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Walt Whitman to Sidney H. Morse, 19 September 1888

 loc.03185.001.jpg Dear S H M

Am surviving yet & in good spirits (sort) after the past nearly four months—Am still imprison'd here in my sick room, unable to move around or get out at all—but have my brain power as before & right arm volition—(now reduced to them what great blessings they are!)—November Boughs1 is all done printed & press'd & waits the binding—will send you one as soon as I get it—then I am to have a Complete W W in one large 900 Vol. ($6) L of G, Spec. Days, & Nov. B—all & several condensed in one2—this is now going through the presses—your bust of me still holds out fully in my estimation.—I consider it (to me at any rate) the best & most characteristic really artistic & satisfactory rendering of any—so tho't by me.—the bust of Elias Hicks3 pleases & satisfies me first rate—goes to the right spot—the little arm chair statuette is here (as when you left it) & must not be forgotten4—it is valuable exceedingly—Horace5 is invaluable to me—I couldn't have done anything with the printing without him—Whether I shall get out of this slough remains uncertain—I am comfortable—

Love to you & all inquiring friends Walt Whitman  loc.03185.002.jpg Whitman.

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. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
  • 3. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a traveling Quaker preacher and anti-slavery activist from Long Island, New York. Whitman's essay on Hicks, "Notes (such as they are) founded on Elias Hicks," appeared in November Boughs (1888). For more on Hicks, see Henry Watson Wilbur, The Life and Labors of Elias Hicks (Philadelphia: Friends' General Conference Advancement Committee, 1910). [back]
  • 4. A photograph of the plaster model of this work serves as the frontispiece of Horace Traubel's third volume of With Walt Whitman in Camden (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914). [back]
  • 5. 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]
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