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Friday, January 22, 1892

Friday, January 22, 1892

Received this morning letter from Bucke (19th)—in which he proceeds at some length on the question of a restoration of W.'s house: 19 Jan 1892 Dear Horace I have yours of Saturday evening—also a long letter from Mrs. Keller of 17 (Sunday). It seems that a crisis has arisen very different from that which we looked for. Mrs. K. writes that W. is so much better that we must look to having him with us "an indefinite time," then she goes on: "It would be impossible to properly clean up the room he is in without removing him to another. The walls are too dusty to touch near his bed. The room is crowded with articles incompatible with a sickroom. The bed is infested with bugs and the carpet with moths. Not only the bed but other articles in the room have nits that will next summer produce an army of fresh bugs. The bedstead is an old one, no amount of care would make it fit for an invalid (or any other person) to lie in. His old shirts have been patched until they are all in tatters, and there is a general lack of everything. He uses the bedpan usually but at times the bed has to be changed quickly and occasionally the sheets are used much faster than they can be washed and dried. There are no towels, napkins or tray cloths to speak of— neither dishes usually provided for invalids. He needs a bed rest and some other things. Everything in the house is old and fast falling to pieces. The room Mrs. Davis and Warren use (one by night and one by day) is unfit (as it is at present) for human beings. The whole house is unwholesome in the extreme. Unsanitary and thoroughly inconvenient. Mr. W. is so wedded to his way of living that I have only made such changes as seemed absolutely necessary that he might be cared for. I have feared to annoy him or put him out. I am now at a loss how to proceed. A complete renovating of the house and a restoring of household effects seems so essential to me. "Mr. W. is very pleasant and nice to get along with. I feel he is not averse to me or my care. He prefers Warren as a matter of course but I am confident he is as well-suited with me as he would be with any outsider. He is comfortable just at present but something must soon be done to give him needed attention—things cannot go on very long as they are—the paper is deserting the walls, the plaster is ready to fall—the water closet is in a miserable state. Mr. Harned is ill today, had he been here I would have said to him what I have written to you." Now Horace something will have to be done. If a couple of hundred dollars can be raised (over & above Mrs. K.'s salary) I would propose to move W. (I do not know that I would even ask his leave—just say it was necessary to move him for a day or so while the room was being fixed up a little) to the next room—then thoroughly clean up and new paper his present room—put a new (iron) bedstead into it and a good set out of linen and all necessaries. Put him back into it and renovate in the same way Warren's room and the bathroom—for the latter you would have to have the plumbers—plasterer and painter. In this way W.'s surroundings might be made comfortable and at the same time presentable. Consult H. on this matter as soon as convenient and let me know the result. I have the "American" & "Poet Lore" thanks. I shall read your piece with more care and write about it. Am up to my eyes (and over) in work. Love to Anne Yours R. M. Bucke 6:20 P.M. In at W.'s. Found him in reasonably good shape. Talked quite easily. "I've been thinking all day of Ingersoll's visit. The sight of him is a treat: his physical voice, with all its splendor and color, is a lift up—up—up." And here he put in emphatically, "Oh! that story of Paine—of the funeral! I shall not forget it—never, never. Ingersoll's touch is so sure and strong." And further, "Poor Paine! Poor Paine! His fame or mal-fame is the work of three or four howling preachers—damn 'em! But he will be restored—I do not despair of it—no, am sure, sure." Justice Bradley dead at Washington. W. calls him "Old, old man," and says no more. Then refers to Young's second piece, "I am quite set up by it—quite. I count it among the best things yet—the authentic things. His account of Arnold's visit is true—the only true account. I can see it all again by these few notes. But what he says of Dorgan might just as well be left out. I don't know if it's worth a fling—a toss." And again, "I have read Young's piece twice—it is worth a good deal to us." Then after a pause in which I said nothing, "You have no idea—not even you, who are nearest of all—you have no idea of the virulence of our past—of our history—of what we have passed through—been subjected to. There is certainly a great change of feeling—almost a revolution—especially in the last six months. It is hard to believe—difficult to understand: in fact, I do not understand it."

Had I the green book yet? Positively, it was to be tomorrow! He mournfully said, "Still tomorrow! Sometimes tomorrow does not come!" I exclaiming, "Ours, yours, will, anyway!" Then he followed up, "This '92 edition is the one to swear by: to us it must, hereafter, be the only edition. This—the great revolution of feeling—my recognition of it all—I have had a notion to acknowledge—say, in the Tribune—by an advertisement. What do you say to that? Would you be in favor?" I asked for time to think it over. Informed me, "I wrote my first letter today—a short one. It was for my sister, Mrs. Heyde in Vermont." He had enclosed five dollars. Complained, "I do not seem to get stronger, and the last few days I have had rheumatism. It shoots in lively style about my body, but chiefly in the legs. No, strength seems reluctant—it is slow to appear—though I think I feel its precedents hovering within touch."

Told him of William Sharp (English), now in town, who had come to me with a card from Stedman on which Stedman had written a brief introduction calling Sharp "the poet." Sharp wishes to see W. I promised to refer it to W. and we could abide by what he thought. W. asks, "Does he wish to see me for anything particular?" "No, only to see you." Then advising me, "Discourage him—tell him it isn't worth while. Should he come, I may—probably would—see him, but discourage him. What sort of a fellow does he seem?" And was more interested when I described to him Sharp's splendid body.

I made a settlement with McKay today and gave him receipt. W. pleased and asked me to "put the check in the stamp box in the corner." (Amount—$283.25—royalties not due till April.) W. asked me, "Hadn't you better take the odd $83? You must be under pretty heavy extra expenses just now." But for the present I declined to take anything.

"One of my greatests trials is to keep myself engaged—to while away the time—kept here in bed—helpless (I don't know but hopeless). All I can do is to get a few papers and letters up about me—dally with them." An accident in the talk brought up our Whitman volume of essays, W. advising, "Don't you think you'd better go on with that now? Push ahead? I am particular about the Sarrazin paper and Kennedy's Dutch piece. They must not be unused. Sarrazin's will do in the shape you find it: it is about straight, that way. You could make a book about 75 pages, brevier page. You can get a good deal on such a page. It don't look quite so well, but they make it look well enough. Make it to correspond with Bucke's appendix. I'm in favor of this last piece—Young's, the second part of it—going in—though perhaps Young has ideas of his own—to print it in a volume of his own. If he has that purpose, if it gets into print by his publication, I don't care about using it. But I'm entirely definite about Sarrazin. You have the copy in good condition— they can handle it well, and let all the extracts go in without erasion. Bucke's book, I can see, will be significant by itself. And if you and he join in this collection, it would suit me." Then his "good-night."

I went in next room and wrote to Sharp to come in and see me in the morning, when I could report W.'s condition and we could decide about going over.

Stedman writes me from the Stratford, dating yesterday.

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