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Walt Whitman to Abraham Paul Leech, 9 September [1840]

 loc_gk.01463_large.jpg My dear L—

I perform the thrice-agreeable office of informing you that my purgatory here1 is just finishing.—In a few days more I shall be unbound and unloosed.—At present I think it improbable that I shall pay any visit to Jamaica, though I should like to see my friends there.—Write to me on Friday, by the cars, or on Tuesday next, by the baker: after that time I shall not be here to "receive communications."—

—"O. how my spirit springs and grows elastick at the idea of leaving this diabolical, and most particularly cursed locality!—Shades through which I have wandered; orchards that I have plundered; old school-room, dirty-faced urchins, and moth eaten desk, I bid ye all a long farewell.—Pork, cucumbers, and buckwheat bread, we must part, perhaps forever!—Solemn thought: Rye-sweetcake, sour milk, and "scented" fish—ye dear companions of the past summer—alas! the mouth that has known you, will know you no more—"

—Don't forget to write on Friday, if you can.—Brenton2 will send me a package at that time, and your letter can be slipped in like a knife.—

—State how Abel3 is; and indite the news generally. May the saints bless you; and may Peace never get out of humour and cut your acquaintance.

W. Whitman  loc_gk.01464_large.jpg Abrm. P. Leech | Jamaica L.I.4

Abraham Paul Leech (1815–1886) was the son of Obadiah Paul Leech (1792–1881), an auctioneer, and his wife, Susan Holland Leech. One of three children, Leech would go on to become a bookkeeper and friend of Walt Whitman. Leech also served as secretary pro tem of The Jamaica Lyceum in the 1840s in Jamaica, New York. He and his wife, Phebe Kissam Duryea Leech (1823–1885) had two children: Abraham Duryea Leech (1851–1876) and John Leech (1860–?).


  • 1. In the summer of 1840, Whitman taught for three months in the agrarian town of Woodbury, New York. Based on the letters he wrote to his friend Abraham Paul Leech from "Purgatory Fields" and "Devil's Den," he did not enjoy his time there. Walt Whitman Elementary School now stands a stone's throw away from the site of the one-room schoolhouse Whitman knew. [back]
  • 2. James J. Brenton was the founder of the Long Island Democrat (Jamaica, Long Island, New York). Brenton hired Whitman as a typesetter in August 1839, and Whitman boarded with Brenton and his wife in the summer and fall of 1839. Whitman would continue to write for the paper through 1841. Brenton was also one of the early publishers of Whitman's poetry, as well as Whitman's series of journalistic pieces titled "Sun Down Papers." Brenton later reprinted Whitman's short story, "The Tomb-Blossoms," in an edited collection titled Voices from the Press; A Collection of Sketches, Essays, and Poems by Practical Printers in 1850. [back]
  • 3. In 1840, Edwin L. Abel lived in Jamaica, New York. Later census data lists him as a bookkeeper or a clerk. He is also mentioned in Whitman's letter to Leech from June 27, 1840. [back]
  • 4. Whitman wrote Leech's address on the back of the final page of this letter. [back]
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