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Saturday, February 20, 1892

Saturday, February 20, 1892

W. had spent a horribly restless night, having called Warrie to be turned three or four times an hour, and being still awake at 8:30 when I arrived. He was pale and tired, and expressed a real melancholy over "the weary experience of the night," as he called it. I had a few words with him—a warm clasp of the hand—but undertook no more. Warrie turned him—helped him in several ways. Then Mrs. Keller came in to take charge. W. said, "Good morning, Mrs. Keller" and no more, then closing his eyes. I left him Investigator, containing Ingersoll's speech on Paine. In my mail, which I sat down and read, was this letter from Baker: Law Office, Robert G. Ingersoll 45 Wall Street New York, Feby 1892 My dear Traubel: How is the dear, good and great one? The lingering strain? Would it might longer sound with old time lusty vigour, to a world that would now be a listening world. I enclose you a beautiful word about W. W. You can take a copy of it some time, and return the original, as the Colonel has not yet seen it. May be W. W. knows of the writer—may be not—but no matter whether he can hear a word of it—it is what his friends think and feel and say of him. Greatly hurried but always the same Yours & yours, Baker I have not sent the Telegram regularly, as I suppose you have ordered, or receive, daily copies. If not, command me. B. Here is the enclosure: No. 140 W. 129th St. New York Jan 15 '92 Col. R. G. Ingersoll: Dear Sir: Had Walt Whitman never written other lines than those descriptions of the old time sea-fight, he might securely rest his fame upon the latter. They are not a story of the fight—they are the fight itself. The verses throb with life; every word seems pregnant with tremendous power. I have seen paintings of naval fights—paintings accounted masterpieces—that by comparison with the color & actions of Whitman's lines impress me as scenes of still-life. Is there anything in art or literature more graphic than, as graphic as, the verse beginning, "Stretched & still lies the midnight"? Those lines, beautiful, true, horrible, stick in my memory. I would not forget them if I could. Whitman, I think, is the first of American bards; it matters little who the second is, for the second is millions of miles behind the poet of Camden & of the world. I am, indeed, very much obliged to you for the copy of "Liberty in Literature" you gave me on Monday. Very truly yours, Leo C. Evans Moreover, a bunch of Bolton letters—two from J.W.W. and one from Johnston. Creelman writes me [agreeing to place the Telegram flower money into H.L.T.'s fund]. I went immediately with Mrs. Keller to Van Sciver's and we together selected a new bedstead for W. which Warrie was to come down to confirm.

My letter-writing is assuming enormous proportions, but I must stick to it—the battle is on and it is only for me to fight—not to question. Some talk with McKay again. He wishes to be prepared for a big demand should W. die—only a few hundred books in sheets now.

6:20 P.M. At W.'s. Met Longaker, who was in W.'s room at the bedside questioning him about cough and side and a variety of things—W. replying sleepily, but replying. Bucke thinks W. not sufficiently communicative, perhaps. I shook hands with W. but ventured upon no talk with him. The bed arrived but not set up. Room hot, but W. still urges, "Keep the fire up." Longaker says, "He is undoubtedly much worse than he was the other day when I was here." In any special way? "No, only generally." Mrs. Keller reports, "When he has gone too long without a movement of the bowels, I give him the champagne—that is sufficient." Longaker laughed and remarked, "A pleasant remedy," and W. opened his eyes and smiled. I, too, "It is W.'s old remedy and practice," and he murmured, "Yes, of long-standing," and smiled again. Then he said to L., "I am all fagged out, Doctor. Mrs. Keller will tell the rest." And L. responded, "I do not mean to worry you." After some further talk together, we left—I shaking hands with W., who said, "Welcome and good night, Horace—always welcome." Had he read the Ingersoll speech on Paine? "Yes, and enjoyed it." That was all he had to say. I walked a few squares with Longaker. "Any more grounds for hope?" I asked. "None," he answered, "none at all—he is very slowly losing."

10:40 P.M. Again at W.'s. Warrie on watch. W. called him twice in the 20 minutes I stayed—once for "grog," once for a turn. Voice poor, cough strong, hiccoughs now and then. Warrie attempted talk, but he took no notice of it.

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