Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Edwin Einstein, 26 November 1875

 loc_vm.02564_large.jpg My dear Einstein,1

On coming back here, I find your letter of the 20th. It is so kind (bringing up old memories, & making prologue & ceremony unnecessary) that I will at once answer it in its own spirit, & reveal the situation.

My paralysis has left me permanently disabled, unable to do any thing of any consequence, and yet with perhaps (though old, not yet 60) some lease of life yet. I had saved up a little money, & when I came here, nearly three years ago, I bought a nice cheap lot, intending to put on a small house to haul in, & live out the rest of my days.

I had, & yet have I have a sort of idea that my books, (I am getting ready, or about have ready, my completed writings, in two Volumes—Leaves of Grass, and Two Rivulets) will henceforth furnish me reliably with sufficient for grub, pocket money, &c., if I have my own shanty to live in.2

But my means, meagre at the best, have gone for my expenses since, & now, while not hitherto actually wanting, (& not worrying much about the future either,) I have come to the end of my rope, & am in fact ridiculously poor.

I have my lot yet clear, & it would be a great thing for me to be able to build forthwith a four or five room shanty on it & haul in, snug & quiet, with the sense of security—for the rest of my days—for I feel yet about as cheerful & vimmy as ever, & may live several years yet,—indeed probably will—& may write some—though my days of active participation, & ganging about in the world, are over.3

I get out a little nearly every day, & enjoy it, but am very lame—Keep stout & red as ever—grayer than ever—am feeling pretty comfortable as I write—have just returned from a three weeks jaunt to Washington and Baltimore—which has much refreshed me, (the first time I have been away from my anchorage here for nearly three years.) I often recall the old times in New York, or on Broadway, or at Pfaff's—& the faces & voices of the boys.—

 loc_vm.02566_large.jpg my letter to Einstein  
  Nov 26 '75

Edwin Einstein, a tobacconist and a friend from the Pfaffian days of the 1850s, wrote to Whitman on November 18, 1875, from the Union League Club, Madison Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, New York: "I would not trouble you with this letter, were it not that I saw mentioned in the N. Y. Sun the other day the fact that you were in very needy circumstances, if that is so will you let me know, and myself and a few other of your old friends would be glad to aid you to the best of our ability. If it is not so, (which I sincerely trust may be the case) pardon the liberty I am taking and believe it is only done out of friendship and good will" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).


  • 1. This draft letter was written on the backs of a series of letters to Whitman, pasted together to form a long sheet. [back]
  • 2. This paragraph was written in pencil on a separate piece of paper. Whitman noted the intended placement in the letter with an insertion mark. [back]
  • 3. Probably the repetitions in this draft were eliminated in the version that was sent. As evidenced by the number of stricken passages, Whitman had difficulty in finding the exact words to describe his lot. [back]
Back to top