Selected Criticism

Drinkard, Dr. William B. (1842–1877)
Leon, Philip W.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

In 1873 Dr. William Beverly Drinkard of Washington, D.C., treated Whitman when he suffered the first of his paralytic strokes. Drinkard attended Georgetown University and the Lycée Imperial, Orléans, France. He studied for a time in Paris and London before returning to Washington, where he received his M.D. from the National Medical College in 1866. Elected professor of anatomy at the National Medical College, he also was a founder of the Washington Children's Hospital.

On 23 January 1873 Whitman suffered a paralysis of his left leg. He wrote his mother, assuring her that he had "a first-rate physician Dr. Drinkard" (Whitman 192). Drinkard treated Whitman with electric shock for several weeks, rubbing his leg and thigh for about twenty minutes with an imperceptible current, giving, perhaps, a new perspective to Whitman's term "body electric." Drinkard's treatment record says Whitman's "habits of life, tastes and mental constitution are, I think, the most natural I have ever encountered" (qtd. in Feinberg 836–837).


Barnshaw, Harold D. "Walt Whitman's Medical Problems While in Camden." Academy of Medicine of New Jersey Bulletin 16 (1970): 35–39.

Feinberg, Charles E. "Walt Whitman and His Doctors." Archives of Internal Medicine 114 (1964): 834–842.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 2. New York: New York UP, 1961.


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