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Walt Whitman to Charles Hine, 14 July [1871]

Charles Hine, Dear, dear friend,

I shall try and come to New Haven, very soon—though but for perhaps two or three hours. For some days past my mother has been ill—some of the time very ill—and I have been nurse & doctor too, as none of my sisters are home at present—But to-day she seems over it, if the favorable symptoms continue.1

I have procured the portrait & frame without any trouble,2 & they are now hanging up in mother's front room—& are the delight & ever-increasing gratification of my folks & friends, young & old—some of whom sit by the half hour & just look steadily at it in silence—It is indeed a noble piece of work-manship—age has already improved it, & will still more—both painting & frame were unharmed—Mr. Blondell, 806 Broadway, had the painting, & has others of yours.3

Dear Charley, I cannot fix the day, but I will indeed try to come forthwith. I too wish to be with you once more—though it will be but so briefly4

Much love to you, my dear friend,—not forgetting your wife & children.

Walt Whitman

Charles Hine (1827–1871) was the painter who created the oil painting from which the engraving that become the frontispiece for the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass was made. In a letter now lost, Whitman appears to have received word from Hine that he was very ill. On July 26, Whitman wrote to William D. O'Connor that an "artist friend of mine is very low there with consumption—is in fact dying."


  • 1. In letters written the same day to Peter Doyle and William D. O'Connor, Whitman describes caring for his mother in almost identical terms. [back]
  • 2. It appears that Hine gave the portrait he had painted of Whitman to him as a dying gift. [back]
  • 3. Jacob D. Blondel (1817–1877), one of Hine's acquaintances and a fellow portrait painter; Dodworth Hall at 806 Broadway in New York City was one of several buildings in which artists rented studio space from the 1850s to 1870s. Whitman's old friend Jesse Talbot rented space there at the same time as Hine. [back]
  • 4. On July 26, Whitman started out for New Haven and stayed that night and all the next day with Hine. On July 28, he wrote Peter Doyle, "I thought he would die while I was there—he was all wasted to a skeleton, faculties good, but voice only a low whisper—I returned last night, after midnight—" Within ten days, Hine died. On August 4, his wife wrote to Whitman: "It is useless for me to tell you how strong his affection was for you, and how he has looked forward to you coming to N.H. I think that after your visit to him that his hold on life seemed to give way and his yearnings were all accomplished" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 9 vols., 3:330). [back]
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