Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Wilkins to Walt Whitman, 24 December 1889

Date: December 24, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04866

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dec. 24th 891

Dear Walt

Your welcome letter came to hand a few weeks ago, and was pleased to hear from you.

I am still in London making the best of every thing, & I imagine, doing first rate, I have quiet a lot of driving to do, sometimes we have a trip of ten or fifteen miles through rain & mud.

I had a very good time Christmas, went home & helped to eat the turkey, all my sisters & brothers were there & we had a good time. I am going to see Dr Bucke2 next week, also have a dance in the new Ball room. I fully intended going before this but kept putting it off.

How did you spend Christmas. I hope well. Warren3 is a pretty good fellow & I hope you hang on to him for it is hard to get a young lad to take an interest in anything about a house, unless they are brought up to it. I would have stayed longer with you only for some of the Camden fellows that was keeping up the nurce fund.

After being there a few months it was plain enought to see that I was not good enough for them & if it had not been that you liked me pretty well I would have got the street for a companion long before the summer was over. So I made up my mind to leave in the fall & go at the Veterinary business which I consider was a wise step

You must write me often so I will know how you are getting along as I am anxious to know. Remember me to Mrs Davis4 & Warren,

Your friend
E Wilkins

A happy new year to all.

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | USA. It is postmarked: CTWEST [illegible]S | AM | De 30 | 89 | London On; Camden, N.J. | Dec | 31 | 12 M | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]

2. 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]

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]


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