In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Bill Guess

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: March 20, 1854

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00887

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The date is written at the top of the manuscript. Edward Grier notes that the name "Bill Guess" does not appear in New York directories from this time period. Two entries for "George Fitch" are listed in the New York City directory for 1855–56. One Fitch is listed as an expressman, and the other is listed as a clerk. Grier postulates that "the three young men mentioned here were probably itinerant omnibus drivers" (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:199). George Fitch is also mentioned in the manuscript titled "Bloom."

Related item: On the back of this leaf is a draft of lines that appeared in the first poem of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, which was ultimately titled "Song of Myself." See duk.00051.

Contributors to digital file: Jennifer R. Overkamp, Stacy Provan, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth M. Price, Kirsten Clawson, Janel Cayer, Nicole Gray, Kevin McMullen, and Brett Barney

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March 20th '54

Bill Guess, died aged 22.

ThA thoughtless, strong, generous animal nature, fond of direct pleasures, eating, drinking, women, fun &c.—Taken sick with the small-pox, had the bad disorder and was furious with the delirium tremens.—Was with me in the Crystal Palace,—a large broad fellow, weighed over 200.—Was a thoughtless good fellow.—


Peter — —large, strong boned youn fellow, driver.—should guess he weigheds 200180.—Free and candid to me the very first time he saw me.—Man of strong self-will, powerful coarse feelings and appetites—had a quarrel,—borrowed $300——left his father's, somewhere in the interior of the state^—fell in with a couple of gamblers— —hadn't been home or written there in seven years.—I liked his refreshing wickedness, as it would be called by the orthodox.—He seemed to feel a perfect independence, dashed with a little resentment, toward the world in general.—I never met a man ^that seemed to me, as far as I could tell in 40 minutes, [s?]more open, coarse, self-willed, strong, and free from the sickly desire to be on society's lines and points.—


George Fitch.—Yankee boy—driver.—Fine nature, amiable, of sensitive feelings, a natural gentleman—of quite a reflective turn. Left his home because his father was perpetually "down on him".—When he told me of his mother, his eyes watered.—Good looking, tall, curly haired black-eyed fellow, age about 23 or 4—slender, face with a smile—trowsers tucked in his boots—cap with the front-piece turned behind.—

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