Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Sidney H. Morse to Walt Whitman, 26 February 1888

Date: February 26, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03182

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.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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26th Feb '88
Richmond Ind.1

Dear Walt;

Heigho! Midwinter again. And snow—ground all covered. Perhaps its the last slap. I pray the gods—so make it be. Seven sparrows are out on the naked limbs of the tree—all huddled up. Yesterday I threw them a crumb, & they all jumped down & had a big fight for it. They seem the quintessence of selfishness—more greedy than pigs. When me thinks of the solemn great creator of the universe making such funny, spiteful little "animated torrid zones"2 & covering them with feathers—it seems as if our Church deacons were off the track."Mebbe no, & mebby yes," quoth my Italian.

I sent Mrs. Davis3 the Register with report of my modeling in the church.

I'm working on my cast for the indication of the "spirit and the means" for the next stroke of fortune.

Glad to hear of the completion of the portrait. I am anxious to see it.

I've worked on my story some of late, & have all done but the last 3 chapters. I fear my hero belongs to an impossible age.

Yes, I think New York State good, & Canada, I believe, would be good also. What 'hinders my going over the whole country? I'd like to go South—I believe I could tell Southern people a good deal about the North. I've got, say, ten years before me. When I get an idee I could stop & model it. My health is "boss," & I feel like raging about.

Keep so, so. I shall be along in time, & talk you tired—

Regards to Mrs. D.


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 | 329 Mickle St Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: RICHMOND | MAR 4 | 4:30 PM | 88; CAMDEN, N. J. | MAR | [10?] | [8?]AM | [illegible] | REC'D. There is at least one other postmark that is only partially visible on the stamps and is entirely illegible. [back]

2. Morse is referencing Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "To the Humble-Bee," which includes the line: "Thou animated torrid zone." [back]

3. 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]


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