Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Edward Wilkins, 14 May 1890

Date: May 14, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00143

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Edwin Haviland Miller derives his transcription from a letter that is part of the private collection of John H. Birss. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:48. 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, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

Evn'g May 14 '901

Ed, I am decidedly better f'm my second grip—(was a bad 'un)—have been out bet'n 2 & 3 hours to-day, in a hansom—Enjoy'd all—Dr B[ucke]2 is here (at "the Aldine" Cape May City New Jersey)—God bless you, boy—

Walt Whitman

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: Ed: Wilkins | 137 King St: London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | May 14 | 8 PM | 90, London | PM | My 16 | 0 | Canada. [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]


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.