Skip to main content

Friday, January 8, 1892

Friday, January 8, 1892

W. sleeping very happily when I went into his bedroom, 8:20. Flush on his cheeks and his right hand, out on coverlet, showing a certain sort of pink. To Philadelphia and a busy day. Loag in to inquire. I wrote a postal to Edelheim to say he would find his book at the Bank. Wrote to Bucke, too. Delivered book for T. Williams at Press. He was not in. McKay sent for a copy of the big book, which his boy went to Camden and got and I numbered and billed. Late in afternoon saw McKay. We talked green book. He had lost W.'s written instructions, but we made arrangements in lieu of them. Expect future events to create a demand. In Camden found letter from Bucke.

6 P.M. In Camden again and at 328. Shortly W. called Warrie and he went in, Mrs. K. with him and I following and lingering in background. He wished position changed and Warrie to rub his right knee. Seeing me, said, "Horace, too!" but until Warrie was done I said nothing. Then W. sought me, "Set down a while, Horace—don't go now." Whereupon I did sit down on edge of bed. When Warrie shifted him he had dropped the flowers from his hand. Warrie remarked, "You are losing your flowers, Mr. Whitman!" "Oh! Am I?" and he held his hand up to take the flowers. Afterward simply dropping the hand on the bed as if totally exhausted, opening his eyes to explain to me, "Horace, they are carnations: a lady admirer sent them in this morning. They are exquisite—I hate to part with them." His memory is markedly active. "There ought to be a letter from Edward Carpenter." "There is!" "Oh! And you have attended to it?" "I have even shipped the books." "Good! Good! I must depend upon you for it all!" Asking again, "What is new out in the world—anything especially for me to know? Anything about the Colonel? And our affairs—what of them?" I went into nothing but this last. "I have the Arena." "Ah! And who is the writer?" Again, "D. G. Watts, did you say? No, I do not know him. And a portrait? Which one of the portraits? And is it all combed and dressed up? That is the eternal danger in which we live." And after I had gone on with my description, "How much does it come to? Is there anything novel in it for us? Ah! He says we stand for democracy and America? That is not new but it is good." And further, "Read more of it—read it carefully—and tell me about it." And still again, "You count it a favorable article—friendly—on the right side? I suppose Doctor will know about it, but you had better remind him." I likewise described to W. the column about W. from "The Listener" in the Transcript. He was very inquisitive to know the drift of this. "It is Chamberlain," he said.

Told him the Poet-Lore folks had sent 30 sets of the "[Lowell-Whitman] Contrast." "That is generous—generous. You will send some of them out at once?" Yes, to Bolton tonight—two. "What day is this, Horace?" "Friday." "And what date in the month?" "The 8th." "Oh! I had lost the reckon of it!" Then, "Send two to the Doctor—two copies of the slip." I laughed. "Why do you laugh?" "You speak of it as a slip—you don't seem to know how big it is." "Big?" "Yes, it fills three galleys." "Is it so? All for the Poet-Lore?" "How much did you think it was?" W. answering by a question, "How many pages will that make?" "Nearly ten!" "Ten! I had five in mind—no more." How had he got that notion? He had never seen it. "I don't know: it was only a notion, I know." And after a pause, "I should like a dozen." "Can I send them out for you? Give me names and I will do it." He thought for a minute. "I don't know any special names, to be sure. I should like one to go to Karl Knortz." And for fear I might go wrong he stopped to spell the name and to think out the address, which I wrote down. "Of course you will remember the rest of the fellows—I do not need to name them." And questioned, "How does it appear?" Good. "And are you satisfied with it?" "No, but it will do. The Poet-Lore people appear to like it." "That is a good sign. It is strong, uncompromising, I know, and I'm not sure but there you are impregnable."

He was interested to learn that a copy of etching was displayed in Earle's window, Philadelphia. "How does it look?" And then, "They told me if I wanted more, they would send them—and I shall send for half a dozen. Then there will be to spare and you are to have one. They gave me four, two of which I signed for Bucke, the other two being bespoken by the doctors. The other copy here—still here—belongs to Carey, who has written me about it. It should in fact be sent to him." Advised me, "Keep the run of things—sample 'em all." Has not said a word about getting up. Indeed reports to me, "I seem to sleep some—but what does it mean? For 24 hours now I have lived through, in, a deathly weakness—a deathly, deathly impoverishment. Is that rest? rest?" Yet, "I have everything I need, want—I seem provided for, up to every desire." Should I send for the extra etchings? He considered for a moment. "No, not yet." He still expected to get up? "Do I?" quickly, "That is all in the clouds!" (To show his awakening senses, I can add to above. He had asked Mrs. Davis, "How is Mr. Mansfield opposite?" She told him the old man was dead. "That is news"—calmly. Then asked for Mansfield's wife. She was dead, too. "Why, how sorrowful!" Further, "What of Mrs. Haberstroh?" whom somebody had vitrioled just before he was taken down. "She is still alive," said Mrs. Davis, "but they have not discovered who did it." W. then, "It is just as well. Jessie could tell about that." Jessie, the pretty daughter for whom it is supposed the liquid was intended. These indicate how alive he is to events and that memory resumes its throne.) Alluding once more to his weakness, "This is melancholy business—melancholy: it leaves us bare." After further minor talk I left—kissing him, "Good night!" and he saying, "Dear boy! dear boy!"

9:10 P.M. To W.'s again, with only some five minutes' talk with him. Warrie now on watch. W. rather restless, calling often for punch, for Warrie to rub him, etc. Once asking for cold coffee. I went into the room to ask Dowden's address of him and he was quite ready and clear about it, even spelling name and place. Complained of great pain in legs and spine and often had Warrie rub him. I worked again in next room over W.'s correspondence and with the books—this time, of the latter, writing up copies for Knortz, Mrs. O'Connor, F. Williams, Garland, Harned, Tennyson—once or twice passing in to W. to ask him some question, which he readily heard and answered—showing he enjoyed no profound sleep. Several times he reminded me of Poet-Lore slips—of parties he wished them sent to. (His mind evidently always active.) The flowers still in his right hand. The room in less crowded aspect—most of his papers and books have been piled up in the corners. He is drowsy all the time, yet sleeps little. Mrs. Keller predicts, "It bodes some positive change, either for good or bad." And she adds, "I don't think he will ever get out of that bed." Pathetic to see him, with the old sleeve of a flannel shirt thrust over his right arm and those flowers in his hand. The other day he complained of cold in that arm and asked for a sleeve from an old shirt which he remembered but had not used for seven years. One sleeve had been made into a chest protector when he was very sick.

Mrs. Keller's notes:

7:30 a.m. Sleeping—occasional hiccough. 8 Sleeping—looking calm in the face. 8:30 Restless but not awake. Hiccough more persistent. 9 Hiccough continuous, and quite strong. 10 Asked for water; would have nothing else. Drank twice. Took three swallows each time, pausing a moment between each. Looks flushed in the face. 11 Has slept over one half-hour quietly, and without hiccough. 11:15 Had position changed from left side to right—was rubbed. When asked is the left shoulder cold (something he occasionally mentions and asks extra clothing), he said, "No, I feel better and comfortable in every way." Very drowsy and not inclined to be disturbed. 11:30 Dropped asleep at once on being changed about. Hiccough only occasional. Have commenced within a minute or so. 11:45 Dr. McAlister came. Did not feel like talking. Said his night had been "so-so." 1 p.m. Ate small cake scrapped beef, broiled, and very little toast. Drank one cup coffee. Said he felt weak. Would not take anything else. Had eyes, face and right hand washed. Said, "I will have my right hand put into the water; no matter about my left." Said, "This is one of my weakest times." Fell asleep and sleeps very quietly. 2 Sleeping very quietly. Breathing lightly. Respiration 17. 4 Has slept since 1:30. Slept without moving or speaking. Now looks pale and haggard in the face. 4:15 Awake. Was turned to left side. Took 1 oz. milk punch. Talked to Mrs. Davis. Inquired for Mr. Button and said, when Mrs. D. told him Mr. Button would like the champagne, "Give it to him with my best love." Inquired for the baby, "Becky," and Harry. When some carnations that came by mail, from Mrs. Gould, were handed to him, he took them and was much pleased with them. Talked with his eyes closed. 4:30 When the cold coffee was given to him, he took the cup, holding the flowers in one hand. Said, "I am like a child attempting to grasp too many things at a time." Wishes a cup of cold coffee always at his side. 5 Talked some to Warren. 6 Talked to Mr. Traubel. 7 Had position changed. Took small quantity milk punch. 10:50 Mrs. Davis went in. He instantly called her by name. Asked for a sip of cold coffee.

Back to top