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Sunday, March 27, 1892

Sunday, March 27, 1892

10:05 A.M. Found grouped in parlor at 328 Mrs. Whitman and George, Harned, Eakins, Murray (two assistants with these). We discussed cast and they were shortly at work upstairs upon it. I stayed till 11:45 and they were still at work. Walt's face serene and sweet and composed. The head never seemed so marked. Eakins threw back the shirt from the shoulders. How like one of the grand classic pictures of gods, with the hands calmly folded and that strange yellow-white, and peace everyhow lined however the eye looked! They worked and worked—I watched and watched. In from the north the gray light—outside the beating rain—the room, so long dedicated to his sacred work, still redolent of his nature. I could catch the faint odor of his hair. I touched his hand. Though cold it was yet somewhat pliable.

George Whitman objects to post-mortem proposed for this afternoon. Mrs. Whitman clearing up—has covered all W.'s papers carefully, husbanding everything. Warrie and Harry clearing out the two front rooms. George wrote two telegrams for me to send from Philadelphia—one for Jessie Whitman at St. Louis and one to the sister at Greenport.

We seem in favor of funeral for Wednesday at two, and probably for public view eleven to one. My suggestions. Harned wondering why no word from Bucke. No callers. The bulletin, taken down at midnight, replaced.

Going with Eakins into W.'s room I threw open the blinds. W.'s head lay towards the window. The light played a strange beauty into his hair, and the pallor was no way painful. Seems with each hour to settle down into the room—his old self of years back. The family characteristics came out sharply. Looks more like George since the face is thinner. George, however, so ruddy.

Met Longaker in Philadelphia and Dr. Cattell and found from them that W. had indeed consented in December (Harrison Allen commemorating with L.) to a post-mortem after death. This may obviate George's objection. Longaker sent his final notes over by Warrie last night but Warrie has not given them to me. Found upon questioning Longaker that he really had understood with McAlister that he was to be telephoned for in the event of a crisis. L. says to me, "It was sudden after all. We all expected it and yet it was a shock." And again, "I had set the middle of next week. I saw the end was quite near. The trachial sals were evident Friday and not so strongly by any means as in December. But we had to take into account Whitman's general weakness and that these meant more now than then." And I asked L. as to the post-mortem. "Bucke," he said, "told me in December that there would be no difficulties placed in the way of that." Cattell said, "Of course we could not do anything without the family's consent. And yet what a thing it means for science and knowledge." "And for man?" "Yes, that too."

Sent George Whitman's two telegrams off from 9th and Green.

Longaker willing to postpone post-mortem to late in afternoon. Arranged to be at 328 at six.

Received cable from Johnston and Wallace, and three others: Lezinsky, F. H. Williams, Maud Ingersoll: San Francisco Cal 27th Place wreath for me marked "Un Pilori" letter follows. David L. Lezinsky Germantown PA 27th Am unable to be out today owning to sickness but will be on hand at funeral please telegraph me arrangements. Francis H Williams New York 27 My father in Buffalo will notify him. Maud Ingersoll Morris and Talcott Williams over today. George and his wife went home in afternoon.

At 6:05 met doctors at 328, finding that George had reiterated and left his objection to an autopsy.

6:10 P.M. Autopsy in rear parlor. Longaker's charge from Walt we considered conclusive, despite George W.'s objection. No one present but Dercum, Cattell, Longaker, McAlister and H.L.T., with the undertaker helping from time to time. The wonder of the doctors as operations proceeded seemed to grow. Once Cattell said, "This man must have lived weeks and weeks simply by force of will power." I put in, "And serenity," and he then, "Yes, that too."

Longaker made some remarkable guesses. The heart stood alone in its perfection and strength. Everything else was impaired. The brain was extracted and seemed without hurt. It was underweight. Dercum spoke of "the magnificent symmetry of the skull" and he referred to the stroke of W.'s early life. Three and a half quarts of water extracted from the left pleura and the left lung all drawn up into the shoulder. Cattell remarked, "He evidently lived at the last on less than a sixteenth of his normal breathing capacity." Evidently the poor damaged right lung had done noble work since December. Warrie lingered in the room until spoken to by Longaker. When the brain was extracted Cattell put it into his gupsack. The work kept us till towards ten. A reporter from the Press in the room—we had some trouble dismissing him. Harned would not stay. The people in the house kept their places in a certain sort of shrinking. To hear the claw and dip of the instruments—to see the skull broken and opened and the body given the ravening prey of the investigator had its horrors—then its compensations. I looked beyond and saw science, man, with benediction sweet. I stood all without hurt and wrote Cattell's notes in his book as he called them out. Somehow I could not have gone home, leaving them at this work, or avoiding. I seemed to hear an injunction out of space, "Keep then close to the temple till the final toll is paid." And so I braved and threw that inner protest which so closely attended me throughout. To these men body and brain yielded unexpected fruits.

Many callers in the day, Morris and Talcott Williams among them. Jessie Whitman not likely to come.

The death mask has been wholly successful though it had taken three rather than two hours. O'Donovan in before it was finished. No slips—no stumbles. And the hand also was done. The head tonight seemed no way the worse. The wavy float of the beard rather damaged, and a red line burns the bridge of the nose, as if the plaster had at that point been stubborn. I carry that scene upstairs: the busy workers—Eakins directing and laboring both—and W.'s serene face and folded hands and bared shoulders, as a god stretched out on god's own altar, dead.

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