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Sidney H. Morse to Walt Whitman, 15 June 1888

 loc.03184.001.jpg See notes June 20 & July 1 1888 Dear W—

I sent word to Horace1 one day that I had an intuition that you were about to enter upon a new lease of life. The next day the telegraph announced you were slightly improved  loc.03184.002.jpg from a severe attack of "heart failure." Now Horace writes you are quite yourself again. I take it my spirit-sense of your condition is not likely to fail after all. But the hot weather is  loc.03184.003.jpg coming, & we shall get it by July good & hot. I hope I can get into comfortable shape by the time it reaches Camden.

Am glad Horace is at hand to afford any help  loc.03184.004.jpg you might need.

I have about concluded not to go to the Cin. Exposition.2 There is so much red tape it will cost me all of $20 to exhibit a few busts. I am calculating on starting for Chicago middle of next week. I'd like to look in  loc.03184.005.jpg on the Chicago Convention3—just to see the shape of the heads that are prominent.

I notice a marked difference in the political atmosphere here & in Mass. People here are more rambunkious; they get mad. The republicans are high toned & look down on democrats. If you  loc.03184.006.jpg show any proclivities of democratic color they wonder how you can. How can white think well of black? And then, the anti-copperhead talk is still rampant here. The dems are sore some over  loc.03184.007.jpg the slaughter of Gray, & Harrison4 would catch many sore head votes. If the Republicans have got to have a rushing campaign, they'll get it sooner with the freedom of old Tipicanu (?)5 than with the cold blooded Sherman.6 But  loc.03184.008.jpg I believe Blain7 would sweep the States. Every body fairly dances when his name is mentioned. Strange. I can't understand it. Somehow I am drawn personally more to Cleveland8 than any one of the others. And yet, he's a kind of a pork.

Well, this is a hot day here. I hope you keep mending, & that you only went back a little for a new start.

Kindly, Morse.

Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109.


  • 1. 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 late 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]
  • 2. The 14th Cincinnati Industrial Exposition (1888) celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the city's founding. [back]
  • 3. The 1888 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago on June 19–25. [back]
  • 4. Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) was the twenty-third U.S. president and grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison. Harrison was the Republican nominee who defeated Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888. [back]
  • 5. "Tippecanoe" was the nickname used by Harrison's grandfather, William Henry Harrison, in the 1840 presidential campaign. Morse is here applying it to the grandson and current presidential candidate. [back]
  • 6. John Sherman (1823–1900) was an American politician and Republican representative and senator from Ohio. He is best known as the author of policies that addressed growing economic crises, including the Sherman Antitrust and Silver Purchase Acts of 1890. [back]
  • 7. James G. Blaine (1830–1893) was an American statesman and Republican politician. He served in the House of Representatives (1863–1876), Senate (1876–1881), and twice as Secretary of State (1881, 1889–1892). Blaine was the Republican presidential nominee in 1884, when he was narrowly defeated by Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland. [back]
  • 8. Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) was the twenty-second and twenty-fourth U.S. president. Cleveland was the leader of the "Bourbon Democrats," whose policies opposed high tariffs and subsidies to businesses. In 1888, he was the early favorite for the Republican presidential nomination but eventually lost out to Benjamin Harrison, whom he then endorsed. [back]
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