Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, John Burroughs, and Richard Maurice Bucke, 25 February 1887

Date: February 25, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: med.00754

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Miller's transcription is derived from a transcription made by William Sloane Kennedy and located in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:70–71. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kevin McMullen, Stephanie Blalock, and Nicole Gray

Feb. 25, '87, P. M.

Am sitting here by the window in the little front room down stairs, well wrapt up—for though bright & sunny it is a cold freezing day—have had my dinner (of rare stewed oysters, some toasted graham bread & a cup of tea—relished all)—am about as usual—ups & downs—had rather a bad day yesterday—lay on the lounge most of the day—now better—the worst is my enforced house-imprisonment, sometimes two weeks at a time—Spirits & heart though mainly gay, which is the best half of the battle1—Love & comfort to you, my friends—your wives & all—Write often as you can—(monotony is now the word of my life)—

Walt Whitman

When read send to John Burroughs, West Park, Ulster County, New York.2

William Sloane Kennedy, John Burroughs, and Richard Maurice Bucke were three of Whitman's closest friends and admirers. Kennedy (1850–1929) first met Whitman while on the staff of the Philadelphia American in 1880, and would go on to write a book-length study of the poet. Burroughs (1837–1921), a naturalist, met Whitman in Washington, D.C. in 1864 and became one of Whitman's most frequent correspondents. He would also go on to write several studies of Whitman. Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician, was Whitman's first biographer, and would later become one of his medical advisors and literary executors.


1. The entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.) on this date describes his emotional and physical state with a candor he rarely permitted himself in his letters: "Am I not having a 'happy hour,' or as near an approximation to it (the suspicion of it)—as is allowed? . . . (Is it not largely a really good condition of the stomach, liver & excretory apparatus?)—I was quite ill all yesterday—(how quickly the thermometer slides up and down!)." [back]

2. According to the auction record this letter was written on the verso of one from Charles W. Eldridge to Walt Whitman, undoubtedly the one of February 11 partially printed by Clara Barrus in Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (1931), 262–263. The postscript is recorded only in the catalogue of the Anderson Gallery, November 25, 1927. [back]


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