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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 11 December [1874]

Dear John Burroughs,

I have had another severe spell the last five weeks—head troubles, & stomach troubles, & liver troubles—the doctor thinks the latter the seat & basis this time of all, or nearly all—head-swimming, faintness, vomiting, &c—but for three or four days past have been easier—am up—didn't go out for three to four weeks, but am venturing out a little now—hope & quite expect to get at least as well as I was before this spell—

Eldridge has made me a call of two or three hours, (on his return from Boston to Wash'n​ )—Seems to be nothing very new among our friends at Wash'n​ —Marvin2 has written me twice—he has been reading your "Notes," & is quite possessed with them—also "Dem. Vistas"—

I am writing very little—have a piece, a melange, prose & verse, in the "Christmas Graphic"3—(comes out in a week or so,) in which I say a brief word about Emerson—

To eke out my letter I send a scrap from paper about death of a young friend of mine4—also another scrap—also another from London Academy,5 (which latter only please return when you write)—

Best love to 'Sula—Merry Christmas—do you get in the new house? Write me a good long letter—I wish I was with you—


  • 1. The executors dated this letter 1873. However, that 1874 is the correct year is evidenced by the following notes. [back]
  • 2. Joseph B. Marvin had been co-editor of the Radical in 1866–1867; see Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938–1968), 3:78n. Later he was employed in the Treasury Department in Washington. On December 15, 1874, Marvin wrote to Whitman: "I read and re-read your poems, and the 'Vistas,' and more and more see that I had but a faint comprehension of them before. They surpass everything. All other books seem to me weak and unworthy my attention. I read, Sunday, to my wife, Longfellows verses on Sumner, in the last Atlantic, and then I read your poem on the Death of Lincoln. It was like listening to a weak-voiced girl singing with piano accompanyment, and then to an oratorio by the whole Handel Society, with accompanyment by the Music Hall organ" (The Library of Congress). His veneration of Whitman is also transparent in an article in the Radical Review, 1 (1877), 224–259. [back]
  • 3. "A Christmas Garland" consisted of miscellaneous observations on various subjects and occasional poems; it is reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (1921), ed. Emory Holloway, 2:53–58. [back]
  • 4. "Death of a Fireman," a tribute to a Camden fireman named William Alcott, appeared in the Camden New Republic on November 14, 1874. [back]
  • 5. George Saintsbury's review of Leaves of Grass. [back]
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