Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to David Lezinsky, 30 November 1890

Date: November 30, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: ucb.00045

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:125. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Stephanie Blalock, and Paige Wilkinson




Camden New Jersey1
Nov: 30 1890

My dear D L

Y'rs of 21st rec'd2 & welcomed—the Cal[ifornia] papers rec'd3—I am sitting here 2d story room, in big ratan chair with wolf–skin spread back—pretty cold spell of weather here but sun out today pleasant. Am getting along much in the same old way, rather a let down in health even f'm what it was—grip (pretty bad) bladder trouble & (probably) catarrh of bowels—but I keep up sort o' & was out yesterday noon a short jaunt in wheel chair4—have a good oak fire & comfortable & plenty to eat (but no appetite)—Ed Stead5 (driver hansom) was here Aug: 20 last—havn't seen him since—I never heard whether you rec'd the books I sent you by express package directed to you care O K Lerris Hotel Butte City Montana (sent June 4 last from here)—when you next write tell.6

Ingersoll's7 lecture8 on me here, is to be printed in a little book in N Y.9 & I will send it to you soon as I get it—Warren Fritzinger10 is still with me—Mrs: Davis11 is well—Have had a depressed gloomy week—my brother Jeff12 (T J Whitman) died last Tuesday in St Louis, Mo: was a civil engineer—Hear often f'm Dr Bucke13 my Canada friend—Horace Traubel14 comes in every day—I contemplate a little 2d annex15 to L of G. & am fashioning at it—am writing a little for outside (for order)—but pieces I volunteer (to magazines &c) are quite always sent back rejected. I suppose you got my last I sent.16

God bless you—
Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
David L. Lezinsky was an 1884 graduate of the University of California, who wrote poetry and visited Whitman on May 13, 1890, while setting out on a trip to California. Whitman wrote letters to him and sent him a copy of his Complete Poems & Prose, but there is minimal information about what his "proposition" to Whitman was, and he remains something of a mystery. Whitman related his impressions of Lezinsky to Horace Traubel, saying of Lezinsky, "The tone of the man—his startling propositions, all confound me. As I understand, he comes from California, must have money, has become possessed of ideas about Walt Whitman. Today he went off to Washington, to be back again in several days. Why, Horace, you have no idea of the exuberance of the man: he talks of buying all my books, of buying a share in the copyrights, paying me several thousand dollars, having me write no more but by consultation with him: a series of surprising stipulations" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, May 13, 1890). See Whitman's letters to Bucke of June 5, 1890 and to Lezinsky of October 28, 1890.

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: David Lezinsky | p o box 211 | Berkeley Cal. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | NOV 30 | 5(?) PM | 90. [back]

2. This letter has not been located. [back]

3. As yet we have no information about this publication. [back]

4. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]

5. Edwin R. Stead of 2226 Jefferson Street, Philadelphia, was Whitman's driver (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). In the Gopsill Philadelphia City Directory for 1890, Stead was listed as a coppersmith. [back]

6. This communication has not been located. [back]

7. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

8. On October 21, 1890, at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace Book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience," and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]

9. Ingersoll's Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman, an address he delivered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 21, 1890, was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890. [back]

10. 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]

11. 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]

12. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

13. 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]

14. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

15. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

16. Whitman is likely referring here to his October 28, 1890, letter to Lezinsky. [back]


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