Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Burt Zimmerman to Walt Whitman, 21 March 1886

Date: March 21, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04894

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: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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138 E 22nd St
N Y Mch 21 86

Dear Old Man:—

I received tonight an elaborate card of introduction to the "Manhattan Safety Deposit Vault Company." Now, by Croesus! Now, by Momus! Let us join hands and roll and expire in laughter! If my accumulation of shoes—my cast-off shoes—like wine and Old Daubs were increased in value by cobwebs and mould and boomerang kicks against Fate—I might—I might, then, I say,—so numerous be those unmendable boots—have much joy in knowing that at least one Safety Deposit Vault Company in the land boasted a receptacle wide and deep and strong enough to house and protect my feet.

(P.S. The "boomerang kicks" refer to the boots—not the Daubs.)

I believe as you do that "the bitch" likes to hear herself talked about. She evidently overheard your remarks in the letter before me and has taken revenge upon me as [above?] by chaining me to her rock and inviting me to feast upon viands beyond reach. So is mythological history repeated! As a matter of fact "the bitch" has sentenced me to walk past the identical Deposit place six times a week. But, to filch again from the riches of your letter: "Lets talk about something else." "Poverty be d—d and avaunt!" I'm going now to perform the feat of taking a drink and lighting a pipe in one and the same breath. Ah-h-! I came so near accomplishing this feat that a dimpled Bacchus in an oval frame smiled most approvingly and I fancied I heard a rustle as though Sir Walter Raleigh1 had suddenly sat upright in admiration. My only sorrow at this moment is in that: its the last drink in the bottle and two blocks to where my credit is unimpaired and the rain coming down in torrents. But, by Neptune! "all accoutred as I am" I'll plunge me in and swim it! I've got a new pipe—a clay of fantastical mould from Paris—and it is couloring beautifully.

You are right—as you always are: I will not attack or reflect in any way upon Puck.

Your letter gives me comfort in more ways than one.2 But first of all in its protestations of undying love—which, even to the remotest corners of my heart, I believe to be as true as the ring of pure gold. Dear Old Man! the possession of such coin requires no Safety Deposit Vault nor bolts nor bars other than the tendrils that entwine all true hearts, and its possession is wealth beyond all petty standards of valuation. I rejoice with with you at the prospect of sojourning in the mountains—if so it can be. I rejoice with you that there are still other strings of your stringing with latent music in their tension. May Fortune—no longer a spiteful spinster, but the beautiful, blooming, blushing goddess that she is!—smile upon you her sweetest smile and fold you in her warmest embrace.

I sent you Saturday four Pucks and a Life. I will not bother you with the sketches in Judge. Now, Old Man, tell me which sketch you like. Concerning "the word with the bark on" in "Mandy"—it was too late to change it as it had already been accepted when your letter came to me.

That long sentence is the commencement line of my last sketch—"Mirandy, the Featherless Maid", and is accepted by Mr. Munkittrick,3 for Puck on Wheels. It will be my first appearance in this Annual. "The Ghost of Grassmere" will probably appear in Life tomorrow—if not then—next week, and I will send it to you.

God Bless You

Now, by Old Silenius! I'm going to break the record of swift swims—from [Misners?] boarding house to the marble portico of the Grammercy Flats Bar-room.

Burt Zimmerman was a satirist, writing for the New York-based Puck on Wheels.


1. Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618) was an English poet, soldier and explorer. He introduced tobacco to England. [back]

2. Whitman's letter is not extant. [back]

3. R. K. Munkittrick was a humorist and poet (1852–1911) who wrote for Punch, Puck on Wheels, and Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly[back]


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