Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Sidney H. Morse to Walt Whitman, 26 December 1887

Date: December 26, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03157

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Morse's Cellar," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

Monday morning1

Dear Walt,

I had proposed to be over yesterday, but the rain set in, & [minus an umbrella?]. I concluded to stay home & paint. I have the President about finished off.2 Hope to cast him, for good or ill, Wednesday, & get him on exhibition.

I have painted 2 heads of yourself, & will bring them over. Have not been very well, so have had to keep quiet & stay in doors , in order to put in some time at work. I think the president looks well. I wish if it is a pleasant day tomorrow, you would get up courage ride over & make a call, & see for yourself how the "head (& body) of the Nation looks."

The boxes were shipped Monday, & I suppose you may have heard from Dr Bucke.3

Tell Mrs. Davis4 to look after the "hens & things" in the back yard & I will be greatly obliged. I sent Smith with your bust,5 an Emerson6 & two of the medallions.

I hope you are as well as usual.

If Herbert comes in today or tomorrow, ask him if wont come & see me at 136 N. 17.

This rain will settle things for the big Centennial—

S. H. Morse.

Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Richmond | Dec [illegible] | [illegible] | 87; Camden. N. J. | DEC | 27 | 7AM | [illegible] | Re [illegible]. [back]

2. Morse produced a statuette of President Grover Cleveland in 1887. [back]

3. 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]

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. A reference to Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman—apparently the poet's favorite depiction of himself at the time. A photo of it would later become the frontispiece of Horace Traubel's 1889 Camden's Compliments to Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay), one of the first print-collections of Whitman's letters, addresses and notes. [back]

6. The sculptor produced a plaster head of Emerson that was much admired by Emerson's friends and family. [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.