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Wednesday, January 13, 1892

Wednesday, January 13, 1892

The morning's mail brought me letters from Ingersoll and Josephine Lazarus. Ingersoll's noble and high, J. L.'s tender and pathetic: Law Office, Robert G. Ingersoll 45 Wall Street, New York Jan'y 12th 1892 My dear Traubel, I have just read your "Lowell-Whitman: A Contrast." It is wonderfully well written. I agree with all you say—except that I think you give greater credit to Lowell than he is entitled to. There is one sentence that has in it the marrow of the matter: "Lowell gives us Greece as she died; Whitman, as she rose." I agree with you that there was nothing creative in Lowell. He was almost the opposite of Whitman. As a matter of fact, such men as Whitman furnish the raw material, out of which such poets as Lowell are made. Thousands of people have stolen stones from the Coliseum, to make huts for themselves. Your article is splendid in every respect—magnificent, indeed. The real poet is in harmony with Nature's self, and you cannot tell where the poet ends, and where Nature begins. This you have brought out to perfection, with your "old castle and the ruined wall." Give my best regards to Whitman. I hope that, after all, he is to have another spring. Very truly your friend, R. G. Ingersoll 38 N. 10th St. Jany. 12th My dear Mr. Traubel, It is difficult for me to put into words, how profoundly I am touched by the gift of this new and last edition of Walt Whitman's words. Coming just now, when the silence is falling around him, the message seems more than ever a sacred & living one. With deepest thanks I am very truly yours Josephine Lazarus Bush wrote acknowledgment of his book to W. direct: 120 East 26th St. New York Jan 12. '92 Dear Walt Whitman, The '92 edition of Leaves of Grass which you thoughtfully sent us has arrived and is an additional reminder of you, who have been so much in our thoughts of late. I will not weary you with a long letter, but say "Don't give up the ship although the prize is won." Thanking you for the book and with hearty love from both my wife and myself. Faithfully yours H. D. Bush W. however not able to see or hear it. Later I received Bucke's message of 11th. Letter today also from Heyde—but W., saying "he's no good," had it thrown aside.

A glimpse of W. on my morning round (eight and nine). He rested sweetly after the perturbations of the night—with face tinted but look haggard: breathing heavily—on his back—with mouth wide open—always a disturbing aspect to me. W.'s mail has dropped off to a mere show—a few stray papers, now and then a letter of no consequence (perhaps from some quack). His friends, knowing his condition, either write me or are silent.

6:58 P.M. To W.'s and after a little preliminary talk with Mrs. Davis and Warrie I went into W.'s room. Warrie started to fix W.'s bed and W. recognizing me called out, "Welcome, Horace; another day!"

This morning he had told Warrie he would no longer call but would tap with the cane on the bed. I guessed this was because he felt the effort of calling. Tonight he confessed it to Warrie—and I had heard his slight tap and summons.

After some rearrangements about the bed Warrie left the room and W. and I had a talk of full 20 minutes. The hiccoughs had returned with great vigor, but he persisted in spite of them. "They would come anyhow," he explained, "it is about their time—I have not had them since last night—nor they me. I am pursued by about a dozen little devils who make their demands night or day, without any discrimination—who worry and threaten me: one little devil, for instance, to crawl upon my throat now and then and make as if to choke me—make a short end of it all. It is a bad look-out." I put in, "And you try to look out for it?" He laughed gently and responded, "Yes, caution, caution—it is my old virtue!" Now he inquired, "Is there any news of the literatures—anything at all my kind?" And to my pause and final negative, "I suppose news of the right kind is rare enough—it always was. Tell me about Harrison Morris: how is Harrison? And particularly about the mother—dear mother! And you say Brinton's mother will come round! What blessed news that to do the Doctor proud! And 85! A grand age—grand, grand!" The papers report Cardinal Manning as dying. This raised W.'s interest and he remarked, "He's another of the old-age giants!" At this I asked more particularly after his own condition. "I do certainly feel easier today. As for stronger—I doubt that. I had hoped, expected, to die—but you and the doctors determined otherwise. So, here I am: what will you do with me? I can do nothing with myself."

I mentioned Ingersoll's note, come this morning, and as he seemed inclined to listen to it, went into the next room, got it from my coat pocket and sat by his bed and read. He was delighted. Between hiccoughs he cried, "Read it again, Horace!" And I read sentence and word a second, often a third time. "That is all fresh and noble." And at the idea that I had given too much credit to Lowell, "It is a good way to lean." And in regard to the closing words, "Thanks—gratitude—dear Colonel—thanks and love! It all reaches a ready heart!" Then I quoted from memory Ingersoll's other letter—"Perhaps the end of the journey is the best of all"—to the end. W. exclaimed, "Did he write that! Repeat it again!" And after I had done so, "What a eulogy that is! How superb—how overarching! How vital and throbbing! I consider Ingersoll and Symonds my proof. Ingersoll, the most intuitive man that lives—Symonds, the most scholarly (with all that it implies, carries along with it, in best senses)—the most scholarly that lives—the two together, with Ingersoll first (as intuition always is first). How much all of that is to me no casual words can tell. Dear boy, long from now—long, long—you will bear witness for me. And tonight, if you write to New York—to the Colonel—let some things be made clear!" Silence for a minute or so—then he asked to hear one sentence from the Colonel's letter again. "Lowell gives us Greece as she died," etc. "Is that yours? It is very significant—very weighty—profound."

He had called for his vest today and given Warrie money to buy stamps for sending out the books. Remarked to me, "They must have cost a good deal." Then, "Do not forget Sarrazin's book—he must have one." Touching upon recovery of Brinton's mother I quoted Brinton last night, "The old generation continues with great tenacity for life. Has the new as good grit?" W. replying, "We are all now hustling—rushing—driving (it is a great problem)—seeing who will get there first." I referred to etching at Earle's again. "I guess there's no doubt, Horace, but that's the best yet—the best. I think you must be wrong about the nose—that is all right." Had he not better let me send to New York for the other half dozen belonging to him? He was still for a breath—then, "Wait a bit—I want to think over how best to ask for them." Arnold's flowers spread about in the next room, W. still declaring their odor strained his throat.

In leaving W. I kissed him. "You are not the least of my comforts, Horace!" he exclaimed. Surprising strong grasp of hand—though hand was cold. "Don't forget the book for Sarrazin: I look upon it as essential for him to have one." Did talking affect him towards hiccoughing? "No, I think not—not at all." Wearies of "the awful weakness" and says, "I wish I could sit up a minute, if only for a change of position. I must try before many more days." Deplores that he can't read my Poet-Lore piece. "But perhaps the time will yet come!" But "the future is so vague—so dim—so much not to be counted upon, I delude myself with no promises whatsoever." (All this—in fact the whole talk—only one word out at a time—he always hiccoughing between, but persevering, and rarely "breaking" or injuring a sentence.)

12:20 A.M. I was in. Hiccough bad. He knocked with his cane for Warrie, who went in. "Bring me some fresh water, Warrie. I have the hiccoughs bad—bad—bad." Warrie brought it. W. took some—slowly—nearly choked over it. Warrie no sooner in next room then W. called him again, "More, Warrie, more." The hiccoughs constant and painful. "I've had 'em for two hours—tearing and racking me. Sometimes get sort of worse—horrible." And so restless! Warrie started off again and he called, "Warrie, change that pillow between my legs." In five minutes again the knock on the bed and cried, "More water, Warrie." And he said to Warrie, "I am filled half full of wind. Does the bread and milk hold out yet?" —taking by way of effort to stop the hiccoughs. Then took the bread, and with even an effort to joke, afterward calling Warrie again, "Smooth this pillow." Unquiet in the extreme.

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