Commentary

Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: March 29, 1877

Publication information: Camden Daily Post 29 March 1877.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: med.00592

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nic Swiercek, and Shea Montgomerey




image 1

WALT WHITMAN.

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He visits New York after 5 years absence High tone Society now takes him to its bosom—Yet he rides again atop of the Broadway omnibuses and Fraternizes with drivers and boatmen—He has a New Book under way—He is better in health.

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After an absence and sickness of nearly five years, says a New York paper of March 28th, 1877, the "old gray poet" has returned temporarily to his

Mast-hemm'd Manhattan,

and, in moderation, has been all the past month visiting, riding, receiving, and jaunting in and about the city, and, in good-natured response to pressure, has even appeared two or three times in brief, off hand public speeches.

Mr. Whitman, at present near his fifty-ninth birth day, is better in health and appearance than at any time since his paralytic attack at Washington in 1878. Passing through many grave experiences since that period, he still remains tall and stout as ever, with the same florid face, with his great masses of hair and beard whiter than ever. Consumed in his usually entire suit of English gray, with loose sack coat and trousers, and broad shirt collar open at the neck and guiltless of tie, he has, through the month, been the recipient and centre of social gatherings, parlors, club meetings, lunches, dinners, and even dress receptions—all which he has taken with steady good nature, coolness, and moderation.

As he sat on the platform at the Liberal Club on Friday night last he looked like an old Quaker, especially as, in response to the suggestion of the President, and sitting near a window draught, he unhesitatingly put on his old white broadbrim, and wore it the whole evening. In answer to pressing requests, however, toward the close, he rose to let the audience see him more fully, and, doffing his hat, smilingly said, in response to calls for a speech, that he "must decline to take any other part than listener, as he knew nothing of the subject under debate, (blue glass), and would not add to the general stock of misinformation."

At the full dress reception of the Portfolio and Palette Clubs on the Fifth ave., a few nights previous, as he slowly crossed the room to withdraw, he was saluted by a markedly peculiar murmur of applause, from a crowded audience to the most cultured and elegant society of New York, including most of the artists of the city. It was a singularly spontaneous and caressing testimonial, joined in heartily by the ladies, and the old man's cheeks, as he hobbled along through the kindly applause and smiles, showed a deep flush of gratified feeling.

Mr. Whitman has been the guest, most of the month, of Mr. and Mrs. Johnston of 113 east Tenth street, whose parlors have been thrown open on two special occasions for informal public receptions in compliment to him, which were crowded, happy, and brilliant to the highest degree. The poet has also been up the Hudson on a five days' visit to his friend John Burroughs and Esopus. George W. Waters, the artist, has taken advantage of his visit here to paint a good head of him, which will be on view at the forthcoming Academy Exhibition.

(A sad interpolation remains to be made here—the fearfully sudden and unexpected death of his beloved hostess Mrs. Amelia F. Johnston, which occurred just at the close of the visit. Rare and beautiful in every relation, as wife, mother and friend, the memory of this sainted lady will always be deeply cherished.)

Nearly every fair day, up to Saturday, Mr. Whitman has explored the city and neighborhood, often as near possible after the fashion of old times. Again he has taken rides up and down Broadway on top of the Fifth avenue and Twenty-third street omnibuses, and talked with his old chums, the drivers, receiving incessant salutes of raised hands as he passed and was recognized. He has been over to Brooklyn and taken the unsurpassed views again from the hills of Fort Greene and ocean vistas from Prospect Park. Again, too, he has lingered for several trips up in the pilot house, crossing Fulton ferry, conferring with his old comrades, the pilots and deck hands. Again, he has dwelt long on the picturesqueness, beauty, and unequaled show of our waters and bay.

Walt Whitman will finish his fifty-eighth year on the coming 31st May, that being his birthday. Vehemently discussed as his literary works have been, he has yet found no publisher, but has lately printed his complete works in two volumes, which he sells exclusively himself. At present he has a new book of prose and poetry, partially completed, to be called "Far and Near at 59." Physically his paralysis is still uncured, and he has serious stomachic trouble, and bad lameness, but he gets around quite a good deal, keeps always excellent spirits, believes thoroughly not only in the future world, but the present, and especially in our American part of it.

Mr. Whitman expressed himself a day or two since as not without hopes of being yet able in the future to do some work, both as writer and speaker in the land. He says he is much braced and comforted every way by this visit to his prized "Manhattan," and his month's experiences here; that though a new generation of men and women has come forward during his absence—he left here in 1863—he finds himself received throughout New York by the highest classes, and by all classes, not only as one familiarly known, but with deepest affection and respect. But his visit is finished, and he returned yesterday to his present residence in Camden, New Jersey.


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