Skip to main content

Sylvester Baxter to Walt Whitman, 2 August 1887

 loc_es.00093.jpg My dear Friend:

I enclose for the cottage2 $285 in two checks of $50 and $235 respectively. On the former you will see the signature of one of the best of your Boston friends, Dr. Wesselhoeft.3 This will make $788 so far, I believe, and I think the remaining $12 will be forthcoming soon.

I wish it might have been done so as to enable you to escape this hot weather altogether, but I loc_es.00094.jpg hope you can contrive to get away before the summer ends. Shall you get some house that is already built, or do you propose building?

Would you not like in the house a nice fireplace where you can sit and toast your toes before a nice open fire and dream with open eyes as you look at the blaze? I think you would enjoy that better than an ugly black stove that scorches all the vitality out of the air. If the idea pleases you, my friend, Jack Law, loc_es.00095.jpg the Chelsea tile-maker, would like to send you a handsome set of tiles for it. Law knew you in the old Pfaff days,4 when he was a landscape painter, but says you probably would not recollect him by name. Very likely you might remember his vigorous expletives, and great enthusiasm!

I think I may go on to New York next week and run over to Philadelphia when I shall loc_es.00096.jpg drop in on you.

Faithfully yours, Sylvester Baxter.

P.S.—Oh! About Hartmann.5 He was altogether "too previous" and hardly appreciated what he had undertaken. He did not know how to go to work and appointed officers of a society which had not been organized! We all had to sit down on him and the matter is in abeyance. I hope it may come to something later. You may remember I wrote you last winter about the idea of a W. W. Society.


 loc_es.00091.jpg see notes sept 22 & 25 '88 Baxter  loc_es.00092.jpg

Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St. | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked Boston. Mass. | 7.45 P | Aug 2 | 1887; Camden. N[illegible] | Aug | 3 | 1887 | Rec'd. The recto of this envelope contains a stamp that reads "The Herald 255, Washington Street, Boston." [back]
  • 2. William Sloane Kennedy had proposed the idea of building the poet a "summer 'shanty'" on the farm land owned by George and Susan Stafford (parents of Whitman's young friend Harry Stafford), a place Whitman often visited in the summer. Sylvester Baxter took charge of raising money for this Cottage Fund project in and around Boston. See William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), 10–11. [back]
  • 3. William P. Wesselhoeft (1835–1909) was a homeopathic doctor from Pennsylvania and the son of the famous William Wilhelm Wesselhoeft, one of the most prominent proponents of Hahnemannian medicine in the United States. [back]
  • 4. Pfaff's was a well-known Manhattan beer cellar (located at 647 Broadway) that Whitman frequented in the late 1850s and the early 1860s. The bar was the preferred gathering place of New York Bohemia before the Civil War. [back]
  • 5. Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (ca. 1867–1944) was an art historian and early critic of photography as an art form. He visited Whitman in Camden in the 1880s and published his conversations with the poet in 1895. Generally unpopular with other supporters of the poet, he was known during his years in Greenwich Village as the "King of Bohemia." For more information about Hartmann, see John F. Roche, "Hartmann, C. Sadakichi (ca. 1867–1944)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
Back to top