Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Edward Wilkins, 31 December 1889

Date: December 31, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00933

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:409–410. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

Camden N J—USA
Night Dec: 31 '89

Dear Ed

Y'r letter came this forenoon & am glad you keep well & are satisfied at y'r occupation1—No doubt it will turn out well as it is a good business & with ordinary luck will return a handsome income—& besides it is y'r own choice & satisfaction—wh' is a great point—Nothing very new or different here—If you were to come here (& pleas'd w'd I be to see you, boy) now, you w'd see me seated by the oak wood fire in the big ratan chair with the gray wolf-skin spread on the back, & the same old litter of papers & MSS & books around on the floor in the same old muss—I don't get any worse but no improvement in health or strength either—but I keep pretty good spirits & eat & sleep fairly yet—Have my daily curryings, & get out often in wheel chair2—Warren3 has had a couple or three days sickness—the doctor was a little afraid of typhoid fever, but it seems to have pass'd over, & he is getting ab't the same as before—Mrs: D[avis]4 is well—I send you a paper—hear from Dr B[ucke]5 often—he is well & busy—Warren is learning the fiddle—he is getting along well—takes lessons of Watson.6

Good bye for the present, Ed, & my remembrances & love to you, boy—

Walt Whitman

Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195.


1. On December 24, 1889, Wilkins informed Whitman that he had left Camden because he was unhappy with his Camden friends and because he wanted to enter the "Veterinary business." [back]

2. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]

3. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]

4. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.