered my questions without hesitation. Ordinarily he would have played for time. But I could see that he was serious about the warning. We talked only ten minutes. Then he said: "Bring as many proofs as you possibly can this evening. Do not forget the extra proofs—the four sets. I am willing (even desire) to give a dollar or so to the prooftaker for the extra trouble we are putting him to. I mean the dollar for the prooftaker personally—not for Ferguson. You will give it to him yourself." I asked W. whether he felt enough better to be left alone. "O yes—I seem now to be resuming my strength: do not be afraid. [See indexical note p260.4] Harned will be in from time to time this afternoon and Mary is around. I will see you this evening again: by that time you will find that I am fully restored." Left at twelve forty with Harned and the children. Harned informed me that he would telephone to Dr. Osler and Dr. Bucke, who is visiting today at the Noristown Asylum. [See indexical note p261.1] As he lay there on the sofa W. had called our attention to the New York Graphic, Saturday's issue, containing "two portraits, a picture of 328, the den inside," &c., W. saying: The reproductions are so bad they leave me indifferent."

I received from Ferguson on my return to Philadelphia proofs of Sands. Took these to W. at eight o'clock, finding him with Bucke and Harned, and better, decidedly. [See indexical note p261.2] Very cheerful, too. "The milk is spilled—why should we cry over it?" Took the roll of proofs from me and put them carefully in the inside pocket of his coat. He pointed to a chair piled with books and papers. "Go there, Horace: you will find a package: it contains some fresh copy for tomorrow." Bad as he had felt he had done this work since noon. [See indexical note p261.3] He had moreover been reading Ingersoll's North American Review reply to Gladstone, saying of it: "I have not got through yet: but I have tasted the fruit: it not only satisfies, it excites appetite. It is the lawyer's reply, not altogether satisfactory to me, but with here and there bits that we must class with poetry of the highest order." W.'s physical condition was discussed, W. himself frankly participating.

Bucke superficially made light of the incidents of yesterday and today, though secretly anxious. [See indexical note p261.4] But W. was not to be deceived. "Notwithstanding what you say, Maurice, there are earthquakes which shake walls, chandeliers—yes, and there are earthquakes which destroy cities." W. said quietly to me: "In spite of what the physicians say, I know myself, I know my peril: I am on shaky foundations—it cannot be concealed: I read the hints—am convinced of certain things. [See indexical note p261.5] So let us push the book along—get it done—before anything absolutely disqualifying occurs to me." W.'s love for Walter Scott never dies out. McKay has responded to his request for "typographically readable Scott books," as W. says, by sending two—The Heart of Midlothian and The Antiquary—over which W. is delighted.

It seems that after W. and Bucke had had their spin in the country yesterday W. drove Bucke to the ferry, W. then taking another run of over an hour beyond Camden alone. [See indexical note p262.1] "I drove up as far as Pea Shore—right up to the river, halting there for half an hour, looking over the water—listening to the wash at my feet, my nag all the while impatient, as is generally the case. [See indexical note p262.2] Then I drove home. All this time I was feeling physically and mentally in first class fettle. I had dressed a little lighter yesterday—that may have been against me—and then it was somewhat chilly as I stood there with my horse foot deep in the water at Pea Shore. It is all a mystery. It just happened—that's about all there is to it. This morning my sensation was of total collapse—giving away—things getting out from under me. I sat reading: the shock came without any warning—so quick I barely had time to lift and drop my cane for calling Mary. She helped me to the sofa where I rested and waited for the cloud to pass away. [See indexical note p262.3] I say cloud—cloud is just the word." Mrs. Davis says he looked ghastly at breakfast—scared her—but nothing happened at that time. Bucke says: "There's something suspicious about last night's affair. I don't believe the old man himself knows very much about it. He was probably unconscious for a long time. I questioned him sharply today and that is my impression."

W. has been looking over a Huxley book just out—controversial. [See indexical note p262.4] "It is far more crushing in its kind even than Ingersoll's—it is superb. It does seem as if Ingersoll and Huxley without any others could unhorse the whole Christian giant. They are master-pilgrims with a fighting gift that would appall me if I was in the opposition." W. receiving some letters from people he does not know says: "There is someone who says 'the fool is known by more people than the fool knows' or something running that way." Received sonnet addressed to himself from A. E. Lancaster. Also two Carlyle pictures from England. Bucke was here this afternoon some hours, Osler being with him a part of the time. [See indexical note p263.1] Bucke left at nine to see Osler again. Both are to come tomorrow.

W. gave me a couple of "curios" as he called them, one an envelope containing a note from The Broadway and W.'s reply to it (1867) and one envelope containing a Henry Clapp letter of the same year. [See indexical note p263.2]

New York, Dec. 28, 1867. Dear Sir:

[See indexical note p263.3] The Editor of The Broadway, Mr. Edmund Routledge, London, writes desiring me to get from you, if we can, one or two papers or poems for his magazine. He was offered early sheets of your paper on Democracy from the Galaxy but that would not suit his purpose, he wants such only as he can have for both sides of the Atlantic and is willing to pay accordingly. [See indexical note p263.4] We do not suggest the title of any subject, believing you to know best the subjects on which you would like to write for such a magazine. Lest you may not know the magazine we send you by mail a copy of each of the five numbers already published. No. 6 will contain papers by Francis Turner Palgrave and Henry Sedley editor of the Round Table and a long poem by Wm. M. Rossetti. Hoping to have a favorable reply from you on an early day

We remain 
 Yours respectfully
G. Routledge & Sons.
Dec. 30, 1867 Geo. Routledge & Sons, 416 Boone St.,N.Y.

[See indexical note p263.5] I have received the letter asking me to write for the Broadway. I do not write much, but your invitation is cordially appreciated and may serve as the spur towards something. I can at present only briefly say that should I be able to pre- pare an article, or poem, appropriate for the purposes of the magazine, I will send it on,—and that I shall surely try to do so. [See indexical note p264.1] My address is at the Attorney General's office here. (New York house please forward this to Mr. Edmund Routledge, London).

W. had made this mem. on the reverse of the sheet: "I sent Whispers of Heavenly Death which they printed and paid handsomely for in gold." [See indexical note p264.2]

I said to W.: "That was nice enough in Routledge. You were not always knocked down and stamped out by the editors." To which he replied: "Not always—but mostly. There are exceptions even to this rule. The truth is, what for editorial hard blows, I haven't got a whole bone left in my body." [See indexical note p264.3] Then, after a little laugh and a pause: "By God Horace! if you could see some of the specimen letters of the old time your fighting blood would all be up. I have turned some of the 'no' letters over to you but you have only seen the mild ones. A few such incidents as that of the Routledges can be quoted on the other side: but the current has always pushed hard, very hard, against me. [See indexical note p264.4] But what's the use of diagnosing over cured diseases? I think I have finally escaped the hounds and can go the rest of the way in comparative peace."

I am writing this very late at night. Very tired. Walt's copy to run over and get ready for delivery to Ferguson in the morning. Will transcribe the Clapp letter tomorrow.

Back to top