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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 5 June [1874]

Dear friend,

Your second letter, with sad news—following the sad, sad, inexpressibly sad news of the first—has just reached me.

I will not write any of the usual condolences. Chancy's1 malady & death seem to be of those events sometimes mocking with unaccountable sudden tragedies & cross–purposes, all of us, & all our affairs.

I have again had some pretty bad spells, (gastric & brain)2—but am decidedly better as I write, & for a day or two past—Shall come—Will write again soon—



  • 1. Burroughs' nephew, Chauncey B. Deyo, visited Whitman in March 1874 and wrote to his uncle on March 29, 1874: "It seemed hard to see the great man afflicted, bowed down, and I could not suppress my tears, and cannot suppress them now. . . . His death would be a heavy, heavy blow to me. Oh, Uncle John, I can't think of it without crying, as I do now" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 89). See also Whitman's June 10, 1874 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
  • 2. In some manuscript jottings, Walt Whitman described a visit to Dr. Grier on June 2, 1874: "He reiterated his theory that my sufferings, (later ones) come nearly altogether from gastric, stomachic, intestinal, non-excretory, &c. causes, causing flatulence, a very great distension of the colon, of passages, weight on valves, crowding & pressing on organs (heart, lungs, &c) and the very great distress & pain I have been under in breast & left side, & pit of stomach, & thence to my head, the last month. Advised me by all means to begin the use of an injection syringe, (Fountain No. 2. tepid water for clysters)—was favorable to my using whiskey—advised assa[feti]da pills, 2 ? kneading the bowel[s] . . ." (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
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