Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary O. Davis, 15 September 1890

Date: September 15, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00607

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:85–86. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ian Faith, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

328 Mickle Street
New Jersey1
Monday 15th

Dear Mary Davis,

Every thing is going on right here, & ab't as usual—I keep ab't the same, & well enough considering—went out yesterday afternoon, (Warry2 wheel'd me up of course in the chair3) to Mr & Mrs: Harned's4 where we had a first–rate dinner (my 5 o'clock supper) of champagne & oysters—the best & plenty—come back just after 8. Both Mr and Mrs H so hospitable & generous & good to me—Mrs Doughty and Maggy are well & Mrs D does very well—gives me plenty for my meals & all right5—we've killed one of the roosters, (he behaved very badly & put on airs) and had a chicken pot pie & I had some of the c[hicken] for my breakfast this morning—& some new coffee better than the old, (wh' was not good)—My appetite is good as ever—Warry is well & jolly & keeps first rate & good to me—go out towards evn'g as ever—last night it rained & keeps it half–up to day, & is cloudy & dark & half warm—Warry has just been in to make up the bed, &c:—

The most important event is Harry's marrying,6 which is to come off this evn'g, to be by Squire Tarr7 at his house—

Harry was up with me yesterday noon to talk ab't it—I felt quite solemn ab't it (I think more of the boy, & I believe he does of me, than we knew)—He kissed me & hung on to my neck—O if he only gets a good wife & it all turns out lasting & good (Mary, I think more of Harry than you suppose)—at any rate one first–rate point, it may anchor him in a way that nothing else might, & give him a definite object & aim to work up to—(& perhaps he needs that)—I am sitting up in my big den, in the old chair as I write, every thing comfortable—

5 P M—Chicken pot pie & rice pudding to–day—& oysters & champagne yesterday—so you see, Mary, we are not starving—

Tuesday forenoon Sept: 16—Harry and Becky were married last evn'g, & they came around here afterward a little while, at my special invitation—I have had my breakfast (Warry broiled a bit of meat for me, very nice)—the sun has been under a cloud, but I see it is plainly coming out—Love to you f'm me & all of us—I enclose $5, 2 for Mrs: M[apes],8 2 for the dear mother & 1 for dear boy Glen9 & my best respects & well wishes to all—

Walt Whitman

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).


1. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Mary O Davis | Downs | Osborne County | Kansas. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Sep 16 | 12 M | 90. The envelope is endorsed: "The above is Walt Whitmans handwriting. | Presented to R[?] H Bell | May 13th 1903 by Mrs. Mary O Davis." [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

5. Mrs. Doughty and her daughter(?) Maggy took Mrs. Mary Davis' place while Davis traveled to Kansas for two weeks (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

6. Harry Fritzinger (about 1866–?) was the brother of Warren Fritzinger, who would serve as Whitman's nurse beginning in October 1889. Harry worked as an office boy in Camden when he was fourteen. He also worked as a sailor. Later, he became a railroad conductor. Mary Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, took care of both Harry and Warren after the death of their father, the sea captain Henry W. Fritzinger. Davis had looked after Capt. Fritzinger, who went blind, before she started to perform the same housekeeping services for Whitman. Harry married Rebecca Heisler on September 15, 1890. [back]

7. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

8. See Whitman's May 11–12, 1889, letter to Richard Maurice Bucke. He sent Mrs. Mapes $5 on July 8. According to a notation in his Commonplace Book, she later married M. E. Stanley of Atkinson, Kansas (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]

9. As yet we have no information about this person. [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.