Skip to main content

Monday, October 6, 1890

Monday, October 6, 1890

After refusing the Ingersoll matter I offered them Saturday, the Record today, when it is stale, prints a paragraph touching the matter.

The Times came out this morning with another of Jim Scovel's interviews with W. W.—which it needed no expert to divine to be utterly and shamelessly false.


The Aged Poet Enjoys Champagne at a Lawyer's Table


Greetings From the English Litterateur and Philosopher All the Way From Japan.

T. B. Harned, one of the leading lawyers of Camden, yesterday gave a dinner to the old poet, Walt Whitman, at Mr. Harned's elegant residence, Federal and Sixth streets, in the city across the Delaware.

Besides the poet John Burroughs, author of sketches for Forest and Stream, called "Wake, Robin," and Editor Harry L. Bonsall, of the Camden Post, were present.

Mr. Whitman seems slowly to be regaining some of his old strength and thoroughly enjoyed his champagne at dinner.

During the repast he said: "I have just finished two or three new poems and Lippincott will soon print my latest poem in the magazine."


"I will then gather all my work of the last three years in verse and make my farewell literary brochure, with my 'farewell engagement,' as Charlotte Cushman used to say, before the literary footlights in this world.

"I publish my own books and have done so ever since my first little volume entitled, 'Leaves of Grass' was returned to me unnoticed by every leading newspaper in the country save one.

"Things have changed since then and scarcely a day passes in which I do not receive a request with satisfactory honorarium to write for some leading newspaper or magazine.

"But I have to go slow, and only work on days when the spirit moves me; for you know I am half Quaker and go a little on the light within."


The old poet then read the following letter from Matthew Arnold, which he has recently received from Japan:

Tokio, Japan, September 4, 1890 Walt Whitman,

Dear Mr. Whitman: I have changed my mind, merely as to the time when I will visit you in America.

My book will keep me busy during the winter and when I see it safely launched in England I shall feel like taking a rest, and travel rests me and, like Ulysses, I suppose it is my fate to "seek, to strive and not to yield."

My stay in Japan has been wonderfully pleasant to me by reason of the unbounded hospitality, not only on the part of the English residents here, but the native-born Japanese citizens and savants have vied with each other in extending to me their kind offices, from the peer to the peasant. I am a good deal of a recluse, as you know, and have had little time to return the many, many acts of munificence and courtesy showered upon me here. These people are little understood abroad, and when I am done with the work in hand, which now occupies every faculty of my mind, I may write a book about Japan. But we will talk that over when I meet you under your own rooftree in Camden, where as we sit by your own vine and fig tree, I expect to spend some pleasant hours during the summer of 1891.

I have been hoping since your last kind and most welcome letter to hear something of your last literary venture, of which we talked in America.

You will hear from me again when I reach London.

I am done with editorial duty, but I trust you may live to delight your many friends and write half a dozen books.

Yours sincerely, Matthew Arnold

Tom Donaldson, interviewed by Press reporter, gave a very significant talk—I liked it better than anything I have seen from Donaldson. Later in day came this telegram from Baker: "Notice gives date thirty-first instead of twenty-first I understand that same mistake occurs in Philada. announcements of course this error must be corrected immedy."

Baker writes me a long letter, giving new details in an interesting way.

New York, Oct. 4 1890 My dear Traubel:

I wired you this afternoon that Oct. 21st. was all right.

Now put your machinery in motion. I enclose your outline sketch for a three-sheet poster. I showed it to the Colonel. He approves it. Get as many printed as the bill poster can post to good advantage. I should think 300 would cover the city pretty well. But if 500 could be used profitably, get 500. The Ledger Job Office used to be the best printers—but you may find as good, or better, bill printers elsewhere. You can be judge of this.

I wired you to announce in Sunday's papers, as news, (not an advertisement) the fact of the lecture, and the occasion. Keep this up as much as you can, by short squibs, on Monday—in as many papers as will accept the information. You might say, if you think well, that the Directors of the Academy shut their doors against us. The Colonel don't want this to come from him, but you and Whitman's friends could use the fact. I do not think it would be well to make too great an outcry on this point—or to be ugly about it, in print—but the simple, dignified, quiet statement of the fact, without angry comment, would do good with the public, and at any rate inform them of the situation.

Write me fully and often. Any suggestions I can make are at command. When you want me to come over, I will come. Get the benefit of Mr. D. D. Farson's experience and advice about the tickets. Write out the form of a ticket—ie. the wording, and send it to me before printing—and then Farson will tell you how many you will want—the general style, etc.

If you need an advance of money for preliminary expenses—let me know and how much. Whenever you think I can help you send for me & I will come on. Give my love to Mr. Morris. The pkg. of Whitman books came today.

Yours, I N Baker Before printing bill poster, see Farson as to whether the box office will be open and how long—what hours, etc. B.

No deliberating could have excited the talk the Academy refusal has raised in town—all in our favor. There needs be no stir from our side: the others have done it all for us. Everybody talks the affair. Men meet me on the street—some come to see me—to inquire after particulars. I wrote Morris last night—telling him of the telegram—and to Farson, informing him that we were about ready to sign contract. This afternoon we went to see Farson—talking various matters over, about posters, tickets, etc.—finally making contract in my name, Morris witnessing. Discussed as to how much of hall to reserve, finally deciding—if possible—all floor and part gallery. Examined stage. Got estimate on posters. Wrote Baker of these and many other details on my return home.

7:48 P.M. W. in his room reading. As it had rained pretty much all day, though abated now, W. had not been able to get out. Complains of his hearing still. Told me had been up to Harned's yesterday. "Nobody was there but Mr. Walsh—no strangers." Had not heard of Scovel matter in Times. Laughed heartily when finding Jim had signed that forged letter Matthew Arnold. Would he wish the thing contradicted? "No—not in print: I fully authorize you to tell the truth of things to any who may desire it, but I would not go beyond that. Of course, this is my advice only."

Morris took dinner with Gilchrist last evening—Percy with them. Herbert explained that his brother had no time to go over to see W. and that if he (Herbert) went alone, W. might think it showed disregard on Percy's part—so neither probably would get over. W. thought that "a peculiar explanation," and added, "There are fears of me yet. Every now and then I have reason to remember Mrs. Pine—her impulse—that so astonished Warren (she is a large, good woman, too) to rush out and pitch me, chair and nurse, into the street. And why? Because I had said of women, 'Women? What are women, anyhow? Nothing but a set of old cows!' And how had she known I said such a thing? Oh, she had been told! It is a good specimen brick of the work some people are doing for me, industriously, indefatigably—I suppose to be accounted for by that same magnetism, as they call it, which on the other hand secures me such frank, whole-hearted friendship as Bucke's and Kennedy's." But surely this had no explanation of Percy Gilchrist's absence? "No, I do not intend to say that: I can only say about their coming that if they have no impulse to come they certainly should not come." But he "admitted" there were "things in Herbert's recent course" which "mystified" him.

He thought Tom Donaldson's interview "very good" and "calculated to help the cause."

Took from his pocket a square envelope addressed to "Editor Post Newspaper," Camden—and asked me to mail it on my way up. "It is about the Ingersoll matter," he said. I asked, "Is it signed?" "No. I do not wish to appear, but my friends, who know my ways, will readily see who it is from." And he laughed over the other Post piece (on Ingersoll), the style of which had "strangely defeated Bucke and been penetrated by Ingersoll." We spoke of people to invite over—should one of them be Gilder? "No, not Gilder; it would not do to invite Gilder for Ingersoll." Expressed a gladness that the books had reached Ingersoll. I said at one point, "These Philadelphia business men can be very sympathetic with Siberian exiles—5000 miles away—and with Ben Franklin, 100 years old—but for the laborers whom they crowd down in our struggle for life, and for Ingersoll, who calls at their doors today, they have neither eye nor ear." W. exclaimed, "Oh! how good! And how like O'Connor that sounds!" And he asked, "Did you see the good notes from Harry Bonsall in the Post? They hit home—especially that about Franklin. I think Harry has done us a keen turn."

I told him a story of a Quaker who, hit on his one cheek, turned the other and was hit there also; then ripped off his coat, swore a great oath and said, "Now I have obeyed the scriptural injunction, I'm going to lick you like hell!" W. laughed a long while over this—said it was "as good a story as he had heard in a long while." Then added, "It reminds me of a Quaker story William O'Connor told often—enjoyed telling—of a merchantman boarded by pirates. The captain—foreseeing the scrimmage—armed his men—with guns, pistols, knives. But an old imperturbable Quaker passenger could not be induced to have the most modest weapon; simply looked on as they prepared. But by and by, in the mêlée—the Quaker was seen to pick up an axe that lay near him and as the pirates made shift to board the merchantman, he would swing his axe, chop off the hands as they set on the rail, and cry out, 'Go way from here, my friend: what right has thee anyhow to board our boat!' O'Connor's way of telling this was irresistible—especially in his delicate emphasis of the courtesy of the Quaker."

Back to top