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In RE Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman at Date



John Addington Symonds has recently said: "'Leaves of Grass,' which I first read at the age of twenty-five, influenced me more, perhaps, than any other book has done, except the Bible; more than Plato, more than Goethe." A confession so frank, clothing so exalted an estimate, avowed by such a man, commands attention. For as values are here distributed, it is not in voice or echo of actors long dead, or of prophets remembered for special and temporary reasons of race or creed, but from a man the selected flower of our modern democracy, an American—a great, robust, often decried, but always far-seeing American —that the amplest single message so far known in literature is heard. "Except the Bible," it is held; but the Bible is a mosaic, complex in range and approach, evoked of many hands, out of we know not what varied conditions, to except which is to make no exception at all.

If the judgment of Symonds is to be confirmed or its correctness is even suspected, a stream of incalculable ramifications has been set free in the modern world. And it is to some of the flowers along the way and the wood that drifts with the tide that these notes are dedicated. We need not—as we cannot —get away from the man to the book, or from the book to the man, but we can indicate by touches rightly bestowed how man and book run on together, and become in their way vocative of democracy and its future.

While the world knows Walt Whitman by name, or from the controversies he has aroused, it is often strangely ignorant of the direct principles for which he stands as a writer, or the gifts which distinguish him as a person, and of the splendid courage med_sm.00423_large.jpg with which he has passed triumphantly through a generation of abuse and misunderstanding. My purpose here is mainly to depict what passes for his average daily life. How stands he among his friends and in the street, how is his philosophy lived out, into what runs the red flood of his everyday life? We have known him showered with defamation on the one hand, and on the other hand ignored. Yet he has always proved to be a man with whom a policy of avoidance was not wise, and a policy of brutality futile. His great friend O'Connor loved to describe, as on a memorable day to me not long before his death, the simple power that Whitman asserted in the merely casual deeds of his life in Washington. O'Connor would tell of the unstudied majesty of his physical port—of its betrayal in the carriage of the head, the swing of the body, the ease and confidence of the step. He would say that some looked to applaud, some to disdain, but that all looked, and all were indefinably moved by the imminence of an unusual personality.

There have been discussions of the form of Whitman's work, of his dislike for hampering traditions, of his philosophy as developed in religious, political or other directions. Critics have doubted his art, questioned his integrity, stood aghast at his "impurity," been dismayed by his lusty first-hand power, and shaken wise heads over the alleged downward tendency of his realism. Yet the earlier shock yields in almost every vigorous person to steady influences. There is no quality of his individuality without a similar history, running the thread of enmity to conquest and unswerving loyalty. Some to whom at this moment he stands pre-eminent for poetic genius were not long ago prepared to deny that such a guerilla could meet the first trial of poetic virtue. Worshipers of old standards are friends of new. Victim is transformed to victor. It is from this change of feeling, and the quality of the many who have come in touch with the poet and his work, that there appear reasons for desiring to know the habits and humors of the man.

With Lincoln, Emerson and Walt Whitman as positive factors in the turbulence of its first century, America has no need to turn apologetically to the older countries and to past times. med_sm.00424_large.jpg When I once asked Whitman what three or four names of absolute greatness he thought America had so far offered, he answered interrogatively: "What would you say to Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Emerson?" I have frequently heard from him the highest mention of Cooper in the same connection. To these, or to any others which might be insisted upon, I do not hesitate to add his own name.

The aureola circling Lincoln, Emerson, Whitman, satisfies the present and foretells the future glory of our national life. For nearly a quarter of a century the fame of Lincoln has been gathering its shadows and laughter into the evidence of a marvelous character rooted in universal soils. Already is Emerson current in every stream, serene in every area of spiritual performance. Whitman, the last of the triad, threading still the ways of this mortal life, living a new youth in old age—laboring, believing —clear of soul, prophetic, losing neither sweetness nor sanity as troubles multiply and the future puts on somber robes, completes and cement the chain. But abating here all questions of greatness, I wish to jot roughly something of Walt Whitman, the man, as I know him in these later years. I assume that he is eminent, and that as time absorbs these details of days, these throbs of passing loss and gain, in their more general effects, what "Leaves of Grass" signifies, and, furthermore, what color the daily life of the poet has worn, will be increasingly questions of interest and demand.

Walt Whitman came to Camden in 1873, and I have known him ever since. It is one of the pleasant mysteries of our intercourse how our ways first crossed, for neither of us has even a faint or dulled remembrance of an introduction or a start. "We simply grew into each other," said Whitman—"perhaps always were part and parcel of one influence." The history of the years preceding this change of habitat are well known or easily accessible. Whitman's life has now covered seventy-one years. From 1819 to 1855, at which last date "Leaves of Grass" achieved its first public expression, Whitman's experience had been most varied, always in the line of the preservation of those primary rugged qualities which are the necessary background of med_sm.00425_large.jpg great events or great persons. He had been builder, type-setter, reporter, teacher, editor; and through the association thus brought had penetrated with uniform subtlety the shallows and deeps of American character. Losing any part of these, of travels North and South, of contact with class and mass, would have meant not only a loss of factors vital to the life of the great poem, but equally a shock and draft upon its prevailing spirit. If you speak to him about these potent contributions, he will speak to you of the importance of things which history ignores or forgets.

Whitman's immediate touch with our democracy in the making must be remembered, if any picture of the man is to be gained.

When Whitman was born (1819), Walter Scott was at the meridian of his fame; "Ivanhoe" was just out, and not long after "Quentin Durward" appeared—"both of them masterpieces of historic and literary emotional narrative," as Whitman expresses it in a note just put in my hands. Scott has been throughout a great and attractive character to Walt Whitman, especially in his personality and in his "Border Minstrelsy" ballads. Whitman has been fed, as Dr. Bucke has remarked, first on Long Island scenery and the real seashore, then on New York and Brooklyn city life, superadding the southern journeys, the secession war, and western travel. But books have had not a little to do with his initiative as well as with the growths of later years; curiously, those "Border Minstrelsy" ballads were the first start of all, pointing definite ways which became the common order and safety of his future.

He has said to me that "the special designs, either of the artist to make a fine work from aesthetic or poetic or imaginative or intellectual points of view, or of the moralist or religioso from his, sinks into quite a subordinate position," in the scheme of "Leaves of Grass."

Walt Whitman is often spoken of as a man of details; but, after all, "Leaves of Grass" is a spirit, not a statistical rehearsal, as nature is a spirit and not a count of the leaves of her forests. It certifies to heaven and earth, as having roots in each.

Out of a so expansive life—a life which, while careless of sub- med_sm.00426_large.jpgtleties, has turned unfailing reverence upon the play of sympathy in man —came the giant figure known in Camden these sixteen years past, and with which my own fortunes have been so tenderly entwined.

My earliest memory of Whitman leads me back to boyhood, when, sitting together on his doorsteps, we spent many a late afternoon or evening in review of books we had read. I am quite clear about the dread I experienced in the face of his subtle questions. Once I took him my copy of Castelar's "Lord Byron and Other Sketches," which he read with joy and warmly applauded. He had already imbibed a genuine love and admiration for the great Spaniard, and to this sentiment he is still faithful. These were my first years with Emerson, and the questions provoked by my confession of this fact would startle me by their directness. At this time he lived with his brother, Colonel George Whitman. The house they occupied was capacious—of plain brick, finely shadowed at the front with trees. It was Whitman's habit in milder weather to spend the early evening out of doors. I often happened upon him as he sat there in the shade enjoying his story front, which faced south. But I was apt to meet him strolling along the street, or on the boat, as at his home. On cold days he wore his long gray coat; in very hot weather he might be observed on his way without coat, vest, or suspenders, distinguished from afar by the glimpse of a spotless white shirt, open always at the throat. I recall many such approaches. My nebulous impression then was of a large man, of generous nature, magnetic beyond speech. All my earlier views tended to recognize him as man rather than as prophet—as a summing-up of singular personal power. Although I was not ignorant of his books, or inclined to underestimate their gravity, what he had written seemed dwarfed by the eminent quality of this human attractiveness. He rarely spoke to me of his work. Copious in narrative, frank and clear in comment upon current affairs, especially lingering upon the details of the lore of the streets, Whitman's spoken word or speechless presence was to med_sm.00427_large.jpg me a high and incessant resource. He lifted my common experience into biblical sanctity, and impelled my whole life to expanding issues. I can recall how vividly he would touch upon the then more recent hospital experience. He had not the least arrogance of speech: his attention when I spoke, his curiosity to grasp the pith of what I said, was unfailing. "There's a something—oh! so deep, deep!—in every man, worth travelling to, waiting for—to be seen, absorbed, respected,—yes, reverenced."

I have been fortunate to hear Whitman describe with multifarious detail the circumstance of his sickness and certain consequences of it which led to his settlement in Camden. It appears that while in Washington, from 1864 to 1870, he suffered several partial paralytic attacks, the influence of which he succeeded in temporarily throwing off, partly medical counsel, but mainly by drafts upon that private reserve of wisdom which in all later perils has secured him. He thus stayed what afterwards was proved to be an inevitable, if impeded tide. But finally, after 1870, a culminating severe spell, in the form of the rupture of a small blood vessel at the back of the head, prostrated him. The trouble was complicated by the death of his mother and a sister. He had seemed to be recovering, but the sad conflux of sorrows produced a relapse. Furthermore, the hot weather was approaching. His doctor, W.B. Drinkard, of whose wisdom and noble manhood Whitman frequently speaks, peremptorily order a change of locale. Starting for the New Jersey seacoast, he broke down badly in Philadelphia. He was taken to Camden. His friends and family, hardly less than Whitman himself, anticipated an early and fatal termination. Nevertheless, in a few months he again rallied, going off into the country as soon as able, staying there under plain conditions, having no conference with doctors nor welcome for medicine, making love with open-air influences, and healing himself by intuitions that superbly suited method to man. Thence back to Camden and permanent settlement. The years since have been marked by acute physical trials. "I have closely grazed death more than once," he says. Back of repeated recoveries stands the fact of his great rock-ribbed heredity and constitution. He had planted med_sm.00428_large.jpg his birthright in eternal seasons. Drinkard wrote from Washington to a Philadelphia doctor, in detailing Whitman's case, that here was a man with "the most natural habits, bases, and organization" he had "ever met with or ever seen." Dr. Bucke, whose authority is grounded both in friendship and professional insight, lays stress upon Whitman's exceptional physical qualities—his stature, his build, the nobility of his form and features, his splendid constitution, the remarkable acuteness of his senses—as well as upon the depth of his moral intuition, and the subtlety and truth of his instincts.

Whitman at times describes the subtler phases of his trouble with a master's trick—with more than the surgeon's candor and the artist's grace. His prostration arose from a poisoned wound in the right hand, received while assisting at the amputation of the gangrened limb of a Virginia Union soldier, to whom he was much attached. Hand and arm inflamed and swelled, the vessels under the skin showing like red snakes running up to the shoulder. Though seemingly bettered or cured, the excessive labors and worriments of that period, with the saturation of hospital malaria, through those hot summers, no doubt in a measure sapped even his almost perfect organization. Some people ask after his sacrifice. Why should he have deemed it his part to submit to the axe? "Nothing overmuch" had in earlier times been his self-counsel. But in the presence of a great necessity, such barriers must be thrown to the winds. He once said to me: "Perhaps only one who has seen the fearful suffering and wholesale deaths of those days, for men's lack of care and aid, can understand or sympathize with my impulses and acts." He ministered to fully a hundred thousand persons, cheering all, making no distinction of North or South, alleviating where he could the red overflow of discord and dismay. All his speech upon this topic is subdued. He never vaunts his choice and participation. He never sets up for sainthood. He rather protests his evil with his good. This chapter, as any other that goes to portray him, must be read in the light of the necessity that inspired his faith. It is to be neither welcomed nor rejected in any spirit of lusterless display or vulgar modesty.


I will not linger upon this earlier history. The transition through the first years of our acquaintance to the later intimacy was gradual and never broken. Since it has become known that I enjoyed this connection, the questions put to me vocally and by letter have been multitudinous. What I say here is largely in response to such items of this curiosity as now recur to me.

Walt Whitman is a large man, six feet in height, broad of build, symmetrical, with an ineffable freedom evident even in these days of his broken physical fortunes. In years of health he weighed fully two hundred pounds. His head and face betray power and fortitude in high degree. I have a picture before me as I write, a rare one, taken in Washington in 1863, which reveals phases discoverable in no later portraits. The beard, cropped rather close, and the head, with its elevation and unshadowed energy, express immense virility, mingled with the most delicate evidences of emotion and sympathy. His complexion, while still fine, is nowadays somewhat paled; and yet it showed its unpolluted origin. The rosy pink tint of the skin, of body as of face, and the skin's peculiar softness and richness of texture, are unlike similar features of any man I have known. His eye is dull—one realizes how dull when he is seen sitting face to face with his friend Dr. Bucke, who has an eagle's orb. Twenty years, with their history of physical disaster, have dimmed and troubled his sight and not infrequently, through painful symptoms, aroused a suspicion of impending eclipse.

His voice has been strong and resonant. Full of music—a rich tenor—it charms ear and heart. It has high tones not so sweet. In ordinary talk it many reflect the faults, with the virtues, of monotone. But for depiction of event or repetition of poetic line or prophetic utterance it is equal to curious and exquisite modulations. Its range is simple, like the simplicity of the language med_sm.00430_large.jpg itself. He would say, nature has her few elements and works these into infinite combinations. This is the text-thought of his art, whether manifested in tone, word or song. I have heard him raise his speech in argument till it was as shrill and imperative as a bugle, and talk to babes in tones that cooed like a cradle song. His gestures are few and effective. He has an extraordinarily large ear, set at an unusual line. His hand is the hand of laborer and scribe, large in bone and sinew and shape for strength and beauty. In all the years of my knowledge of him he has been lamed below the hips, so that I have never seen him in halcyon vigor. His paralysis from the first deprived him of effective locomotive power, and the sad strokes of 1888 almost utterly removed the old certainty of support. The severest loss has been on the left side. Apart from the right arm, which still maintains some actual vigor, his physical energies have declined and departed.

It is almost superfluous to add that "the good gray poet" is no misnomer; the silvered hair and beard, the customary suit of gray, the wide-brimmed gray wool hat, combining to preserve the integrity of the term.

Whitman does not, either at first glance or finally, suggest the intellectual type. He never overwhelms by a show of the knowledge which the schools propound. He suggests power, mass, repose—carrying a train of qualities which might be called Greek. I went to him once with William M. Salter. On our exit the visitor exclaimed: "What a beautiful face! and his voice, too, how grand! I have never before realized such a presence." And here is in fact the word which better than any other compasses Whitman—presence. To read him in print, to observe him by his familiar fireside, is all one. Everybody I take there is first of all moved by the mere port and odor—the magnetic mystery—of his person. They seem effected as by new airs—breezes from uplands unknown. I never heard any one remark initially his brains, smartness, erudition, as they infallibly do of others, though these qualities, too, are unmistakably present. Group him with the happiest selection of men, and he easily looms above them, however in special ways any med_sm.00431_large.jpg one might be regarded as his superior. I have been present under such circumstances, in his bedroom and elsewhere, when he was conversationally and pictorially the central figure by right which no one could dispute.

In his parlor, one cold night, I said: "You are an open-air god—this does not seem your place! It is as if we plumped an oak down in-doors, and said, 'there—get life!'" he laughed and said: "However I ought to be, here I am—here is the oak!" But the oak keeps it grandeur, outspreading threshold and roof-tree to the latest day.

Whitman's first years in Camden were spent boarding with his brother and sister-in-law in Steven's street. The Boston persecution (the threatened lawsuit against the Osgood edition) for a year or two excited the usual curiosity-sale of his books. The resultant income, combined with certain generous and accepted tender of George W. Childs, enabled him to purchase the little wooden house in which he is now for eight years dispensed a modest hospitality. It is a plain, box-like building, with two simple stories and a slanting loft, divided into six rooms and a bathroom. Up to June, 1888, the parlor was both work-room and reception-room, though it may have occurred at times that he wrote or read in the room above. Of late the latter has received all the honors of occupancy. It is but rarely that he goes down-stairs during the day. All his meals are eaten in his "workshop." Special visitors are received in the parlor. In the evening he will in some seasons sit at one of the lower windows, often after his trip in the wheeled chair, often if not going out at all. He will wave his hands to friends as they pass. With hat and coat at careless ease, and hair stirred by gentle breezes, he haloes the spot. Not infrequently will he remain an hour or more in his chair out on the sidewalk. Strangers will stop and talk. Children will approach him and make their playful feints. There is no chance that any chapter in the shifting tale of the street will escape him. "This is a good enough throne for any man: I bring all things to my door."

There have been long periods since June, 1888, during which he has not left his room except for the bath. Self-helpful, gently med_sm.00432_large.jpg forbidding even minor attentions, he is yet infallibly cautious. The trips he takes about the house are possibly more painful and toilsome to those who watch than to him. The wheeled chair was one outcome of the dinner fund in 1889, in addition to a surplus in cash. It has been a great boon. The horse and buggy—the historic gift of a group of loving friends—were sold in 1888, in the conviction that they would never be needed again. They had been a lease of larger life. Daily the drives, daily the refreshment, daily the new earth and new sky. Sometimes he was willing to be attended, sometimes he would prefer to be alone. He would cover good stretches of the surrounding flat but fertile country, and delight in every evidence of thrift and prosperity. Though often in Philadelphia, his main driving scape, the farms, the crops were a never-failing exhilaration. I have lounged by his carriage on the boat, and had his greeting as he passed me on the road, the head erect and beard floating on the wind. His salute on a crowded street liberated my heart from its commercial shadows. I remember how one summer's day, years ago—the contrast of his serenity with the impatience of everything about him. But he says: "I like best to brush up against all this bustle and noise—then run away from it... I respect its necessity—all that it does and means... but my head grows dizzy in its midst."

Whitman's birthday in 1888, May 31, was marked by a reception tendered him at Thomas B. Harned's residence. It was a simple, domestic occasion, which he much enjoyed. A supper, the dropping-in of a few friends, informal talk, a little music, congratulations, filled up the festive hour. That night I took him the first proofs of "November Boughs." Thenceforward, our daily intercourse, for work or friendly enterprise, was unbroken. Within the few days that followed, June 2d and 3d, occurred those several slight paralytic shocks which left such serious results. He was with us at Harned's for dinner on Sunday, June 2d. In the afternoon, Dr. Bucke surprised us. We had supposed him in Canada, but he had come unannounced into the med_sm.00433_large.jpg States with a sanitary delegation. Later, when Whitman's carriage drove up, he apologized to Clifford, "I had intended giving you this trip," and went off with Dr. Bucke, who had but a brief space to remain. After driving about miscellaneously he left Bucke at the ferry and hastened off, now alone, into the county, northward, to what is called Pea Shore. Here his horse was urged into the water, and Whitman—the haughty Delaware at his feet, a speckles sky overhead—spent what he described as an unspeakable hour in contemplation of the sunset. Whether this may have been incautious, or because of some slumbering, now aroused, tendency, he suffered a chill, attended with signs of paralysis, in the evening. Stricken thus in his room when alone, and in the midst of his sponging off, he stubbornly refrained from calling assistance. But for what followed we should never have known that here, in his privacy, he had met with a critical experience. He told us subsequently that he had determined to fight the battle out single-handed. The next forenoon early he sustained another shock, and toward noon a third. I had come over that day with proofs, to find him upon the lounge in the parlor, Harned and Mrs. Davis present, at his side, and he endeavoring in vain to recover his impaired speech. Though he had suffered many similar blows in years gone, heretofore articulation had been in no way affected. I suppose twenty minutes elapsed before he regained self-control. To Mrs. Davis' inquiries he responded that he would soon be better, but if he were not it would be all right. Yet his resilience was so prompt that before I left he looked cursorily at all the proofs, and answered all my questions. The ensuing week was a bad one, but he was down stairs every day and would duly talk proof with me in the evening. On Saturday night, when Bucke went with Harned and with me to Mickle street, Whitman appeared to be swept to the border line of collapse, and there were hours on Sunday when we all felt that he had come near his end. At this juncture Dr. Osler, of Philadelphia, was called in for consultation. It was readily seen that Whitman was in no condition to live. But the application of drastic measures produced a marked change in the night. Monday, med_sm.00434_large.jpg therefore, brought us nearer an unclouded hope. Bucke had to go home without further tarrying. I shall never forget his departure—the solemn conviction, on my side as on his, that some near recall was inevitable. Recovery from this attack was tedious and never absolute. Whitman always attributed his release to Dr. Bucke's presence and "affectionate exercise of experience and skill." He called it "pulling safely from a close call."

The whole of that year had its shadows and doubts—fresh assaults, fresh recoveries. Whitman assured me: "We may go down any day. The old ship cannot last for many more voyages at the best. But the flag it still up—I am still at the wheel!"

In the mean time we proceeded with our schemes, producing "November Boughs" and the thousand-page autograph edition of his complete works. In 1889 we printed an edition of "Leaves of Grass," in celebration of his birthday. "November Boughs" was slow in the making. Spells of illness made continuous work impossible; but he heroically persevered. I left proof with him each evening on my return from Philadelphia, and he would examine it the following day. He thoroughly respected my autonomy, never once crossing my transactions with printer or binder. He had a keen eye for mistakes in the types, his corrections were always clear, and his determination to have things his own way was absolute.

"November boughs" contained both prose and verse, the latter grouped as "Sands at Seventy" and so arranged as to be incorporated with all later editions of "Leaves of Grass." I remember our discussion of this headline at Harned's table, one Sunday previous to Whitman's illness. Whitman had an alternate, and then an alternate for the alternate—and we voted for the words he adopted. There was plan and plan until the last touch was secured. I never found him reaching out at random or throwing his work together. Neither did he build in any formal sense. He set his streams free and let them find their natural union. Stedman classes Whitman's Lincoln poem with Lowell's ode—but there is every difference between them, as between a cloud or a brook that floats or flows in the humor of freedom, and a stately arch that is deliberately built.


Whitman likes a handsome page. He hates to have a chapter close at the end of a page; would rather cut off a precious paragraph, as he did in "A Backward Glance," than leave the eye offended. So, too, would he accommodate poem to circumstance. A line too much or too little did not worry him. He never quarreled with necessity—made it, rather, his agent, supplicating his approval. His insertions were circumspect and left no jar on the ear. His blue-pencilled excisions were made without compunction. The little poem, "Memories," was written on the margin of a proof sheet, to fill up a page. He always had a noble line ready. His verbal ear was exact and exacting. Two or three of the poems were written in this time of his great illness, to run in on page 403.

"I always know what I want before I get through," he laughingly assures me, "but I do not always see all the details clear at the beginning... I feel about for the lay of the ground." And yet he is quick to flash out approval on occasion. He says he is "discovered" by intuitive people—that he finds he really has no secret plan or thought which somebody does not detect.

To remember "Now Precedent Songs, Farewell," and "An Evening Lull," with a footnote they trail in their wake, is imposed upon any student of Whitman who realizes how profoundly man and work run one into the other: as Ingersoll would put it, how all points to the book, or the person, called "Leaves of Grass."

Whitman was most patient with the printers. None beyond the first and always fleeting shades of irritation appeared at any time. When anything pleased him, he always wished to send some book or coin or portrait, in recognition—for instance, to the boy who took his proofs, the foreman who anticipated his desires and realized his taste, to the binder who forecast or confirmed his design. "How much I owe to that man Mirick, who bosses the composing-room, and Downs—you say his name is Downs?—the proof-reader, I could not tell... They anticipate, they more than fulfill me, my wishes... I have been mainly fortunate in my bookmakers—but I never fell med_sm.00436_large.jpg into better hands than these... So you must treat them well—give them my love—in nothing hide our feelings... I always have a suspicion that these print-fellows anyhow crown all the rest."

His caution is a quality to be duly understood and remembered. I never knew him to do anything in a hurry. The printer could not get a snap "yes" or "no" on any question. He would insist on full time to weigh every problem. He never let go his task. Whatever the difficulties or delays, he held fast to the native call. "Better me for mine than any other for me," he would answer when expostulated with. Some of his friends thought he ought to give the books into other hands. He would not do it. He liked counsel well, but liked better the privilege to refuse it. But he was always gentle. His nays were sweeter than the yeas of other men. I always felt free to give my opinions. Sometimes he would adopt them, sometimes not, but whether yes or no, never with flourish. He had such a fascinating way of following his notions, after having listened to all that could be said in criticism, that you were not sure he had not absorbed your own. The doubts, dismays, to me almost tragic anxieties, out of which "November Boughs" was born, gave it warrant of fire. This book threw up numerous questions. One of them attached to the fate of the essay on Elias Hicks. It was only after much persuasion, and after the development of the fact that our book was to lack in bulk, that he decided to include it. The piece was not really finished, was not all that he intended it to be, "Its proud merit arches the book," he responded, "Can it be? Can I have won my battle after all?... It has been in me for many a year to say the best that may be said of Hicks." Though Walsh had expected it for Lippincott's, the events detailed hurried it into this volume. While it had not been made complete, the insecurity of his tenure, and the desire to supervise its production, had disposed him to feel excused in launching it without addition or elaboration.

We followed this volume with the "complete" Whitman, con- med_sm.00437_large.jpgtaining all in poetry or prose to that day printed. The "Note at Beginning" and "Note at End," in the big volume, and the title page, were new, and were the subject of much debate. Both notes were quite impromptu. We approached and pursued the new task under much the same anxiety. Whitman was vigilant, however much it cost his body. Errors that had passed into earlier editions, caught by him or his friends, trifles of punctuation or spelling were duly adjusted. He continued to demand proof till the last letter seemed in right joint. Whitman always keeps copies of his books, in which to indicate the discoveries of successive readings. With each new edition he makes some change. He always says that, though the earlier volumes may have a "curio" value, the latest have the only full, intrinsic worth. He owns the plates of "Leaves of Grass" and "November Boughs." The plates of "Specimen Days" belong to McKay. But the "complete" Whitman and the birthday edition appear without the name of a publisher. Whitman sells them from time to time, either through McKay or direct from the box in his room to the customer. Orders come from the most distant points, in Europe and America, in Australia and Asia. Usually, in sending off a book, he writes to ask the purchaser to acknowledge its arrival.

He enjoys the idea that a writer might (in his case very often does) deal direct with his public. He is generous with his friends. The quantity of books conferred upon them without calculation, the question of immediate return never argued, would seem preposterous, but for the fact that these friends have practically and abstractly espoused his work through sacrifices for which no mere volume could compensate, and that Whitman knows and frequently speaks of it in that light. You cannot convince him that the debt is all on one side, or that in any strict sense there is a debt owing him to them or them to him. "It is all one in the end—effort, victory, immortality, is yours as it is mine... Who will ask to have merits counted when the day is done?" And so he offers his simple evidences of remembrance, respect, sympathy, love. Every inscription in every book has its own color, shading this way and that from demonstrations med_sm.00438_large.jpg of great warmth of attachment to the casual love offered the stranger. Books and portraits are sent in numbers for his autograph. A copy of the first editions of "Leaves of Grass" recently came all the way from Glasgow. He signed it without question. Yet subsequently he remarked: "I am not sure but all this is overdone,... and it is queer, anyway, to face the new situation. Once they would not have the book on any terms. Now they would not surrender it on any terms. It almost seems as if we had won our battle." He is certainly as generous as he ought to be in complying with these requests.

Whitman loves children, though at first contact they seem in these later days to shrink from him. John Burroughs recites one memorable instance in which Whitman inspired confidence from the beginning, and which would seem to show that what I note may not always have been true. He can be pained at the repulse of a child. "But I always win them before we are through." The great figure and long shaggy beard are formidable obstacles to immediate intimacy. But his voice, gestures and touch are quick to reassure; and once children know him, they never fear again. He will reach for them as they pass him in the street, will place them on his knees when they come to see him, will question them as gently as a mother—and when they go will give them banana or apple or flower or any little token which the moment yields to his hand. I recall the incident of a visit paid him by Clifford with his little girl, who much feared the formidable man at the start, but will tell to-day of the apple which "dear old Walt," as she always called and calls him drew from his pocket and sent her away chewing upon. This simple response to the life of children characterizes his contact with all occasions and personalities. Age, fame, wealth, poverty, do not seem to affect his demeanor. He is king in the presence of kings, mechanic with mechanics—he is always himself, accommodating his life to the shifting hues of circumstance. He absorbs all situations; he surrenders to none. The same dress that carries him to the shop, fits him for the reception.

He does not like to be questioned, yet is himself much given med_sm.00439_large.jpg to questioning others. He desires the vivid event and terminology of industrial enterprise, the minutiae of banks, the inside facts of great enterprises—those intimate, significant minor streams which vivify and explain the hour. He likes to talk to theatrical men, to reporters, to editors. He is interested in invention, discovery, new pictures, the development of what he calls the democratic arts. I have never seen him embarrassed. He is the only person I know of whom I can say this. I have never seen him put on a show of knowledge or seem ashamed to confess an ignorance. Obvious facts will prove somehow to have escaped him, and he will inquire after them without the least sign or notion of shame. His phraseology is never complex, nor commonly as the schools go. He daringly imputes new meanings to words, calmly adopts new words, serenely illustrates by peculiar combinations. He is justifiably proud of his "Presidentiad" and thinks it belongs in the Century dictionary. Will it be accounted to the honor of this noble work that among other virtues it had not the courage and penetration to consult or quote him with any deference, if at all? He is quick to concede the use of slang, apprehending what of value it contributes to the fund of expression. He has collected data for years, industriously and faithfully, which furnishes the groundwork of his essay appearing in "November Boughs." Similar material he duly keeps together, in such shape as to be ready for use. If he chances to be looking up a special subject, he will cut out a couple of pasteboard covers, label them, and thenceforward tie between the cards all the MS. notes he makes and all the printed matter he collects which bear upon the problem.

Even casual visitors perceive that Whitman's simplest talk issues from a generous background. He had his reserves. Vulgar familiarity would never be essayed with him. Literary foppishness is never welcome. Men or women who go to interest him in special causes, philanthropies, to debate with him, to persuade him to read their books or listen to their theories, find him cold and untalkative. People who take advantage and would stay too long or vociferate too much, discover by and by that he has retired within himself and can hardly be drawn to say a word. med_sm.00440_large.jpg Those who have tact accept the lesson; others wonder or are angry. Reporters will ask, "What are your politics?" and he will reply, "I should be glad to have you tell me;" and will retort in kind to questions that touch his religion. I have been frequently asked if Whitman in his recent affliction makes any show of relenting from his radical notions; and when I say that his affirmations are as strong and serene as ever, some go away disappointed and some rejoicing. He does not like controversy, yet will on occasion fling out the most unmistakable rebuttals. His intentness as listener will at times persuade an over-eager applicant that his application is endorsed. He has decided impressions of things, rather than "views," and never hides them. His hospitality to the thought of others is warm. He will listen patiently to an opposing opinion, and be quite likely to admit that "there is much to be said for it,"—at the same time conditioning his concession, as if to protect his private integrity: "But back of that is another and another fact, and to them I appeal." He shows deference to knowledge and theory for what their integrity and weight intrinsically suggest rather because they come well introduced. Hence his attention is respectful to prophet and to laborer, to word of authority or the lower note of apology, to those who rule and those who are ruled—in short, to life, to truth, simply, in and for itself.

He likes free people, incidents fresh from man's instincts, principles that leave man unhampered, governments and systems that put on no shackles. He is an ultra free-trader. His way of stating himself is, that the common classes of all civilized countries are essentially one in their prosperity and means of development, and that inter-trade, mails, travel, commerce, should be free, and that America especially, standing for all the demands of freedom, should legislate and act accordingly. He likes William Legget's formula, that "the world is governed too much." He insists that noblesse oblige is not only a good motto for superior individuals, but for nations, and, above all, for America.

He condemns the anti-Chinese law, dislikes restrictions of whatever character put upon the masses, and is positive as to the med_sm.00441_large.jpg evils which result from labor contracts made abroad. He faces every threat to our civilization—every quoted danger—yet presents an unmoved faith. He thinks our age and the United States full of bad elements, but full of good, too, affording ampler eligibilities ("eligibility" being one of his special words) to the good and for the lower classes than have been heretofore known. "Our ship," he says to me, "is the best built possible, and has all the charts of seas, and is the best manned that can be. Are we to go through some bad weather? No doubt. But we'll get through. It will have to be pretty tough to be worse than the storms behind us; and here we are, better than ever."

He condemns the restrictive tendencies and low standards of the churches. The moralism of the Sunday school, he says, has become trite and bloodless. The splendid outbursts of human passion—the master impulses of civilization—find authority and utterance elsewhere. When I said the other day, "Institutions curb and betray—freedom releases and saves," he exclaimed, "That will remain true as it has been true. 'Leaves of Grass' stands off with the lesson of freedom, the individual."

The spontaneity he would exact out of society at large he exemplifies in himself. All his habits are informal. One Sunday evening, at Harned's table, when an unusually large group of us were gathered, I happened to make some allusion to Fitz Greene Halleck. This attracted Whitman, who said he had known and liked Halleck, and that more than once they had sat together over their wine. Some impulse led from this to his vigorous quotation of the opening lines of "Marco Bozzaris." His fork was half-raised to his mouth; a bit of bread and meat were nicely balanced on the fork; and now, as the first lines seemed to take down all barriers, he recited the whole poem, with infinite fire, to the joy of us all. When he was done the fork and its burden completed their voyage. I have heard him recite, under similar circumstances, the one poem from Murger of which he is so fond. Sitting opposite a picture of Lincoln, he would often raise his glass, "Here is to you," once or twice on special days inviting the whole table to pay this reverence. He so toasted once when Thomas H. Dudley, Felix Adler, John H. Clifford, and S. Burns med_sm.00442_large.jpg Weston were present. Dudley and Whitman got into a debate on the tariff, Adler sharing in Whitman's support. At the table Whitman said: "Our talk should have been reported—it was too good to be wholly lost... And as for you, Dudley,—I am sure I have never heard your side so plausibly put before." He had a way of spending at least a part of his Sundays with the Harneds—(Mr. Harned married Miss Traubel, my sister)—if not appearing for dinner, coming in the wind-up of a drive in the afternoon, to tea. Many men, distinguished and obscure, met him on these visits. He was a guest thus for some years, till the calamity of 1888—and Harned's is the only strange house at which a few exceptional meals have since been taken. I remember a Christmas dinner which Ernest Rhys, one of Whitman's London admirers, shared. Whitman's appetite was invariably good; but his eating and drinking were alike temperate. "Say that I have an incidental fondness for champagne," he advises me. He always talked easily at Harned's, whether in the parlor or at meals. The children discovered in him a natural companion.

In his aversion to drugs and regimen, Whitman is as positive to-day as in days of best health. He will concede that he loses here and there from his adherence to an old principle—"or is it a prejudice?"—but will contend that he has more than compensating gains. He has never used tobacco in any form, is only a moderate partaker of good wines and whiskies, and is studiedly abstemious with coffee and tea. His daily bathing, his habitual rubbing, his careful regard for the remote previsions of the persons, are vital. No professional prescription could in these things do for him what his constant watchfulness and calm effect.

He is famous for his skilful preparation of toddies. War memories, old instincts preserved, his conviction of its medicinal efficacy, maintain the drink in his respect. With unwearied hand he dispenses the potion among his sick neighbors. One night he offered the mixture to Harrison Morris—taking the water from the stove, the whiskey from a bottle, using a big mug and a spoon, out of the last tasting the consistency of the liquor from time to time. Morris had not expected a stiff drink. With interesting humor, Whitman, who saw his wry face, smiled med_sm.00443_large.jpg and asked: "What is it? Does it need more whiskey?" But his taste in foodstuffs is exact and his knowledge of what his condition imposes perfect. Dr. Bucke thinks he is not on particular points sufficiently careful as to his diet, but admits that on the whole he exercises wonderful judgment.

It was the night of Washington's birthday, 1887, that Whitman appeared before the Contemporary Club, in Philadelphia. I conveyed the invitation to him weeks previous, and I remember his consent as he sat by the winter fire in his parlor. We tried to get him to write some few brief notes or passages which he might read and then let go (a precious historic manuscript) into the archives of the Club; but while he never refused acquiesced, and in the end no word was written or obtained.

Professor Brinton came over to see me one evening, and we went down to Whitman's together. He happened to be in the kitchen talking to Mrs. Davis, and there received us, neither apologizing nor offering to take us elsewhere. Some chance question in the course of our talk caused his digression to Greek art and poetry; and his confident comment flowed without sting, and in tones pure as the nature he described. I walked to the ferry with Brinton, who said as he was leaving me: "That was a great talk. Why shouldn't he go over just such ground for the Club? It is the very thing we want." Next day I repeated this to Whitman, who asked in wonder: "What did I talk about? I don't remember a word of it."

The night of the meeting I had a carriage ready and made the trip over with him. Cold as it was, he threw every window open. He saluted all the ferrymen, had quite a talk with one of the deck hands, was soon on easy terms with our driver. The stars were so clear, the air so racy, he said at one moment: "It is like a new grant of health and freedom." When we reached Girard street (the meeting was in the New Century Club rooms) half a dozen cabmen who stood about offered to help him. He was readily got up-stairs, into the already crowded and not capacious room. We took his overcoat and hat. On first entering, he sat among the irregular clusters of members and their friends. med_sm.00444_large.jpg There was a platform raised about a foot at one end of the room. Would he take that? He responded, "I am in your hands now," adding, "but, first, can't we get more air into this room?" He was helped to the platform. The scene was unique and impressive. The contrast of his simple, massive exterior—his voice, élan, smile—with the literary, intellectual, often social pomp of the group about him, was great. Some of us sat along the edge of the platform at his feet, others stood behind him. He was practically surrounded. But whatever he contrast, the doubt, the critical feeling, his own bearing shamed all antagonistic assertion. His freedom and spontaneity were, in fact, almost exasperating. He would not for instance, talk of poetry, of philosophy, of art, or of anything which would inaugurate controversy. Subtle inquiries were advanced and passed. He took some printed sheets from his breast-pocket, reading. "The Mystic Trumpeter" and "A Voice from the Sea," repeated Murger's "Midnight Visitor," and answered one or two of the more innocent questions that were put. One response, dealing with the idea of procedure and system; "Method does not trouble me, my own method or that of others, provided I or the 'get there'"—excited much amusement. His reading was solemn and impressive. There was some further program, in which he apparently took little interest. He chose his own time to whisper to me his desire to go. On the way down-stairs he took a sip or more of tea or coffee. He was led out as he had been led in. On the step he turned to me—I had one arm—and made some remark about the glory of the stars and how good it was to be free with them again. The drivers here all circled him again, offering congratulations and help.

The Contemporary Club has since given his a second reception—April 15th, 1890. This time he read his Lincoln address. He volunteered it, through me, casually, one night. He had missed 1889 because the early months of that year were full of doubt and disaster. But now he felt able to venture and inspired to speak. He was prompted by what he described as a sentiment of religious duty. There was that in his love for Lincoln which made this sad task welcome. But in the mean med_sm.00445_large.jpg time he suffered a return of the grippe, and for a few days it seemed that it would be impossible for him to get out. Our Club committee were deeply concerned. Whitman himself seriously doubted the issue. He wrote to Dr. Bucke almost positively predicting a surrender. Yet he did not incline to any premature negative. The fifteenth was a Tuesday. I went to him questioningly on the Thursday and Friday that preceded, both times finding him in bed. Personally, I rather urged denial. I meant that he should assume risks. Would it not be as well to realize the impossible? But no! Could the cards be held until Sunday? Let them be held, then: he would hoe to the last. This was an extra Club meeting: the regular meeting had been the Tuesday just passed. Saturday came; he was little, if any, better. But he still persisted. I had promised the President and Secretary that I would communicate with them definitely Sunday forenoon. I reminded Whitman of this. He held out one last ray of hop: "Let it go still; come down in the morning." When I traversed the way again in the morning he was still in bed. But he looked at me with his assuring smile. He said to me a number of times: "I hate to give this up—hate to be baulked; none of my friends, not you, not Dr. Bucke, know the full measure of my stubbornness." But the Tuesday night was in every respect auspicious, and four of us went over in the carriage together. Whitman afterward described this voyage in an unsigned note to the Boston Transcript. He laughingly described it to me as having all the features of a violent rebellion against a sick-bed. The ride was very much as the previous one had been. But the exertion of ascending a long flight of stairs, which he insisted upon, nearly overcame him. He was led to the platform, read his new introductory words, and got along without great difficulty. His voice was melodious, almost as strong as years before. He would not be introduced, saying to the President or to some others that he desired no preliminaries. His manner was indefinably easy. He wore his glasses, often gesticulated appropriately, now and then left his manuscript to add a sentence, or to look across the room, or to repeat some significant turn of phrase or thought. med_sm.00446_large.jpg There were passages in the recital of which he threw his great body back in his chair, spoke with great vehemence, raising head and tone and eye in perfect accord. He patiently remained until Dr. Furness had finished his remarks, and then retired as unostentatiously as he had come. He said laughingly the next day, "The victory was that I did not, 'flunk' altogether." The one of two or three men, or the one single man, in America with whom he recognized a consanguinity of nature.

Though these details of special events may seem tiresome, regarded simply in and for themselves, they serve important ends if the invariable democracy of Whitman's manner, under whatever pressure of literary or social display, is to be understood. And while upon this topic I might add that he is the only honorary member of the Contemporary Club.

I have been asked whether Whitman does not lack humor, whether his manners are not uncouth, and kindred things, of which the absurdity is apparent to any one who meets him face to face. Especially am I asked whether he laughs, or knows a joke when he reads or sees it, or appreciates the flash of wit and the passage of story. It has been so often said of his book that it fails in humor, that the world of readers suppose Whitman must be a gruesome companion. But his laughter is like his grief—it is a deep sea, traveled by ships of mighty draft. Whitman's composure is usually perfect. Dr. Bucke attributes his recovery from his last severe sickness, such as it has been, to his moral strength and calmness—to the fact that in seasons of crises he has never been mastered by, but has always mastered, all depressing emotions. I have known incidents which would have angered or aroused the laughter of any other man, to pass by him unnoticed.

An actor rang the bell one afternoon while we talked together, sent up his card, and was given audience. He begged several autographs for Steele Mackaye and some others, which were given him. Whitman explained that he had always kept a warm heart for stage-players, and that the English actors especially had in various ways responded with a noble friendship. The young fel- med_sm.00447_large.jpglow was disturbed by this comparison. Why was America not entitled to these superior honors? It is certain this passed through his mind. He awkwardly scratched his head, nervously moved about the room, and exclaimed at last, after an evident search for conclusive assurances— "Ah! yes! Mr. Whitman. I know: they love you: but we—WE ADORE YOU!" I felt troubled to suppress my own laughter, but there was Whitman, a king on his throne, not a smile visible. And when the young man went on to relate that he had come from certain New York actors to offer Whitman a benefit, Whitman replied with the same calm air, though now with an increase of feeling.

I have never seen his composure upset but once, and that was under extraordinary circumstances which no righteous man would extenuate. His passion, when it explodes, has a Lear-like intensity. He seems equally frank in welcome of praise of condemnation. Persons come to him with the deliberate purpose to debate, either about his work or theirs. He shows no deference to such an intention, no matter in whom. But courtly and noble welcome, under all proper conditions, never fails. He will rarely debate his own work even with his intimates. But he is always disposed to assert his right to question. After he publishes a piece, he will ask: "Is it clear sailing?" or, "Is it up to standard?" or introduce some similar inquiry which does not commit him, and yet elicits the frank judgment of the person addressed.

I know that many people come, trespass beyond the time he feels he ought to give them, are with more or less decision rebuffed, and go their ways angry that he fails in conversational powers, or is reserved, or is cold, or has not the geniality claimed for him. The visitor rarely looks in himself for an explanation of these apparent discrepancies, and yet it is only thus that he would find the supposed incongruity made plain.

Whitman told me that he had been familiar and well used in the various departments of a New York daily paper, and that one of the men at one time during his illness came on to see him, to bear back authentic word as to his condition. "Give them all my best respects and love," said he, on the emissary's departure. med_sm.00448_large.jpg "Tell them I still hold the fort, after a sort. Tell them my spirits are good; I eat, drink, assimilate, sleep, and digest pretty well. I remember every one of them perfectly, and would like to be with them this moment." I have carried many such messages to printers, mechanics, writers, men in all occupations. "Tell them the fires are not all out, though they burn with less vehemence... and tell them that my love holds on without stint, abatement, denial."

He always has a good word and welcome for Southerners. He has lived much in the South, from Virginia to Texas, and might in ways be taken (and sometimes has been taken) for a Carolina or Alabama planter. He deplores much of the current vulgar sectional animosity. To him there seems a new era entered upon in which we may commonly join hands, any State with any other. He likes visitors who bring laughter and joy, cheer and good nature, thinking the latter quality the best, the most promising, the most national, of all that distinguish our democracy. He is never a man to set the star of another man's individuality. All he asks is that the other bring with him his genuine self.

No man more delights in revelations of revolt against rigid rules, in spontaneity and individuality. Even in strangers he detects all pretense, penetrates all disguise. "We want men—not puppets, echoes." Whitman, as I have said, has a way of lapsing when a stranger becomes obtrusive. He will retire within himself, close the door, emit not a word except in indefinite monosyllables. If the visitor have tact, he will penetrate the cover, say his good-day and go. Whitman will give his own farewell: if he is weary, well extend his hand, make a natural transition, saying, perhaps, "Well, good-by! I am glad you came; when you get back to New York give my love to the boys,"—the dismissal accomplished in the gentlest way, so that the stranger may take it as a compliment rather than a rebuke. I have known Whitman to use this defence with men of distinction as frankly as with obscure and ignorant persons.

He has a habit of regarding himself objectively. He will speak of his work as if it were another man's, will see his principles med_sm.00449_large.jpg as a cause, will use "we" in place of "I," as signifying that others participate in his purposes and achievements. He frankly owns mistakes. His hospitality and love know no abatement with the years. "If I were to write my 'Leaves' over again," he says, "I should put in more toleration and even receptivity for those we call bad, or the criminal."

His frankness has opened him to all sorts of attacks. There are pestilential reporters—I have at least two particular offenders in mind—who have repeatedly misrepresented him, violating friendship and common honor in their private interest. A column of "Sayings" purporting to be Whitman's, and signed by C. Sadakichi Hartmann, recently appeared in the New York Herald. It was full of idiotic falsehood, and Stedman and Holmes were among the victims. One note in particular, in caustic disparagement of Stedman, between whom and Whitman there is the happiest affections, was brutally false. It throws interesting light on the autocratic non-ethical spirit possible under journalism, to know that the Herald would not print a denial of Hartmann's infamous inventions, though such a disclaimer was sent by Dr. Bucke in Whitman's own words. Whitman himself was disturbed and angry. Any one who knows Whitman himself knows that detraction or bitterness in criticism is impossible to him. Woodbury's recent "Talks with Emerson," and Edward Emerson's book about his father, contain most inexcusable thrusts at Whitman. He lets all these things take their course. He will not go into the prints with denials, nor will he counsel his friends to do so. He feels that his position makes the evil most inevitable, and that his books set in such frank background and relief—must at last assure him a right understanding. Nevertheless, he appreciates the peculiar animus of certain attacks made upon him, and for the sake of those whom they injure—their authors—resents interjection and impertinence. "Emerson's son might spare his father, for it is the father who is hurt." And so, with august patience, he meets all the shafts of vicissitude.

I am often asked, "Is Walt Whitman a reader?" Some serious literalists have got the notion that he does not read at med_sm.00450_large.jpg all, or despises books. We know well how familiar he is with the Bible, Homer, Shakspere, copies of which are always kept within reach. I know also, that there is a cluster of other books frequently consulted. A random remembrance takes in Felton's "Greece," a large volume containing all of Walter Scott's poetry, Ellis' old metrical abstracts, Hedge's "Prose Writers and Poets of Germany," Voltaire's Dictionary, volumes of Stedman's "Library of American Literature," Emerson, Ingersoll, Ossian, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Ticknor's "Spanish Literature," various translations of the classics, Danté, Hafiz, Saadi, Omar Khayjam, Symonds. This is to mention only a part. Yet he has no collection except of what he terms "usable books."

He reads the papers. Avoiding discussions of religion and politics, he seeks those items which out of the daily history of a time are sifted for permanent uses. He still gets the Long Islander, his own child, continuing since about 1839. I notice that a copy of this paper looks us in the face from the confusion of his workroom, as photographed by Dr. Johnston. He reads the Camden local papers, the Critic, the great dailies of the chief cities, and fugitive foreign and domestic sheets. But he does not read in long stretches or read books that bore him. His friends everywhere forward matter which they think will be of interest. He enjoys the illustrated papers and appreciates what they are doing to democratize art. He like to examine all periodicals. If I go there with a magazine under my arm, or a paper in my pocket, he is quite likely to ask me to show it to him or to leave it for a day. Any choice bit that I happen upon anywhere in my reading it seems to give him joy to hear about and look at it for himself. His printer's eye is as fresh as in its morning, and his heart responds to all effective pictures. He reads current books. He likes to look into all that appears about his special favorites—Carlyle, Emerson, Ingersoll, and a few others. He does not read Ruskin. Religious and political controversy he almost wholly eschews. Religious newspapers and books of a theological character are ignored. Yet he will sometimes read significant things in religious contro med_sm.00451_large.jpg versy—for example, Ingersoll's discussion with Gladstone, or Huxley on the Pentateuch. "I wish the Colonel every success in his battle with the theological giants... They are strongly intrenched, but he will bring them all down... he is a mighty force in this modern world—this America." He has had varied impulses for and against Tolstoï. He thought "Sebastopol" a masterpiece, while the introspection of "My Confession" and "My Religion" offended him. The "Kreutzer Sonata" elicited his applause. Amiel he speaks of as a sin-hunter. He has read in Ibsen somewhat, but does not find him attractive. He admits that the meagerness of his knowledge of Browning prevents judgment. He speaks of special portions of Browning's work and credits them with power and native right. There his criticism stops. Though he reads stories and novels lest of all, he frank and young even with these, and perfectly willing to try a new light. He is not set in any tradition whatever. He likes to hear of new books, new actors, new artists. He looks upon himself as only a forerunner, at the best. Why, therefore, may not any day be the day of best arrival? He is a new-old man in the greatest sense. His boyhood still commands, and his enthusiasms ascend the dizziest heights. He never will discuss a book save as it asserts a human apotheosis and serves human ends. He sees no literary greatness but through the vision of the race. No man has a more penetrating eye for shams. John Burroughs once told me that he thought Whitman the best critic in America. I know myself the marvellous complexities of style and subject through which he will pierce a straight path to the central purpose. He always expresses admiration for the great jurists, who cannot be distracted by multitudes of detail. How many fledgeling poets send their songs to him! I find he cuts a few pages—enough to free the first evidence of music, if there be any—and that pause and silence tell the rest. He looks enough at the poetry of magazines to perceive its prevailing lack of flavor and conviction. What real art, he will ask, but flows in red blood, from love to lover, to unite and consecrate undying days? Yet he is never harsh in special criticism. He is vehement in his general principles, but his forgive med_sm.00452_large.jpg ness and affection for individuals are boundless. He loves books from the side of the mechanic. He delights in the simple honest face of the picas, enjoys and commends the printer who is generous with hi sink, discovers and dwells upon any felicitous of skillful (if not sensational) arrangement of page or cover. In short, the integrity of a book throughout is, he claims, an important mark in the history of an age. He rather affects English printing, and on the whole will not admit that the art has yet given America all its secrets and success all its laurels. He appreciates Ingersoll's vivid picture of the average book— "On the title pages of these books you will find the imprint of the great publishers—on the rest of the pages, nothing." If a book have not brains or love it may have good paper and honest binding. These are consolations which he accepts and communicates with rare humor. No one who came upon him frequently and was a witness of all his tastes and moods could fail to perceive and acknowledge hi catholicity.

Whitman is a great reformer—is in everything non-conventional—yet never reads "reform" books. "Leaves of Grass" epitomizes a thousand philosophies. All the modern reformers find themselves reflected in "Leaves of Grass," and each reformer thinks his the only reflection, and Whitman therefore specialized. But, including all—anarchist, socialist, democrat, aristocrat—Whitman eludes the claims of all. He does this in his person as in his books. Men are angered because no label will stick to him. A distinguished Irish clergyman came in one summer evening, and his very preliminary—that he had traveled three thousand miles to question Whitman about certain philosophies in "Leaves of Grass"—was an offence, and made the interview ridiculously brief. Whitman knows little or nothing of the detail of industrial movements—of special reforms and social ideals—yet there is to-day no more sympathetic appeal than his, spoken freely at all times to his rich as to his poor friends, for the sanctity and elevation of the fireside, for the meting of justice to the masses, for all possible extinction of the tyranny of circumstance. Great capital, emphasis placed upon possession, the éclat of social trappery, invite and receive his disgust. He recognizes the med_sm.00453_large.jpg vicious tendencies of our monopolistic civilization, and with a free hand sketches its dangers. "What we need is a race enjoying just harvest—not a special few grabbing up the whole product of the field."

Whitman never forgets his debt, and that of his ancestors, to Elias Hicks. He abounds in reference to George Sand, a paper-covered translation of whose "Consuelo," belonging to his mother, is an object of abiding resource and affection. He commends the scientific spirit, seeing in Darwin and typical men of his character the clearest eyes of our generation. His whole life is elevated to such covenants. He makes laborer, railroader, clerk, merchant, lawyer, artist, on his own ground, and always with keen, inquisitive inspiration. His slightest reference to motherhood is a picture of household, babe and man. His friendships have been the greatest. The valorous history of O'Connor, at least in literature, was vastly greater. There are warm personal relations between him and Tennyson, though they have never seen each other. I remember a letter from Tennyson, surrounded by its rib of black, redolent with savor of wind and water, a strain of poetry in itself, which Whitman for a long time carried in his vest pocket. What he has been to John Burroughs has been to him, in years of national and personal war and peace, is unwritten history. New years bring new lovers. Dr. Bucke, whose book was published about 1883, Dowden, Symonds, Kennedy, Sarrazin, and Bertz are regular or occasional correspondents. The eloquent voice and pen of Ingersoll have been potent for Whitman on more than one occasion. Whitman writes them his postals or brief letters in a style simple, frank, and full of affection. These messages abound in the gentle cadent confidences of love—in flashes of poetic feeling and glowing peaks of sunny thought; but they are never epigrammatic. He is not in the least demonstrative, never excessively applauding, never making superfluous calls for devotion. med_sm.00454_large.jpg He never apologizes. He is not afraid to discuss the weaknesses of his friends, and never slow to point out "the much that Walt Whitman must answer for." He treats his household as by a holy law. Mrs. Davis, his housekeeper, never finds him indifferent, condescending, or morose. His spirit ignores all petty household worries. Warren Fritzinger, who attends upon Whitman, and is provided for through a fund statedly replenished by a group of Whitman's lovers, and who finds his service a delight, attests that in whatever hour or necessity, Whitman's most intimate humor is to the last degree composed and hopeful. In his relations with his neighbors, Whitman, while homely and affectionate, always stops short of familiarity. He sends the sick among them offerings of fruit, or of reading matter, or any minor commodities which brighten afflicted days. One of his delights is in the liberal distribution of the papers, pamphlets and books that so plentifully arrive. To England, to Germany, to Australia, to our own West, to institutions of charity, to Bucke, to Burroughs, to Kennedy, to Mrs. O'Connor, go the informal reminders of his remembrance—always the particular paper to the one in whom he thinks will find the best response. I have a large collection of papers, manuscripts and letters which he has at different times given me. I am often the bearer of gifts to the "boys" in Philadelphia. He will get his magazine pieces duplicated, in order that he may send copies to his family; and he will similarly use large numbers of newspapers containing significant references to himself. Thus he is saved the burden of a large correspondence, since his friends will understand by such tokens that he has them near at heart, however the labors of letter-writing may, in these days, go unperformed.

Whatever the clouds that gather, the spiritual Whitman remains undisturbed. There is no fall in sweetness, no diminution of vital affection, no reduction in will. His criticism is as keen as when it spoke its first word. He remarks a break in visual clearness, that his memory has recently been less faithful, and that his hearing has lost in delicacy. The quality of his work defies the charge of deterioration, but he can by no means do as much, or work with the same fire and intensity, as in the past. med_sm.00455_large.jpg Application wearies him. Yet he is occupied the larger part of every day. Though he outlines and discusses many unaccomplished plans, I notice that the defect is not in his plans but in their issue—that the body will not readily respond. He is taken out regularly in his chair, perhaps to the outskirts of the town, where he may scan the free sky, the shifting clouds, watch the boys at base-ball, or breathe in drowsily— "for reasons," he would say—the refreshing air; or he is guided to the river, with its boats and tides and revelation of sunset. In winter his sensitiveness to the cold is apt to house him, or force his goings-forth into the earlier hours, near mid-day. There was a time when he spent many noons and evenings on the ferry-boats, but he is disinclined in these later times to face crowds and confusion and questioners, and therefore seeks less-travelled ways.

Whitman's life is practically spent in one room of his house. I have already alluded to it: a second-story room, about twenty feet square, facing north. He likens it to "some big old cabin for a kinky sailor—captain of a ship." We see there two old tables—one a Whitman heirloom, having more than a hundred years of history, and another made in Brooklyn by his father. Scarcely one piece of modern furniture appears. There is a wood stove, in which he keeps up a rousing fire in cold seasons; a solid, uncreaking bed, plain and old; some heavy boxes, in which he stores copies of his own books; an ample rattan-seated chair with timber-like rockers and arms, large as ship's spars, with a wolf-skin thrown over its back when winter appears. He sits here—reads, scribbles, ruminates. His writing is always done on his knee, a tablet being his constant companion. Around him are the books which have been named and others, spread upon chairs, tables, and floor. Letters, papers, magazines, manuscripts, memoranda slips, are scattered in greatest confusion. There are certain volumes here of which he says he "reads lingeringly and never tires." His tables are never without flowers. As he can walk only by the aid of furniture, cane, and wall, he has abandoned any attempt at apparent order and what strict housekeepers would call neatness. But he like his room well ventilated. His tastes, habits, looks, show more plainly in med_sm.00456_large.jpg old age his farmer and Holland ancestry, with their unartificial and Quaker tendencies.

He constantly asserts that no sketch of him would hit the mark that left out the principal object of his whole life, namely, the composition and finish of his magnum opus, the poems, consistently with their own plan. This has been his aim, work and thought from boyhood, and the proper rounding of it has become the joy and resolve of his old age. All the later writings show how unfailingly this purpose controls. Read the concluding poems in "November Boughs," which we thought would be the last, then "Old Age's Ship and Crafty Death's," "To my 71st year," "The Voice of Death," and latest and perhaps most wonderful of all, "To the Sunset Breeze," as indicating how this giant man, sitting here in the freedom which no physical disorder can destroy, is a very heaven of purposeful stars. He has pictures of his friends about him. The mantelpiece, the walls, even the tables, have these reminders. Several pictures of Whitman, made in oil, by Sidney Morse, are, or have been, upon the walls. Dr. Johnston took one of them home with him to England. In the hall are copies of the two Morse busts. Upon the door, or sofa, against the wall, on nails and under papers, is his clothing. An elegant, never-used, dusty, brass lamp is set in the corner. His evening light is either from the broken-chimneyed drop on one of the tables, or from a gas-jet in another part of the room. The room adjoining, in which his attendant sleeps, has likewise its loaded bookshelves and overflowing boxes. Friends are surprised to find him living in such simplicity. But this room, with its homely liberty, gives him all there is of household sacredness and content. There is probably no other study like it in the world. It is rather the den of a newspaper office—the odd and end of a household—yet a royal chamber, too, such as this world cannot companion to-day. Here is the field which invites the rally of friends. He is on no throne. But his dignity and placid courtesy possess all who approach. The world seeks him in this spot, to forget instantly all the environing humbleness, and to know the soul by which the place is inhabited.


All the features of Whitman's face suggest inception and amplitude. Hence the failure of Alexander to make of his pinched and formalized Whitman anything which can have value. Hence the explanation why Eakins, in that glorious head found in Whitman's parlor, expressed by so many hints the life of the man. But even Eakins seems to me to have caught Whitman rather as he said, "I have said that the soul is not more than the body," than as he said, "I have said that the body is not more than the soul." Whitman has been photographed as often perhaps as any public man who ever lived, and the photographs are in the main better than any oil or crayon portrait. The Gutenkunst picture reproduced by the New England Magazine is the very latest (taken within a year), and satisfies Whitman as fully as the best. Morse's clay, uniting what Eakins caught with something more, has noble power and faithfulness. There are a couple of crayons, the work of my father, which are strongly handled. Whitman is generous with the artists, giving them all the sittings they desire. All that picture can do for any man has been done for him.

Whitman is eminently loved as a man. He keeps on gaining friends, and these friends are marked men. He has unceasing messages from devoted supporters in Australia. A group of Lancashire disciples has just been discovered. One of the group has within a few months paid him a visit, made a series of photographs of dwelling, street, room, and nurse, passed a night in the house in which Whitman was born, visited Gilchrist at Centreport, Long Island, and Burroughs at West Park, on the Hudson—and has since his return published an account of his novel pilgrimage.

The dinner given Whitman on his last birthday had remarkable features apart from Ingersoll's great speech, which Whitman thought the most powerful extempore utterance he had ever known or of which there is any record. The later lecture by Ingersoll on Whitman was also significant. The noble motive med_sm.00458_large.jpg which gave it background, its realization, the splendid proportions of its benefit, Ingersoll's unhesitating generosity, are hidden factors of which few know. The utterance itself Whitman regards as in many respects the most significant in the stormy career of "Leaves of Grass." Symonds always addresses him as "Master," and writes him the warmest letters. The host of his callers is great—every day some. John Burroughs comes down once a year, in the fall, from his estate, to spend several days in Camden. Whitman's family are all more of less distant. He has a sister in Vermont, another on Long Island, a brother, George, in Burlington, New Jersey. His brother "Jeff," who recently died in St. Louis, was an engineer of note, dear to Whitman, who traveled with him in early years. Records may be found in "Specimen Days" in mention of "Jeff," to whom Whitman has just written loving and memorable words of tribute for an engineering journal.

Whitman has instinctive reverence for women, always addressing and approaching them with gentle courtesy. And women reciprocate the tender respect. Women, who are first to wonder at his gospel of sex, are first to accept it too, and least willing of all to yield its sacred import. And with their intuitions awake and sensitive, they early realize how Whitman's concrete act reflects the word he has spoken. No man is so loved of strong women. It is happiness to hear him talk of "the mothers of America" —how our future is involved with their symmetrical development and high faith.

His atmosphere breathes composure, power, sweetness, reverence, the background of all moral force. He rarely speaks of morality, yet is profoundly moral in all that he does and says. He puts the brightest face on all he sees. His discussion of current vices is strong and denunciatory—yet unfailing in its look forward. I never know him to strike a note of despair. His darkest pictures leave a spot for hope—issue a sunniness and assurance. As between the final poetic utterance of Whittier and Tennyson he rather preferred the first, as having a more unquestionable atmosphere of joy.

Whitman is often spoken of as "queer" or "eccentric." He med_sm.00459_large.jpg is neither, except in the sense that must always distinguish individuality. He delights in free speech, gravity and purity. He has the clean instincts which prevail over and explain grossness and squalor, whether of life or voice—evil narrative or cheerless philosophy. He delights to tell and to hear stories. His sense of the humorous is strong. He discusses his contemporaries with the utmost freedom, yet with the utmost sweetness. Any just report of his conversation would reveal the simple power and lambent reach of his thought.

I know no great event to pass by him unnoticed. All the world's affairs are his affairs. He loves the transactions of big conferences—of scientists, mechanics, laborers, engineers. He enjoys all that tends to enlarge the scope of man's hope, anything that in religion or society or politics is for breadth and solidarity. He is intensely attracted toward the expanding movements of labor and the serious outcome they seem to invoke. He disdains patriotism in the common sense—looks to America to lead new ways rather than to halt till all are ready to come. He is lame, he suffers pain and physical decadence, he knows that by gradual retreats life is leaving him; yet his light that burns on the height, and his loving and capacious dream and carol for America and for the world, are strong as in youth, and seem sustained from exhaustless deposits. His amenity is invariable. His respect for man as man is infinite. It is the first not and the last of his song—its dawn and sunset.

Day by day he sends forth some new message to the world—some poem, some bit of penetrating prose—written on the oddest pieces of paper utilized in the history of literature. These are leaves of immortal life. He writes a large hand, uses a mammoth Falcon pen, will dip in none but the blackest ink; he will not punctuate by the rule of schools, will not adopt the phraseology of taste, will not rhyme like the poets, will not perfume and carpet his study, will not accept household and architecture as substitutes for virtue and freedom; he will not reverence the mechanic in man more than the king in man, but the man in man, be his dress or titles what they may; he will not confuse med_sm.00460_large.jpg uses with ends, will not repulse the criminal and invite the saint, will not defer to the humor of magazinists, will not minimize his nature in order that convention may profit, will not travel the polite earth for fame or gain.

These denials are thick, every one, with affirmation: for all that Whitman denies is denied out of respect for that primal self which to-day utters scripture and to-morrow will pulse in the life of the race. What men need to know of him is his wonderful simplicity and capaciousness—that manuscript, house, room, nurse, pen, chirography, friendships, speech, all point to impulses, means, and ends, unusual and great. It is the mark of a new entrance upon the stage. It is the sign of man to men that they must come from the cover of goods—that the hideous mockeries of society carry death and dishonor in the plausible splendor—that the summoner himself is the first to demonstrate that possessions, which the world mistakes for the necessity of power, are simple leaves on the wind when a strong man arrives.

Whitman is not America except as America is universal. He is democracy—and democracy has no geographical word. He has taught literature that it is not to tell a life but to be one; and when priest and prophet, editor and lawyer, mechanic and tradesman, have learned this lesson, equity will prevail, and the now obscured stars in the moral heavens will stand forth in honor of the restoration.

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