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Tuesday, November 3, 1891

Tuesday, November 3, 1891

8:15 P.M. Found W. in good condition—reading Hedge's book. Much touched when I told him of the death of Frank Williams' mother. "I am trying to remember her. I wonder if we ever met? It would seem as if we must have met." And quickly, "It is a loss—a sad loss—loss irreparable. What do I not remember of my own dear, dear mother!" Then he asked, "And Wallace is gone? I suppose you saw him off? Tell me about it"—which I did. (We had hurried to Philadelphia at seven—getting breakfast in depot. Wished Anne to go along but she had to keep "open house" for the expressmen expected for J.W.W.'s baggage. So they said their farewells at home.) Wallace left on the 8:20 train. I told W. I had said in my letter to Ingersoll that Wallace had come from us both. "That was right—quite right," and when I recurred to other things said in the same note, he responded, "You have done quite right—they are just the things I could have wished said."

W. "wondered" if J.W.W. would be "breaking out into speech" over there in England. "If he had a voice," said W., "he might be able to do some good work over there. He has gone back with substantial fruits. But he has no voice, no voice at all: his voice is always husky, hollow." But he could tell a good story, I insisted. "No doubt—his quickness, perception, is all right, very cute. And his language is unexceptionable. All that would be in his favor, if he had a way of benefitting by it, but the voice—oh! it is against him, every way." Told W. the name of the paper I am asked to read at one of the Browning Club meetings: "The Naturalism of Walt Whitman." W. exclaimed, "I would like to hear about that myself! That is one of the mysteries." And asked me, "You will do it for them?" "Perhaps." "I should say—do it." "But it is rather out of my line." "What, to speak?" "Yes." "Oh! jump overboard. I notice you always do swim."

World reporter in to see W. today, W. thinking, "I am reported over in New York about at my last gasp—yes, about at the last. But here I am. But Julius Chambers has sent their Philadelphia man (I think it is the Philadelphia man) to inquire." Then with a twinkle of the eye, "I suppose when the time does come for me to slip cable, it will be to surprise them all." An account in Press this morning of the visit of Arnold almost idiotic—certainly foolish:

A POET'S GREETING TO A POET. Sir Edwin Arnold's Happy Visit to the Home of Walt Whitman. RECITING EACH OTHER'S VERSE. A Pleasant Hour Spent in Discussing English and American Poetry. Sir Edwin Arnold perpetrated a surprise upon Walt Whitman at the home of the latter in Camden yesterday, and the venerable American bard said it made him feel many years younger and took away many ills of his old age. In company with John Russell Young and Major James B. Pond, Sir Edwin left the Lafayette Hotel in a cab at noon and took the ferry to Camden. The visit was planned Sunday night to be a surprise and Walt Whitman did not receive the slightest intimation of the coming of the trio. The aged poet sat in his bed room. He was wrapped in a big blanket upon which his gray beard, that of a typical sage, flowed. The floor was littered with books and papers, almost blocking the approach to the great American singer. Sir Edwin Arnold managed to wade through the literary debris and stood in the full light of the window before his host. An inexpressible flood of delight passed over the face of the American poet as he beheld his great English confrere. Sir Edwin rushed toward him and exclaimed, "My dear friend, I am delighted to see you." "Arnold, I did not expect you, how kind and considerate," was the surprised exclamation of the aged poet as he held forth his hand. But there was more than the usual hand shaking. The greeting was a literal embrace for the two poets love each other in the strictest literary sense. Sir Edwin has always been infatuated with Walt Whitman's poetry and the American bard finds equal delight in the production of the former. It was the second time that the two had met. Sir Edwin Arnold's visit to this country two years ago was made expressly to see Walt Whitman. When the two poets had disembraced Walt Whitman received John Russell Young and Major Pond with an effusive greeting. Some Pleasantries. For the next hour and a half the talk ran fast and without intermission. The American maker of verse had lots to tell and so did Sir Edwin and the two indulged in a literary feast. Sir Edwin was very sorry that his friend was not in the best of health. "If I had hold of you," said Sir Edwin pointing his finger affectionately, "I'd soon get you well. You are not sick, why if I could only have you I wager that I could make you young again. Seventy-three years—that's not much. You're certainly good for fifteen years more and during that time you can keep me delighted with books of new verse." "Oh what beautiful things you say of me," responded the aged poet, "and Arnold how can I repay you for that splendid little tribute to me at the Lotus Club. You don't know how it pleased me. It stirs the cockle of my blood to read the nice things you say of me." The happy two nestled along side of each other and began talking about American and English poetry.... Each quoted many selections. Sir Edwin then asked his "dear friend Whitman" if he could not recite from memory some of the latter's gems. "Have you some of my poetry in your memory?" exclaimed the aged poet. "Well, I will guarantee to be able to recite at least half of what you have written," replied Sir Edwin playfully. Sir Edwin Recites. "Now let me try you." Sir Edwin then stood when he was asked to recite a portion of Walt Whitman's verse on the death of Lincoln. The famous English bard's eyes twinkled and he began: "Come early and soothing Death Undulate round the world serenely arriving, arriving, In the day, in the night to all, to each, Sooner or later, delicate death." Sir Edwin kept on reciting until tears filled the eyes of the American poet and he reached forth his hand thankfully. Sir Edwin recited several more selections and then his host repeated many lines from Sir Edwin's works.... 
W. said, "I think it all about as silly as could be—utterly, of course, without truth. And besides tending to put our affairs here in a beastly light. But it is one of the misfortunes we must suffer." Then recurred to the reception. "Tell us about it, Horace. What did it come to?" And the recital pleased him. As to Wallace's toast to him, W. said, "God bless 'em all!" And asked, "How about my toast? Was it given?" adding, "I knew no better message to send."

Telling W. that O'Donovan had asked Stoddart up to see the bust, I told him also of a little talk I had with Stoddart about it. Stoddart remarked, "How would it do for us to chip in and buy it?" "You haven't seen it?" "No." "Don't you think it would be wise to see it before you buy it?" He laughed, "Then you don't like it?" "I didn't like it a month ago. I haven't seen it since." W. laughed heartily, "That was very bright—a splendid reply, conclusive, I should say, Horace—and the right word, too, in the right place. Yes, I think Joe had better see it before he buys it!" And as to all our transactions with Wallace, "It was a good send-off: he will remember it more than a few days. It is a good deal merely to have met Brinton."

Harned tells us of reporters—two of them—who rung him up out of his bed Saturday to ask about the rumor of a dark turn in Walt Whitman's condition. They remarked that a carriage had driven madly to the door and away again—for doctors, etc., it was presumed. Harned had replied, "I know all about that carriage, for I was invited to take a ride in it—and besides, it was here at my door for some time. As for Whitman, why, he even intended going with us, but at the last moment decided not." This all excited W.'s laughter—the heartiest. "You see, they will have me dead or dying, whatever I may do."

Stoddart has another girl to bring over to see W., who says, "Let them come, I am here to receive them—it is about all I can do these days."

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