Skip to main content

Monday, February 29, 1892

Monday, February 29, 1892

8:20 A.M. Learned that W. has lived through another restless night—one of the worst—from twelve to one he had Warrie turn him four times—and in the subsequent hours this program was continued. On coming in, when I looked upon W. as he dozed, he was pale and haggard and showed every sign of collapse—physical discomfiture. Even while I was there he imperatively rang bell and asked to be shifted. Warrie talked to him somewhat, but W. did not reply to one of his questions or remarks. I read my mail while there—letters from Hallam Tennyson, Bucke, Wallace, Mary Ashley. W.'s own mail constituting one paper (the Long Islander, which still comes regularly) and a letter from a Western man expressing the pressure of his spiritual debt to W.W. and his gladness that "the most modern and liberal of all our poets" was yet spared to "the world that loved, or would love, him." With W. in his present straits I knew it would be unwise and unjust to initiate even Tennyson's letter, which would be a joy to him. So after talking a while with the attendants, and looking finally at W.—immediately dozed off again—I left for Philadelphia.

6:10 P.M. I found W.'s situation dismal. He had not improved any since morning. Was depressed and discouraged. Has not spoken a word except when addressed. Told the doctor he felt "very bad." Soon after he rang for Mrs. Keller and asked to have his position changed. While performing the service, she endeavored to engage him in conversation, but he resisted all attempts with his impenetrable "Ohs!" She said she thought his depressed condition was incidental to the stormy day itself and would pass off as the cold cleared off. He only replied, "You think so?" and there dropped the matter. I had strolled in meanwhile and he greeted me promptly, extending his hand from the bed. Mrs. Keller passed out into the other room. I said to W., "I know you have been passing a bad day, and I shall not keep you long." He assented, "Yes, Horace, a bad day—bad, bad, bad." I passed to the other side of the bed—sat down. "I have a letter from Hallam Tennyson." "Eh?" lifting his head. "From Hallam Tennyson." "Good!" he exclaimed. "I should like to hear it." So I sat there and read—and, at W.'s request, read it a second time. Harringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight Feb 17/92 Dear Sir My Father is not allowed by his doctors to write more than is absolutely necessary. He bad me write some days ago to Walt Whitman & thank him and cordially (which I did) for his 'Leaves'. He is grateful now to you for your enclosure. My Father is subject to attacks of gout but is wonderfully strong on the whole. We are delighted to hear of the calm peace & happiness of Walt Whitman and that he is really better. He was touched by the messages and sends his love to Walt Whitman. Yrs faithfully Hallam Tennyson

"Good son!" he cried. "And good father, too! A hearty sweet letter." Had he anything to say in return? He shook his head, "Nothing particular—I know nothing." I had thought this rather a better letter than the one sent to W. direct. "I don't know but it is," replied W., "and at any rate, its good will is unmistakable, that is the chief thing." Was not moved to elaborate. I read Miss Ashley's letter, which pleased him greatly for what he called its "unstudied affectionateness." Told him the facsimiles were hardly likely to be here in less than a week. Expressed disappointment. "Why not three or four?" His face was turned toward the window—the last light of day falling upon it. Pale, haggard, weary. He inquired as he always does, "Any news? Anything at all?" I specified Wallace's letter received today, he only answering, "Everybody is faithful." Said he had "merely taken up the papers this morning," for he had "not felt like anything—everything seemed so deathly weak and uncertain." Ingram had been over yesterday—brought flowers—but as soon as Ingram had gone, W. ordered them out of the room. "Take them to the parlor, anywhere. I told them: I could not—cannot—bear their efflorescence. Yet the old man did it all with the best heart, and we respect him for that." On my "good-bye" I kissed him and stroked his head. "God bless you!" That and I left.

10:18 P.M. Again at 328, but only briefly and to discover that W. was passing a quieter night than last. Breathed heavily, laboredly, with intermittent hiccoughs.

Back to top