Skip to main content

Tuesday, January 5, 1892

Tuesday, January 5, 1892

My usual call at 328 on way to Philadelphia. W. dozing peacefully, on his left side. Color good, but hiccoughs heavy. Scarcely any mail for him at all. It seems to have dropped off vastly. No word for any of us yet from Bolton. Warrie said to W. this morning at eight when he woke, "You have had three hours good sleep, Mr. Whitman." "Have I? Good! Good!" W. had taken the medicine at regular intervals all night. Now, when Warrie said, "I did not wake you at six for it," he replied, "It is just as well. Perhaps we won't take any more anyhow." A little more brushing up the room, which begins to assume a new look and shape.

5:40 P.M. To W.'s again. McAlister just over with W., and we had a talk. W. has taken rather more nourishment today than for days, but has shown a marked disposition not to talk. McA. saying to me, "At my last call, just now, he hardly noticed me at all." Did McA. anticipate any real rally in W.'s case? "No, none whatever. This is his high-water mark. He is more likely to collapse than to go on this way." Longaker over today. What did he see? "No change, except that Whitman is weaker." To take medicine or not, whether to persist with certain foods, are problems which W. settles for himself by a weary positive yes or no. The doctors grant that he baffles their best experience and foresight. They wish to prevail upon him to take the punch again.

11 P.M. Warren went in to rub him (at W.'s call) and said to W., "I don't wonder you ache. You lay on your bones."

W.: "Yes, I must be pretty thin."

Warrie: "You have fell away considerable. I don't suppose you weigh more than 150 to 155 pounds."

W.: "I am pretty heavy at that to move. Mrs. Keller can't lift me though she does very well." W. had used a bedpan today and now said to Warren, "I would rather be dead than use that bedpan." "But you couldn't stand it to get out of bed." "No, I suppose not—I suppose I would collapse." And then again, "I am very weak—pretty nearly all gone."

Hiccoughs eased in early evening but now returned with great vigor. Has talked less today than for many days. I intended conferring about the books and some other things, but when down at eight had no heart to disturb him from his sleep.

Four times there today—8 A.M.—5:30 P.M.—8 P.M. and again on return from Philadelphia at midnight. No word with him now for two days. Mrs. Fairchild writes me beautifully of W.: 191 Commonwealth Avenue. Jan 3. 1892 My dear Mr. Traubel, I have scanned the papers for the past week, with the most mingled feelings of hope and dread. How long is this agony to last! Your few lines took away every desire of mine that W.W.'s life should be prolonged:—yet how can we wish his large, calm, benign personality to leave us, even though it is shorn of much that the world has learned to admire. How well I remember when our Emerson died! The intellect, the memory, the humor that we knew were gone: everything extrinsic had dropped away, but the Man remained sweeter and greater than ever before. Stripped of everything character appeared, the one great fact in the shifting sands of earth. Walt has known the flavor of his immortality, and the reward he most cared for, "the faithful love of comrades," has always been his. Why should earth detain him? Let the great soul pass. One cannot feel anything but exaltation—& yet, I enclose the usual check with a longing that it might go once more to its old purpose. May the end of your New Year be brighter than its beginning! Very truly yrs Elisabeth Fairchild And Chubb sends me check for a book. Badly wishes Burroughs' book, now out of print. W. still has some copies.

Bucke's letter of 2nd deals with some of his own apprehensions: 2 Jan 1892 My dear Horace There was a mail yesterday morning but nothing came from you—no mail yesterday afternoon—in this morning's mail were three letters (m[orning] & e[vening] of 30th and m[orning] of 31st). It looks as tho' the dear old man would sink silently into death—but do not feel too sure of this—watch him as closely as you can—it might be that he will brighten up and speak towards the last. You ought to be in his room when he dies if possible. I wish I could be—if he lives over next week I shall make a strong effort to be there and do keep the doctors on the alert and keep your own eyes open so that I may get such notice of the end as will enable me to be there if possible. If you speak to Walt tell him he is never out of my mind a moment. All good wishes to you R. M. Bucke We of course guard all that well.

Johnston sends from New York Saturday's Telegram containing a horrible picture—"Last Days of Walt Whitman"—representing the old man sitting in a big chair surrounded by visions of life and experience.

Mrs. Keller's notes:

8 a.m. Sleeping with continuous hiccough. 9 Took medicine. 10 Has fallen into a quiet sleep, without hiccough. 11 Dr. McA. came. Not much inclined to talk. Said he had had a middling good night. Dr. L. came. Was pleased to see him and asked him to be seated. Said he would have egg and brown bread toast. Consented to drink milk punch, or to try and drink it. 11:30 Ate the whole egg and a little toast. Drank 1 oz. cold milk. 12 p.m. Wishes to be left without change for a little while. Said he would skip medicine for a time and take another drink of milk. Drank 1 oz. 1 Has slept a little. Taken a sip of milk a number of times. Had copious bowel movement—dark yellow-brown. Used the bedpan without difficulty. Was washed. 2 Has slept. Hiccough some during sleep. A short sleep without it. 3 Would not take medicine. Took a little milk. 4 Sleeping quietly. But little hiccough. 5 Took two sips milk punch. Hiccough on awaking. 6 Very quiet. Sleeping without hiccough. 7:30 Still sleeping quietly. 8 Awake. Hiccough.

Back to top