Skip to main content

Tuesday, February 9, 1892

Tuesday, February 9, 1892

8:23 A.M. W.'s mail this morning short, having but one paper—nothing else. My own larger. Kennedy writes me a postal: "Yes, Baxter is on Herald staff and in various functions social and reformatory. Regards." Johnston's letter of 30th arrived.

I mailed letters to Ingersoll, Bucke and others. Found W. had passed the night turned and turned again, as usual, but was now, and had been for a couple of hours, sleeping quietly. Complexion pale—hands cold, too: circulation evidently feeble. Face turned towards the light, the left hand laying negligently over the inevitable cane. Mrs. Keller remarked, "Tell Doctor Bucke he is about the same as last night. I never really know how he is till he is thoroughly awake in the morning." Warrie already off to the funeral, timed for ten.

6:20 P.M. A good talk with W. immediately. He was awake. I went in—he distinguished me in dark. Sat as usual on edge of the bed. He shook hands—I finding the hand hot, and the head almost of equal temperature. (I stroked the hair back, and he seemed to like it.) "It is bad, bad, Horace," he said. "No lift—no light?" I asked. "None, none—I am near eclipsed." Warrie, he said, he had sent to the funeral as his "representative," and added, "Poor George! It is all over for him!" He said he must have sent "rather a gloomy message," but that was "the only honest message" and there was no use "building up false hopes."

Gave him Kennedy's message. "I am glad to hear that. Now we can send Baxter a book," which I promised to do. Someone had called him a "saint." He laughed, "Far, far from that!" I told him some had wondered why he had not called in the priests when he was so sick. "Oh hell!" he exclaimed. Told him I had had a check from Howells today. "The good Howells, too: give him our thanks!" Howells always addresses me as "Doctor." W. laughed, "That is odd." But when I said, "That is better than being addressed as I have been, as 'Reverend,'" W. cried out, "A thousand times better. How horrible, horrible!"

New England Magazine on table. "I looked through it but did not find the piece." I volunteered but he protested, "He is an Agnes-Repplierish sort of a man: smart, bright—but not our man." Directed me to a copy of the Boston Globe on table. "That just came. Will you look through it, to see if there's anything I should hear. And the Transcript, too, take that. I do not seem to have much ambition." I went across the room, turned light up and examined papers, finding in Globe some warm personal item about Mrs. Fairchild, which I read to him. "She is a rare woman. All they say there is true," he declared. Then, "You have written to Forman? I owe Forman a whole lot of stuff: pictures, books, etc. His draft came just before I was taken sick." "Could I send them for you?" "Yes, you could—if you could find them. But that's the rub—to find them! Besides, I am too exhausted to undertake it now." Did he remember Young's quotation on Shelton MacKenzie? "Yes, why?" "McKay tells me MacKenzie's daughter was in after one of your books—that she is an admirer." "So? So?"

Entered into talk about the Webster book again, W. still harping upon the idea of the lump sum. "I have been thinking of 200 pages for $250—selections from prose and verse—to be read or set down on the title-page this way: 'Selections'—with the word very conspicuous—'Selections from the Prose and Poetry of Walt Whitman—duly authenticated, or approved, or warranted by him.' That is the idea I would wish followed out, but 'Selections' very conspicuous—as a main point, or the point—and to be fought for as the first condition of a contract. Ask Dave what he thinks of that. The idea of a lump sum satisfies me—to take that and let them go on. But maybe you fellows won't consent to it, and then you will have to hew a road of your own. Anyway, it won't hurt to make a lunge." And again, "The Websterial idea is for money, of course, and so is mine—but I add something to that consideration. But I must not worry myself fingering with the thing—go on, do your best, and what you think and do as best will be good enough to me." I kissed him and retired.

10:35 P.M. Found Longaker there. First he went into room. W. did not notice him. I was there also. We strolled into next room. I said, "Wait—he will tap—he won't be long in that position." And sure enough, soon the tap—Mrs. Keller on duty—he calling her, wishing to be turned. Warrie resting till midnight on account of funeral. We all went into room together.

W.: "Oh! there's Doctor."

L.: "You've had quite a nice sleep."

W.: "I'm half asleep now."

L.: "I was looking in at you a few minutes ago."

W.: "Good. Good."

L. found his head profusely sweating. "You feel warm, do you?"

W.: "Mrs. Keller—you tell Doctor everything—I'm so stupid."

L.: "I won't worry you with many or any question."

W.: "Mrs. Keller will tell you."

L.: "She has been giving me a faithful account." (Tried his pulse.)

Mrs. K.: "Is there anything more, Mr. Whitman?"

W.: "Pull that leg down. Pull it still a little more."

Longaker did his examination quietly. W. closed his eyes, letting all go on. Then L. left the room—we talking together. "He is very weak," said L., and added, "That sweating—profuse sweating—is not a good sign." How was the pulse? "Weaker than when I was here last," adding, "He is getting very thin, very—there don't seem much of him left." W. beginning to get restless. Soon he tapped again. Some brandy—this time, Mrs. Keller proposing—Longaker tasting and admiring the "bouquet." When Mrs. K. went back with the drink, L. attended her and made his brief good-night to W., who had nothing more to say, except as he murmured "good" to the brandy, and, "I am sleepy and stupid," as if by way of apology. Walked to ferry with Longaker, who admitted W.'s bad condition and saw no hope out of it. "This loss will continue," he said. "We cannot say for how long, and finally there will be a break. We must not be surprised to have that come any day."

Back to top