Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward T. Wood to Walt Whitman, 21 December 1891

Date: December 21, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04643

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, 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

Rand Bros.
New York,
1 Dec 21 1891

My dear Sir.

I have read in the newspapers the account of your dangerous illness, and hasten to extend to you a little information and advice.—I am but two weeks off from my bed, after having suffered for six weeks with Bronchial Pneumonia,—such as you are said to have.—I was taken down at my farm in Westchester County near Pleasantville station on the Harlem road. And my doctor was Doct Swift2 of that place. He brought me through, refusing to permit any cupping as was done in Florences3 case; but taking good care, that during every half hour, I should have a fresh, hot flax seed poultice over my lungs in front—not covering the shoulder blades, except that he gave me a jacket over my shirt, to protect from cold, as I thrashed about. The jacket was a linen one with sleeves. so that I should not feel the heat of one.—Now, after a short time, (only a few hours,) from my left lung, (the one worst affected,) I began to throw off a green mucus.—This continued for days.—My breath came & went with a rattle. but this he assured me would disappear, as it finally did.—My doctor insisted I would live.—others said no. I could not.—He also gave my nurse each night instructions that at the end of each 2 hours, I should take a milk punch of Jamaica rum, milk & sugar,—a wine glass full.—And daytime I should take 2 or 3 as I needed or felt inclined.—He gave me then sauce to eat. such as Partridges, and in fact any thing I felt I could relish. To those flax seed poultices and the stimulants which kept me up, I owe my recovery. I am still a little weak, but my strength is daily improving.—I believe you can recover if you will follow my suggestions. And you can write to Doct Swift, or I will for you if you desire & notify me, for the other medicines he gave me to help the poultices on.

If I can benefit you, you can rest assured I shall only be too happy to do so.—

My address is for the next week at this Hotel. After that to my office 132 Nassau Street New York City.

Yours Very Sincerely
Edward T Wood

The Honored Walt Whitman

P.S. I used the poultices of flax seed so hot, that I could barely endure them. Gradually I got so I could have one put on so hot I could not bear my hand upon it. He also painted my lungs with Iodine.—but put the flax seed, red hot right over it.


Colonel Edward T. Wood (ca. 1830–1898) was born in Steuben County, New York, and moved to Brooklyn in 1853. In 1856, he was one of three assemblymen to represent King's County in the New York State Legislature and the only assemblyman from Brooklyn elected as a member of the American Party, another name for the popular anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, far-right "Know Nothing" movement. In 1858, Wood was appointed as Collector of Internal Revenue for Brooklyn's third district. After moving to Manhattan in 1874, Wood practiced law and was Corporation Counsel in 1885 for "Acting Mayor" William P. Kirk, a position he held for twelve hours. Wood's appointment was contested by Emile Henry Lacombe, who was named Corporation Counsel by outgoing mayor Franklin Edson before Kirk, as President of the Board of Aldermen, assumed the role of Acting Mayor before the installation of the incoming William Russell Grace. Arguing that the Acting Mayor does not have authority to grant political appointments, Mayor Grace overturned Kirk's appointment of Wood. For more information on Wood, see his obituary, "Death List of a Day," The New York Times (September 4, 1898), 7. For information on Wood's brief appointment as Corporation Counsel, see "Rival Claimants Heard: The Controversy as to Who is the City's Counsel," The New York Times (January 23, 1885), 8.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman Esq | Camden | New Jersey | (Immediate). It is postmarked: NEW YORK | DEC 21 | 8 PM | E; NY | 12-21-91 | 10 PM | [illegible]; CAMDEN, N.J. | DEC 22 | 6 AM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. Doctor Samuel Swift (1849–1896) was born in Brooklyn and studied philosophy at Yale. After one year in the medical department of Cambridge University, he began studying medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia College and completed his training in 1872. Swift was appointed attending physician at St. John's Riverside Hospital in Yonkers in 1874 and was elected Mayor of Yonkers in 1882. For more information, see Swift's obituary, "Dr. Samuel Swift" in The New York Times, (July 30, 1896), 5. [back]

3. 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.