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Wednesday, January 27, 1892

Wednesday, January 27, 1892

While I was down at dinner in Bank (12:05) today, I was sent for and found Stedman awaiting me. Stayed towards an hour. He seemed better than when I was in New York, and admitted he was better except for the feasting and dining he was experiencing from the "too kind" people of Philadelphia. We talked of W. mainly, Stedman saying he was greatly pleased with the paper book. "I took it back to the hotel with me that night. It is the best book of all—very much like Walt—characteristic of him. I read the 'Backward Glance' paper: oh! how good it is! I started it and read it through. It impressed me more than ever. It had impressed me as it was in 'November Boughs,' but now the impression was deeper. It seems so fitly placed there. And it is, besides, the best piece of prose Walt ever wrote—is dignified, reserved, modest, pure—yet confident, too—and brave. As a piece of literature it is high up—the more so for being without the flagrant offensiveness of some of Walt's prose, with its chopped sentences." He said he had now both copies of the book, as Chubb's had at last turned up. He wishes to go over again to see W. Contended as to my Lowell article that Lowell, too, went direct to nature for his inspiration, "no man more so." "You know Whitman through and through," he said, but was "not satisfied" that I knew so much of Lowell. Arthur would make "a pretty book" of that Whitman, "and the Websters are liberal with copyrights." Of Charlotte F. Bates he said, "She is a schoolteacher—you can tell it by her handwriting." And laughed heartily over my account of W.'s reception of her letter. Stedman rather inclined to recognize W.'s tomb as a part of him, consistent with his past. "Walt has a distinct place in literature. He has established it. This last book is an organic whole—it is something entire—and will stand. I am delighted with it. Yes, that prose piece is right just where it is, at the back of the book. I am glad you fought Bucke down and agreed with Walt to have it at the end instead of at the beginning. As you say, it is the survey from a height of the long road the traveller has come—the hill and vale, and all the streams—that is a very good statement of the matter and I endorse it. Noble old fellow! How glad I was to get over there the other day and shake his hand again! He looked very bad—very bad: it was a pull at my heart to look him in the face. But we must hope the best for him. Anyway, he has done a great work—a work which is now completed." "This new book rounds it up and affirms it," I put in, "and leaves it perfect forever." Stedman resuming, "That is so, and if he dies now, no harm can be done the work, however we suffer from the deprivation of his friendship in flesh and blood." "And yet," I asked, "isn't that all in the book, too, and to remain and cement it, even after he is gone?" to which S. answered fervently, "All that is true—every word of it. Yes, Traubel, we are not wide apart in these things, as you ought to know and do know. I have always known and realized Walt—yes, from the very first."

Stedman is a quick, nervous talker and jerks out his ready sentences with great haste. Laughingly asked me at one point, "Has Walt any children anywhere who are likely to turn up with claims on his property?" Wished to know, too, if W. was in any need. I said to him, "I am glad to hear from Williams that you saw Bucke's picture over there and were attracted by it." "Yes, I was. I haven't generally cared much for Bucke, but I should judge from that picture that he is quite a man. I want to meet him sometime. He must be a pretty strong character." And once again, "I was sorry to see that Walt did not realize any real appreciation of his popularity in New York. He misjudges the literary feeling there, which is really favorable, and has been favorable for ten years past. What it was before that I should not like to answer for. As for popular acceptance—who has that, anyway? New York has a vast population of foreigners—the Jews alone a world in themselves. To these people as a whole no man is popular; no one man, I mean. And we have a musical side of the town, and a theatrical side, and classes divided between musicians, and all that. But no man is better in favor, or better received, now, in New York, among writers, than Walt—and he ought to know it. All the rest will have to come later, and he is no more a sufferer from its delay than others." Again, "Walt has form, too, no man more so—and art, too." "But an art his own, and form his own," I put in, "the burden of nature and not of books." Stedman admitting that but still contending it was form. I only said, "Walt protests against the forms modelled on forms—not forms modelled on nature. He asks the line to be kept direct—the succession, or the origin, evident and vital, as of a child with a father." To which S. did not object.

We mentioned O'Connor, whom S. regarded as "a genius of high degree," and ran along a number of themes of one kind or another, usually falling back to W. from each one. I could perceive that Stedman was warmly in the tenor for good feeling towards W., full of respect and love. He said, "I am trying in these lectures to make my attitude towards and with Walt plainly understood by everybody, and if I don't succeed it won't be for want of a struggle. In the lecture on imagination I particularly dwell upon him and insist that he is so far the greatest imaginative gift to our literature—that he stands supreme and alone." Stedman spoke of his radicalism. "I am a socialist. Didn't you know it? My son Arthur was born in a socialistic colony," and jokingly told me of the pleasantries passed in New York upon Howell's anarchistic and his own socialistic tendencies. "Even now I am practically interested in and helping at Yopolohampo." The talk ran in such lines for some time further. Stedman will come in again and make some arrangement for another trip to W. before going to New York. "I am getting along well, and will be well as soon as I get back home and have my sleep again. I am not my own master here." Spoke of Burroughs. "I have not seen him for a long time. He is in good shape?" And "happy" to know B. was writing about W. again. I showed him W.'s advertisement. He was delighted, "Thoroughly like him. And he wrote it on that sickbed? And I can have a copy?" I remarked, "It wears his clothes." And Stedman assented, "It does: it is Walt all over."

6:45 P.M. Reaching W.'s, found he was awake and went straight into his room. He knew me even in the shadows and called my name. After greetings I sat down on a chair. Still inquiring after the book. "You were in at Dave's?" McKay promised to push right ahead. W. gratified. "Good for Dave! I want to see a copy," as if feeling doubt, should the thing be delayed. Does he face death with any show of defiance? Sometimes I think he has given up, then again I have a contrary opinion. Remarked, "Brinton was over to see me today, but came while I slept, and they did not arouse me. I am sorry he came while I slept, but I am glad they did not disturb me. Yet, I am willing to—yes, want to—see Brinton, and you may tell him so, making it clear I want him to come again."

"Mary is very cute—she seems intuitively—gently, too—to comprehend the right thing to do."

He had been "surprised" not to find his ad in Post today. I said, "Your purpose is ahead anyway: your idea was to have the slips for use elsewhere." "That is so—and of course, now that we have the slips, we can easily send them out to the right people." He said further, "You can send it out as a literary item to the papers, cutting off the upper and lower lines, which form the advertisement." I proposed one for Stead. W. at that, "A good idea: send it." And I mentioned Jennie Gilder, Kennedy, Chambers, Baxter and several others. He remarked, "I see you are on the right track. Now tell me, Horace, what Dave says: is he entirely satisfied?" And after some definite reply with detail, he said, "I am glad he is pleased. What do you think? Should anything be added to it at any point?" At this juncture he seemed quite exhausted. After some quiet, which I did not break, he himself said, "I am weak! I don't feel the breath of a suspicion even of a return of strength; nothing, in fact, but retrograde—retrograde." But he soon got on his pins, so to speak, and we went on with the talk. "I have to thank you for many things—now for the book!" I expressed a satisfaction in the advertisement. "It is clear-sailing? Does it say enough?" "Yes, fully—it sets that '92 edition straight on its feet. That was your purpose?" "Exactly: I want to emphasize the fact that this supersedes all others—that it goes out, in last days, the concluding and rounded utterance of my life, of my faith—and just as it stands—every word, every word. It is for this reason I wish the '1892' bold on the cover—bold—unmistakably. You know I yielded to Dave yesterday on 'Walt Whitman's': I was not set for that, but the date was essential, and he quickly understood it. Dave is a good fellow, and is inclined to humor me (has been, in fact, from the start), and I am inclined to be humored," with a laugh.

Spoke of Chile. "So, the noise and danger is about over! Yes, well over, I say. It makes me think of an old farce—you push me, I push you, let's have a fight. It's a disgrace to us all through: we will yet be ashamed of it. Apologize? Bosh! What for?" I quoted Emerson, "The true gentleman never apologizes." W. exclaimed, "That's very profound: oh! goes down—down—to last deeps!" Then after another of his pauses, "Before I forget it—tell Dave I shall want a few of the books—half a dozen—yes, more: say, a dozen." And again, "I have written to Bucke today—or sort o', and to my sister at Burlington. It is hard lines—I soon tire." I told him of Stedman's visit and he questioned me for the import of our conversation. As to the idea that W. had been too severe on New York, "I am glad to hear him say that. Perhaps I have been too much guided by Stoddard and despicable little Willie Winter. I am just their man, if they had but the sense to see it—but they haven't. Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse and such—they are for New York, today's New York." Should Stedman come over again? "Yes, I would be glad to have Stedman come over—bring him, and Brinton, too." Morris took an advertisement to send to Literary World.

I expressed gladness that Burroughs was writing of W. again. W. said, "Dear John! Dear John! I am glad, too—it is a good word to hear. Watch them all, Horace—keep an eye out for all our affairs: it all devolves upon you now. Many things are now going on—I depend upon you: you are more than my right arm." Inquired afterwards, "Have you any letters?" I told him of that from [James Walter] Young, of Harvard. As to exclusion of "Leaves of Grass" from Harvard library, "I am not astonished—the action would probably be duplicated in many quarters—it is in response to an influence wide-spread and powerful—not, of course, new to us."

He expressed his pleasure in the green book again. "It seems to answer all my notions—whims, you might call them. The 'Leaves' have their own base and theory from first to last: they are an unbroken procession—season following season. But all this gets very tiresome to you, no doubt—though you, none better than you—know the genesis, the result, the final expression, of the 'Leaves.'" I had told McKay I would bother him till I got the book, which made W. laugh. "To me, the important thing is, to get them. The ways and means I leave to you." Has deposited McKay's check and one or two others in bank and has had his book settled. (Believe it shows over $5,000. Harned still holds $1500 check made out to Reinhalters.)

Mentioning acknowledgments of books from the two doctors Mitchell, W. remarked, "I am glad you sent them copies. I see you are on the right scent."

Bucke writes (date 25th): 25 Jan 1892 My dear Horace I have your letter of Thursday evening and the two letters of Friday—they all came by this m'g mail. I really wonder how you do all your work and write so many letters—it is very good of you—I should be in a bad fix just now without you. That must have been a wonderful 1/2 hour with W., I[ngersoll] and F[arrell]—the report of it will make interesting reading when we get it! You ask me if I should like to read I.'s Unitarian Club speech? Quite an unnecessary question, of course I should. Send it me please if you can. I shall look for Saturday's "Star" with much interest (I have Thursday's "Star" & Friday's "Times"—thanks). I feel very sorry that you are annoyed with Mrs. Keller. I believe she wrote me without the least idea she was doing anything out of the way—simply because I am a doctor & an older man than you or H. and also because I had brought her over. It never occurred to me (I am intensely stupid about these etiquettical matters) that Mrs. K. had done wrong tho' I see plainly enough now that it would have been in far better taste for her to have consulted H. or you and let you consult me (or not) as you saw fit. Then as for the tomb matter and the difficulty that makes in money matters—it is my belief that you (unconsciously) exaggerate that. I cannot understand how any real friend of W.'s would be the less ready to chip in and help him because of this—(foolishness or freak—if you like to call it so) this false step of his old age. If you have work done, etc. etc. and charged to Walt it would be (I think) unnecessary to consult Geo. & Mrs. Geo. Whitman—I do not like the idea in any shape—suppose W. lived—got a little stronger and was dunned for the moneys? I would have no hand in such a business at all. Let us pay for all we do—what we don't want to pay for leave it undone. All well here. Shall write again tomorrow. Love to Walt, Anne & yourself R. M. Bucke 12:40 A.M. On way from Philadelphia—had attended and spoken at meeting of Ethical Society. W. sleeping peaceably—lingered a full 15 minutes. Just before I left he tapped for Warrie. Complained of cold—wished to be turned—mentioned great pain in his legs. But would not talk of general matters, though Warrie incidentally touched upon them. I stood in doorway—saw him—he didn't see me.

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