Skip to main content

Saturday, March 19, 1892

Saturday, March 19, 1892

8:20 A.M. Warrie reports, "Mr. Whitman has passed a hell of a night." That instant almost W. vigorously pulled the bell—yes, three times, in succession—and thinking Warrie not quick enough called him, "Warrie! Warrie!" When Warrie got in finding that he had loosened the bell rope. My mail contains letter from Bucke, 17th, which anticipates an early end for W.: 17 March 1892 My dear Horace I have yours of e'g. 14th & m'g 15th. The end is certainly near—no rally or anything like a rally can be any longer looked for or dreamed of. I look almost hourly for a telegram to go east and am ready to go at a moment's warning. Spare yourself all you can and brace up for the final pull. I will be with you within 36 hours after receiving your message to go—perhaps within 24 hours—depends on the hour the message reaches me. I shall leave here at noon or at 4.30 P.M. & shall reach Phila. abt. 7 or 11 the next a.m. Your friend, R. M. Bucke When death occurs see that you have the house and everything in it strictly guarded. R.M.B. 
Bucke will think better of that from later letters. Check from Howells—no word attending. Joe Gilder again writes about that copy "Leaves of Grass." Seems very anxious about discount. Arthur Stedman writes me more in detail, as following up yesterday's telegram. Morris in to give me message from A. Stedman, that he wishes names of 20 of W.'s friends to whom to send books and that he will send five copies additional to W.

Seeing McKay, I found he was rather disposed to assent to W.'s proposition for paper of lighter weight, thinking it would be well to make the book as it now stands not bulkier than it was after "Sands at Seventy" was included. Also discussed with him the nature of an advertising page for the Webster issue.

6:45 P.M. No one upstairs. I went straight into W.'s room and up to the bed. He breathed regularly (lying left) and seemed asleep. So after looking at him and remarking his very pale face and hands (the window light creeping into the room), I retreated again, silently and easily. But I was hardly gone before his bell rang, and Mrs. Davis, who had by this time come up, hurried in. "What do you want, Mr. Whitman?" "Is Horace there? I thought I heard him then." "So you did—he is in the next room"—at which she called my name and I responded. W. was cordial and lifted his hand from the cover and grasped mine, "Welcome, welcome!"

"They tell me you are easier today."

"What is that?"

"They tell me you are easier today."

"I am glad to hear it."

"And it makes me easier to hear you are so."

"So it would me. It is news: you are a good news gatherer."

"You don't seem to be very sanguine."

"You think so?"

(Once today—10:45 a.m.—while Warrie was bathing his left hip, he moaned. Warrie asked him, "Does it hurt?" and he replied, "O eternal damnation! I suppose all over continually!" And five minutes after he again rang and said, "Warrie, I will have to be turned or I'll suffocate.")

I acquainted him with the readiness of the Webster people to give him the 25 books. He repeated the sentence after me, "Will give me 25 books—five for my own use, 20 for my friends? That is kind—kindly." But he had no names to suggest just now. "You take a shy at it," he advised. "Then I will add if any addition may seem required." He did "quite approve" of my taking the "November Boughs" advertisement, his own work, and adding thereto. Referred briefly to Longaker as having been over. I said to him, "The Colonel seems to have sent you some more champagne."

"Is it so?"

"There is a whole box of it."

"It must have come today."

"It has been here several days."

"The good Colonel, never forgetting!"

Referred to Gilder's letter. W. said, "Give him a book—one with the soft cover—paper—we have plenty." The papers mention death of Lothrop (publisher) in Boston. W. says, "I have never met him." W. hiccoughed a good deal while I sat there with him. He complains to me and to Warrie and Mrs. Davis that he has so much pain, but he tells Longaker that he has none at all. He laughed at Arthur's, as he said, "nabbing up of Burroughs' book," and asked me, "What's the news from Bucke?" I described Maurice Bucke [son] to W., who remarked, "I think every word of what you say must be true, yet it has been a long time since I last saw the boy. Doctor must be pretty busy." I mentioned cosmic consciousness to him as one item in the busy life. W. remarked, "It is a big job, then—yes, a doubtful job." I observed, "I am glad you are taking the brandy again," and he quietly said, "I am glad to take it: it is a great lift." His breathing very hard and raspy.

Ingram over today. Did not talk with, though he looked in the room towards, W. And George Whitman present at five, meeting Longaker.

Rossetti heard from at last, to this effect: 3 St. Edmund's Terrace Regent's Park, N. W., London 8 March /92 Dear Sir, Two or three weeks ago I received the copy kindly forwarded to me of Whitman's last edition. Your letter wh. accompanied it, dated 20 Jan., only reached me the other day; it had gone down in the wreck of the steamer Eider, but was recovered and sent on to me. I need not tell you or Whitman with how much affection I regard his book, sent to me by him as from out of the jaws of the tomb. The sight of it has incited me to re-read the entire book, old poems as well as new: & I once again feel, what I have never doubted since 1855, that Whitman is one of the great spirits of the age, destined to leave his mark on this & other centuries. Wd. you give him my love & reverence, if manageable. At the crisis of his recent illness I was of course anxious from day to day: Whitmanite friends in Lancashire (not personally known to me) used to send me telegrams. If Whitman congratulates himself upon having surmounted this formidable stage of his illness, I also heartily congratulate him. You kindly say that you "may from time to time write me concerning Whitman's condition." I shall feel highly grateful to you for any such attention. Yours very truly, Wm. Rossetti Just today had it in mind to write an inquiry. Also a word from Kennedy.

11:20 P.M. Mrs. Davis has not yet called Warrie. W. in very restless mood. I made up paper books to send to Baxter and Riordan, sending the latter, however, though inscribed to Riordan, to Gilder. Wrote a number of letters and postals, among them one to Bucke. W. very restless. Called and called. Spoke of "pain in this left side." And again, "On my right side I choke. One way or another I suffer all the time." Rejoiced that he took brandy. Night cold. He was little disposed to talk—hardly answering questions. Could not read him the Rossetti and Kennedy letters. In the room, but he was silent, after a simple salutation.

Back to top