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Walt Whitman to Robert Adams, 5 November 1890

Dear Sir,

above find receipt for the money1—& thanks to you. Give my respects to Miss Wixon2—I am sometimes very ill for days & cannot read, write, or talk or be talked to—& on such occasions answer no letters. . . . am sitting here in my den in great old ratan chair (with big wolf skin spread over back) sunny but pretty cold—have a good oak wood fire.

Walt Whitman

Robert Adams (1816–1900) was born in Ayr, Scotland, and immigrated with his family to the United States as a small child. After working as a grocer for several years in Fall River, Massachusetts, Robert and his brother John opened a stationery shop and bookbindery. Prior to the abolition of slavery, Adams aided runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Adams's obituary includes a statement from Frederick Douglass in which he described Adams as "the first man to recognize me as a man." It also notes his friendships with John Greenleaf Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison, and other well-known abolitionists ("Deaths of Robert Adams and Ransom P. Baker,"Fall River Daily Evening News [April 3, 1900], 8). The Fall River Daily Evening News of November 1, 1890, also records that Adams visited Whitman at his home in Camden "a few days ago" and "arranged for the sale of copies of Whitman's works," adding that Adams found the poet "feeble and unable to hold a long conference" ("Personal" [November 1, 1890], 8). For more information on Adams and abolitionism, see Anti-Slavery Days in Fall River and the Operation of the Underground Railroad, written by his son, Edward Stowe Adams and published by the Fall River Historical Society in 2017.


  • 1. According to the auction record, a receipt for $16, for the four books mentioned in Whitman's letter to Adams of October 28, 1890, preceded the personal note. [back]
  • 2. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
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