Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Labar to Walt Whitman, 4 June 1890

Date: June 4, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03225

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Ian Faith, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Richard E. Labar,
Real Estate,
National Exchange Bank Building
Waukesha, Wis.,
June 4 18890.

My dear Mr Whitman

An earnest hand–shake on your birthday1 & continued presence among us! I notice a brief mention in the papers of a tribute by friends, including the Colonel,2 & will much enjoy a full account of it, if you have a paper handy. All goes well here—


Richard E. Labar (1864–1885), a native of Pennsylvania, began working in the offices of the Philadelphia Ledger at the age of twelve. He later moved to Colorado and then spent the 1884–1885 academic year at the University of Michigan studying literature and law. He began to sell books to fund additional study at Union High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. In 1887, he founded the Waukesha World newspaper and worked in real estate. For more on Labar and his family's history, see "Richard E. Labar," Portrait and Biographical Record of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, Volume 2 (Chicago: Excelsiour Publishing Co., 1894), 506–507.


1. In honor of Whitman's 71st birthday, his friends gave him a birthday dinner on May 31, 1890, at Reisser's Restaurant in Philadelphia. The main speaker was Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, and there were also speeches by the physicians Richard Maurice Bucke and Silas Weir Mitchell. The Camden Daily Post article "Ingersoll's Speech" of June 2, 1890, was written by Whitman himself and was reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (Prose Works, 1892, ed. Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [New York: New York University Press: 1963–1964], 686–687). "Honors to the Poet" appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1890. See also the notes on Whitman's birthday party in the poet's June 4, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]

2. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]


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