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Saturday, April 20, 1889

Saturday, April 20, 1889

10.45 A.M. W. had been folding up edges of a copy of the Gutekunst picture to discover how it would appear in the pocket-edition. "It will do, I see," he assured me. "I had no doubt of it, but have just been proving it here by a book itself." Ferguson's proof finally correct. Had written so on margin, with directions as to cost and signing "W. W." The Danmark still trying him. "And still no word!" he exclaimed. "I looked all through the Press, in fact, but did not find a word about it. In its usual way it has succeeded in hiding the important matter beyond discovery." But I showed him then quite an article concerning an overdue steamer for this port (the Missouri) which "possibly" had picked up the lost 700. But W. said: "That is hypothetical—purely a speculation—and not likely to have been the case at all."

I asked him of his condition, and he called it "nothing to boast of." But had eaten a more or less hearty breakfast. Signed a portrait Mrs. Burleigh had bought at Gutekunst's—a copy of the sitting picture in Bucke's book. But he was mystified how Gutekunst had got a copy of that portrait for sale. I guess there's no mystery, really, but I am not clear about it myself. My stay very brief. I did not desire to do more than get proof. In talking of pictures he asked of me: "What about the printing of steel plates?" And in a rough way I described its method. He said he knew nothing whatever about it, nor about lithography. What I said, particularly of the presses used, greatly interested him—at least, I so judged by his manner and his questions.

Evening: 7.45. The unlighted room caught me as I came near the house, aroused my apprehension. W. as I expected on his bed. The afternoon had been very warm and sultry. I went for a long stroll in the Park with Kemper. W. said of his condition, that it was bad—"a sick day—one of the sickest." And when I spoke up: "It seems impossible for you to gain any strength," he affirmed: "It is so—in fact, I am losing instead of gaining." For the present he gives up all idea of getting out. "I could not get down stairs—it would be impossible." To Ed who had entered with me, he said he had no mail at all to go to the Post Office. "But I will let you strike a light if you choose." Which Ed did choose, closing room windows in doing so.

W.'s usual questions, what I had done in town, of course came. I had been to the printer's with proof. He much interested in knowing I had been out for a walk. I spoke of the odor of the fresh damp green grass, already being cut, and he said it was a pleasant reminder to bring into his confining room. Impressed to hear of my father's growing good opinion of German translation of Leaves of Grass. Asked as so often before: "and Grashalme means Leaves or Spears of Grass?"

On a reference to Harper's Bazaar he exclaimed: "And poor Mary Booth—now you are dead and buried!—and what now?" And when I asked: "Did you know her?" "Only slightly—I have met her." Odor of flowers in the room. Out of the neck of his sherry bottle, now filled with water, white and red roses. How had they come? And he said: "I have had a visitor today, and she brought me the flowers. It was Charlotte Fiske Bates. What a fine healthy girl she is, too—and so hopeful! I should say, not at all old—under 30, of a certainty. How cheery, how helpful! She tells me she is now living in New York. She was in Boston for some years. She teaches school." Had she brought him any news of the friends there? "I would hardly call it news, but she sees Stedman, she says, and gives an interesting account of how he sturdily stands up for me." Had she seen the Herald deliverance? "No—it was news to her when I spoke of it."

I said: "I see by the papers that Pearson over there in New York [postmaster] is dying." Whitman remarked quietly: "He is dead—he died this morning." I had not seen an afternoon paper. "It seems to me he died with a tumor—a tumor down in the belly; and this tumor, the doctors say, came from over-strain, over-work, too assiduous a regard for the duties of his position there." W. added: "New York certainly has had cause to be congratulated on its postmasters recently—on Pearson, on James—perhaps most on James, the gem of gems among officers. I don't know why, anyhow, such offices do not always go to men simply for moral, business reasons." I said: "These are but secondary, now," and W. responded indignantly: "Secondary? They do not enter at all. It is not a question of fitness but of whether the fellow who is appointed is a good friend of the fellow who appoints him. Even General Grant would appoint men simply on the ground that he liked them! I think Washington and Jefferson—especially Jefferson—looked above all at the necessities of the service, and sought for those necessities the best man to be found. But the period of such ideals is past." I laughingly said: "I see Hartmann has you down for a word about Harrison." He could not but laugh himself: "Yes—and he has never seen me since Harrison was nominated!" Referred to the newly appointed postmaster at New York as "a Republican politician" and had some difficulty in hitting on his name—Van Cott—"or something like that"—doing so, however, at last.

He spoke of a book. "It is now on the eve of its issue—at least of being printed. I am anxious myself to see it. This book is a book I am getting out, not to please the public, but solely with reference to myself." But of course if the public happened to be pleased in his pleasure, all the better!

W. had noted in papers today, announcement of publication of book "Emerson in Concord," by Emerson's son Edward—treating of home life of R.W.E. W. looked forward to a treat in its reading. W. spoke of the multitude of art publications nowadays. "America seems of all places the best market for it—the best popular market. It would make good matter for an important article, to know just how this cheap art product is distributed—whether most North, South, East, West. "Some cute fellow ought to take it up for one of the papers." I had a friend who dealt considerably in cheap jewelry. W. was curious to discover how his product was disposed of. "It all has a great importance as determining the standard of our culture, lives."

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