Skip to main content

Monday, April 8, 1889

Monday, April 8, 1889

10:45 A.M. W. sitting up, reading papers, but not looking well, which I remarked to Ed, who said, however, W. had made no remarks confessing any bad sensations. W. talked only briefly—somewhat about the morning's news, the books, the weather, &c. He expressed some regret that no mail at all had for several days again come from Washington. Gave me advice as to work in town. Then I left.

Evening 7:00. The room darkened—sun just fully down—the night clear beyond description, and calm at last, after the tempestuous forenoon. W. on his bed—laying out flat—his cane beside him—he covered and tucked in by his knee-blanket. Ed sat on foot of bed. They had been talking. We had a fairly good talk, Ed retiring. W. kept his position, his hands folded across his stomach, his voice very clear, and head not seemingly troubled. I said on taking a seat, "I hope this does not mean that you are sick?" It has been rarely of late that I have found him on his back of an evening. He responded: "No—nor does it: but I have had a bad day: in fact, all my days of late have been pretty bad." Then half-reflectively: "But we get along, at a slow pace, it is sure—but get there!"

It is very curious how quickly if I have a bundle in my hand he will ask like a child "What have you got there?" and how soon after my coming, if he expects anything, he will inquire "What have you got with you? What have you got for me?" This last he asked tonight the first thing after the talk of his health. I had seen Myrick and brought back a second proof of title-page with me. He reached forth his hand in the dark. I felt for it and gave him the proof—along with this, the receipt for the three dollars which I had got from Brown today. Of the last he said: "Oh! It is sad! sad! to see anyone in such a condition!"

W.'s knowledge of the positions and names of stars is rather wide. Knowing from what I said that the night was remarkably clear he asked—"And what of the moon? How big has she got, and where now lays?" I spoke of a lustrous—to me problematic star off towards the N.W., and W. asked: "Tell me how low—and how she impresses you?" Then proceeding along a list of names to my more ignorant ear musical but irrepeatable. Always spoke of his "envy" of me in a pleasant sort of way, that I can so regale myself "with the sights of seasons and sounds of out-door things." And on my often-repeated protest—"I wish you could get out to see them for yourself—but don't forget, you saw them all and 'full measure' before I was born!"—he will laugh thoughtfully and say "True again—true again, boy!" W. spoke of good hours for reading—I of midnight hours, at times: especially for L. of G.—the deeper passages. He questioning and commending me, father-like, that I "can read anywhere" after all.

W. discussed again McKay's singular explanation over Bryant's letter Saturday. W. laughed heartily at remembrance of it. But he spoke in best terms of McKay. I repeated to him the main points of a debate I one day had with Bucke while here. I contending that I had more than merely business feelings for McKay and his espousal of W., and Bucke contraverting with statement that he had not, since with McKay it was only a matter of business which others—perhaps many —would have embraced if he had not. Said W. to all this: "I myself would not at all endorse such exceptions, assertions: I think it is just as you say, that Dave has proved himself genuinely my friend. I know he is a business man—that he is sharp, quick, as a man has to be who is in business, or thinks he has; but that is the worst that can be said of him." Dave was "fallible," of course—but "evidence of tricksiness," of which even W. had been warned of in him, had never been forthcoming.

I had a long talk with Ferguson today, who gave me in a general way the story of the growth of his business. W. was greatly interested in my repetition of this. This interest—when he feels it—is always evinced in his questioning me, which was here quite marked. Among other things Ferguson had said: "There is money in the newspaper business let me tell you: make a hit and you come out way on top!" Instanced the difficulties with Curtis at the start with The Ladies Home Journal of which Ferguson is to print 700,000 copies next number. W. commented: "I should think George W. Childs and Bill Singerly would say so. Yes, even the Press folks, I suppose. Isn't it Wells who owns the Press?" The Press is a sore point with W., and this reference to it drew forth the usual caustic criticism. "It seems to me that in the whole range of journals pretending to anything, the Press is the greatest mess—gives most evidence of being shovelled together. It is made up as if the head man at the eleventh (or 50th) minute had come in and said: 'Here boys, all get your shovels, set to work, shovel in and shovel out—now we must get the paper up!'—and they would set to, and the thing would get done, and what result we know. And yet somehow I read the Press—read it straight along—probably because there is nothing else to do while it is here: read even the witty paragraphs, or what they put in as witty, though I must say I always come to them with a scowling and sour temper." W. alluded to Walsh's departure for New York, "wondering much," he said, "how Walsh gets along there?—how the paper was last Sunday" explaining—"I have not seen the Herald at all since the copy you brought me." That had been a "disappointment" to him—the fiction symposium "dull beyond precedent."

Ed came in for mail—W. directed him to a couple of postals over on the floor in the darkness, which he found. I was on my way to Philadelphia to hear Tom Davidson's lecture on Aquinas. W. inquisitive—greatly "tempted" by my description of D.'s reading of Scotch poetry: "I should like to hear them without a doubt." Then said: "By the way Horace—I see the Camden papers have been giving Moorhouse a big lift—his sermon is there in one of them at great length." W. never reads sermons and I knew it, but I asked him with a laugh—"Well, what did you think of it? You read it, of course?" His enjoyment great—"Well—well—well—I can't say that I did! I saw that it was there!"

Further along W. said: "Now tell me, Horace—how did the Emerson speech come off that night last week. You don't tell me anything about it." My details few, but he evidently a good listener. He was amused with my account of nervousness preceding. Had he ever experienced nausea before speech-making? He said quietly: "I don't know what it is. I have heard of stage fright—a sort of tremor—sometimes momentary, sometimes fatal—have even heard of this—this sickness at the stomach as you call it—but as to personal knowledge of it, or participation—that is not in the line of experience for me—never has been." It is easy to believe this is the case. His serenity surpasses that of any person I have known—is much like what he says was the "necessary atmosphere" of Emerson. I sat down this morning and wrote up a brief account of Saturday night's stroll up Second Street. W. had me tell him much of its substance.

Back to top