Outline Chronology of Whitman and Camden
May 31 – Walt Whitman born, West Hills, New York. His parents are Walter (1789- 1855) and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795-1873). Whitman’s father had known Thomas Paine (1737- 1809) and took Whitman to see Elias Hicks (1748- 1830) speak. Hicks- a powerful orator and leader of a more spiritual and radical wing of Quakers- had a big impact on Whitman. He had a bust of Hicks in the parlor of his Mickle Street home. He also became acquainted with another family hero, Frances Wright (1795- 1852). She was, like Paine and Hicks, a freethinker and radical. Her book A Day in Athens was a big influence. She travelled with the Marquis de Lafayette (1757- 1834) during his visit the US in 1824- 1825. Whitman remembered being out of school for the occasion of Lafayette’s visit to Brooklyn to lay the cornerstone of a library and that the General lifted him to safety and embraced him. Despite the political influence on Walt from his father, theirs was a rocky relationship for the most part. As for his mother: she and Walt were each other’s favorites.
May 27 – The Whitmans move to Brooklyn, NY.
July 4 – Lafayette lays cornerstone of Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library. Young Walt will long remember the hero of the Revolution lifting him to a more safe location in the area of the construction zone. He wrote in 1862: “As good luck would have it, the writer of this series was one of those whom Lafayette took in his arms, and lifted down to be provided with a standing place; and proud enough as he was of it at the time, it may well be imagined with what feelings the venerable gentleman recollects it now.”
November – Whitman hears Elias Hicks orate.
Whitman is finished with school; he works in lawyer’s and doctor’s offices.
Whitman is an apprentice to printer Samuel Clements at Long Island Patriot. Clements was a Quaker, Democrat, and Jacksonian. He was also the postmaster for Brooklyn. Whitman learns to print and compose type. He also is introduced to political writing. His main influence is William Hartshorne, the editor. Hartshorne (1775- 1859) was the subject of a Whitman obituary when he died. Clements was eventually forced to “flee” to New Jersey (ultimately Camden). Whitman felt that he may have feuded with the local Democratic party. There is also the story of a scandal involving Clements and Henry Kirke Brown. Brown (1814- 1886) was an important American sculptor and a friend of Whitman’s in the 1850’s. However, the story for 1831 is that Clements and, perhaps Brown or perhaps an “Italian sculptor” decided to disinter the body of Elias Hicks and make a death mask for future sculpture.
June/ July – Leaves of Grass printed and published in Brooklyn by Walt Whitman. It features 12 poems, each not specifically titled but under the moniker “Leaves of Grass”.
July 11 – Walter Whitman, Sr. dies.
September 11 – A second edition of Leaves of Grass is published by Fowler and Wells. There are now 32 poems- all of which feature titles.
May- A third edition of Leaves of Grass appears; it is published in Boston by Thayer and Eldridge. It features 178 poems at a length of 456 pages.
Walt Whitman lives and works in Washington, DC.
A fourth edition of Leaves of Grass is published by W.E. Chapin in New York. There are 236 poems (though only six new poems to Leaves of Grass). This is explained in the fact that Drum Taps, Sequels to Drum Taps, and A Song Before Parting are all printed in the same book as separate entities.
Walt’s brother George (1829-1901) is building houses in Brooklyn and inspecting water pipes in New York and Camden.
John Burroughs (1837- 1921) publishes Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person with some help form Whitman himself. The two had met on the streets of Washington in 1864. This is one of the earliest accounts of Whitman and is Burroughs first published work. Burroughs will go onto great fame as a naturalist and writer on nature and conservation. He travelled with Theodore Roosevelt (1858- 1919), John Muir (1838- 1914), Henry Ford (1863- 1947), and Thomas Edison (1847- 1931), among others. He also wrote Whitman: A Study in 1896. In 1901, he met Clara Barrus (1864- 1931), a doctor over 30 years his junior; she was the love of his life. She wrote Whitman and Burroughs, Comrades in 1931- much of which was based upon their correspondence.
January – Walt’s brother Jeff (1833-1890) moves to St. Louis, with his wife, Martha or Mattie (1836- 1873), and daughters, Manahatta or Hattie (1860- 1886) and Jessie (1863- 1957), where he will serve as the Superintendent of the Water Works.
March 21 – Walt’s brother, Jesse (1818- 1870), dies in the King’s County Lunatic Asylum, where he had been since 1864.
May 31 – Whitman turns 51.
Fifth Edition of Leaves of Grass is published by J.S. Redfield in New York. Like the 1867, there are several iterations of this edition with additional annexes (Passage to India and After All Not to Create Only). Some poems, like Drum Taps are spread throughout Leaves of Grass.
Democratic Vistas is published. This is in response to an essay called Shooting Niagara… and After by Thomas Carlyle (1795- 1881). Whitman was an admirer of Carlyle from his newspaper days; but was often exasperated. Perhaps never moreso that when Carlyle, in a disparagement of British attempts to widen the franchise, criticized American democracy and the conduct of the Civil War. Carlyle also spoke of Whitman’s writing as if “a town bull learned to hold a pen”. Nevertheless Whitman always felt that Carlyle was important to literature.
April 14 – George Whitman and Louisa Haslam or Lou (1842-1892) are married and move to Stevens St. in Camden.
May 31 – Whitman turns 52.
May 31 – Whitman’s 53rd birthday.
Summer – Whitman stays in Brooklyn.
Late June – Early July- Whitman travels to New England; reads “As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free” at Dartmouth College; continues to Vermont to stay with sister Hannah Heyde (1823-1908).
August – Walt’s mother Louisa and brother Edward or Eddie (1835-1892) move to Camden to live with George and Lou.
Summer – Whitman’s break with William O’Connor (1832- 1889) after an argument, which will separate the friends for a decade. William O’Connor met Whitman at their publisher, Thayer and Eldridge, in 1860. They (and O’Connor’s wife, Ellen [1830- 1913]) became great friends. The O’Connor’s helped Whitman when he arrived penniless in Washington in 1863. Whitman even stayed with them for a few months. O’Connor helped Whitman find a new job in the Attorney General’s office when he was fired by the new Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan (1820- 1899) for writing an immoral book. Harlan had seen the book on Whitman’s desk; he was in the process of cleaning house of undesirables and disloyal employee. Whitman was fired on June 30, 1865. O’Connor also wrote The Good Grey Poet in 1866 to defend the writer. This was one of the early important defenses of Whitman and his work. The two finally broke over politics (e.g. Reconstruction and the 15th Amendment). Ellen supported Whitman’s side and continued her friendship with Whitman, which caused O’Connor to separate from her for a number of years.
Oct. 25 – Whitman’s will, written in Washington, DC, after some dizzy spells, is sent to George, leaving money to take care of Eddie.
Jan. 22 – Whitman suffers a stroke, leaving his left side paralyzed.
Feb. 19 – Walt’s sister-in-law, Mattie, dies in St. Louis.
April 1 – Whitman is back to work part-time.
May 15 – Whitman writes a new will, again providing for Eddie.
May 20 – Whitman arrives in Camden due to his mother’s illness.
May 25 – An event to which Whitman referred as “the great dark cloud of my life”; Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dies.
May 31 – Walt Whitman is 54.
June 2 – Whitman arrives back in Washington, DC.
June 18 – Whitman takes a leave of absence and returns to Camden, living with George and Lou at 322 Stevens St.
Sept. 8 – Jeff Whitman visits Camden.
Sept. 29 – George moves everyone into a new house he has built at 431 Stevens St. in Camden.
November – Whitman meets Col. John R Johnston (1826- 1895), a local artist and self-proclaimed colonel. Whitman called him “the jolliest man I ever met”. He spent many Sundays with the artist and his family and frequently dropped in on the artist in his studio to chat.
Sometime after arriving in Camden- Whitman meets Horace Logo Traubel (1858- 1919). Traubel was working for a printer in Camden and he and the poet would get into discussions about literature and writing. Whitman would recall that those visits “were like medicine to me”. More than a decade later, the adult Traubel started to become Whitman’s right hand man and amanuensis. He ran errands for the poet- especially regarding printing. At times, he took care of Whitman’s correspondence. He wrote of Whitman and, starting in 1888, he recorded their daily conversations and Whitman’s doings for the remainder of the poet’s life. Starting in 1890, Traubel published a journal called The Conservator which was often about Whitman and also often about Traubel’s radical ideology (Traubel was a major Socialist figure who associated with, among others, Helen Keller (1880- 1968)and Eugene Debs (1855- 1926). Debs was a union leader and five time candidate for President under the banner of the Socialist Party. Keller too was a socialist and champion of social justice and equality. She attended the Walt Whitman Centennial Birthday, May 31, 1919, at the Hotel Brevoort in New York. Invited to speak, she instead spoke about “the chiefest of his lovers, Horace Traubel… His interpretation of the World we live in, while deeply poetical, is very practical and human… He finds in each man and in the mass beautiful, common, elemental qualities of humanity.” That is a praise very similar to what one hears of Whitman- it certainly must have made Traubel happy as he had seemed to will himself to live until Whitman’s centenary (he himself died only a couple of months later).
Sometime after arriving in Camden- Whitman meets Thomas B. Harned (1851- 1921). Harned, a young lawyer, became Whitman’s attorney and executor and great friend. In 1877, he married Augusta Anna Traubel, sister to Horace Traubel. Harned’s home was a frequent gathering place for the poet. Harned wrote the Introduction to Whitman’s Complete Works in 1902. He also published The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman in 1918. He wrote a memoir at the end of his life detailing some of his connection to Whitman. He was a big part of Whitman’s mausoleum construction and his funeral.
February 27 – Whitman sends President Ulysses Grant (1822- 1885) his various Civil War articles. Grant is a bit of a hero to Whitman. He had arisen from humble beginnings in the Midwest to greatness, Whitman wrote about him several times, including “What Best I See in Thee”.
April – John Burroughs visits Whitman.
May 31 – Whitman celebrates 55th birthday.
June 17 – “Song of the Universal” is read at Tufts University (Whitman could not attend) and published in several newspapers.
Late June – Jeff visits Camden.
June 22 – Whitman writes President Grant, hoping to keep his government position.
July 1 – Whitman is terminated from Treasury Department.
July – Whitman buys a lot at 460 Royden St.
Feb. 16 – Whitman suffers a stroke affecting his right side.
May 31 – Whitman turns 56.
June – Cincinnatus Miller (1837-1913), a western poet and playwright who writes under the name of Joaquin Miller, whom Whitman had met in New York in 1872, visits.
Summer – Two Rivulets and Memoranda During the War typeset and printed in Camden New Republic printing office.
Nov. 4 – Walter Orr Whitman (1875- 1876) is born to George and Louisa.
November – Whitman spends three weeks in Washington, DC.
Nov. 17 – Whitman attends the reburial of Edgar Allen Poe (1809- 1849) in Baltimore; he is the only major writer to attend. He had met Poe in the 1840’s and would write “The Significance of Edgar Poe” about him in Specimen Days.
November – Moncure Conway (1832- 1907), abolitionist and biographer, visits Whitman. Conway was a minister who lived in England for a number of years, often acting for Whitman’s interests in Britain. He wrote biographies of Thomas Carlyle and Thomas Paine. He also communicated between Whitman and Carlyle during his times with the British author. Conway first visited Whitman after Leaves of Grass was published on advice from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803- 1882). Emerson was, famously, an inspiration for Leaves of Grass; he was searching for a poet who could sing of America. Whitman had heard Emerson lecture in New York in 1842 and had read his essays. He took up Emerson’s challenge. Whitman sent Emerson Leaves of Grass; Emerson responded with a letter greeting “the beginning of a great career” and calling Whitman’s work “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed”. He also visited Whitman in Brooklyn that December. In 1860, he would caution against the inclusion of “Enfans d’Adam” while Whitman was in Boston for publication of the third edition.
December – Charles Eldridge (1854- 1922), an actor, and Richard Monckton Milnes, Baron Houghton (1809- 1885), English poet and politician, visit at various times.
Centennial Edition of Leaves of Grass published with separate volume Two Rivulets.
Jan. 15 – John Burroughs visits.
March – Moncure Conway visits.
April 1 – Whitman makes his first visit to the Stafford farm along Timber Creek. Harry Stafford worked at the Camden New Republic, which printed for Whitman. Whitman befriended Harry and through him his parents George and Susan. Their farm reminded him of the family farm of his youth in Long Island.
April 13 – Franklin B. Sanborn (1831- 1917), transcendentalist and writer from Concord, Massachusetts, visits Whitman in Camden.
May 10 – A John Greenleaf Whittier (1807- 1892) poem opens the Centennial Exposition in Fairmount Park. Whittier initially did not care for Whitman- supposedly throwing his 1855 Leaves of Grass into the fire. He would later give money for the horse and carriage fund. The Centennial Exposition is the largest ever World’s Fair (at that time) and the first to be completed on time. Around ten million attend over six months. The US population is about 40 million at the time.
May 31 – Whitman’s 57th birthday.
June 2 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- 1882), the leading American poet, and George W. Childs (1829- 1894), publisher of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, visit Whitman. Childs would later lend Whitman money to help buy the house at 328 Mickle St. Childs also donated money to complete the Edgar Allan Poe Memorial in Baltimore and a Shakespeare Memorial in Stratford-on- Avon. The three meet at the riverside where Whitman is watching Delaware River traffic.
June – Whitman stays at the Stafford farm.
July 4 – A Bayard Taylor (1825- 1878) poem is a part of the celebration of the American Centenary at Independence Hall. Taylor a poet and travel writer began as a fan of Whitman, but would change to a foe who parodied Whitman’s works, like “Song of the Exposition”. That March he had criticized Whitman in the New York Times, stirring quite a controversy. Whitman also had been hopeful of the honor of providing a poem for the occasion.
July 12 – Walter Orr Whitman dies.
July – Jeff and Hattie and Jessie visit.
Sept. 10 – Anne Gilchrist (1828- 1885) and her children Beatrice (1854- 1881), Herbert (1857- 1914), and Grace (1859- 1947) arrive in Philadelphia. Anne completed her late husband Alexander’s (1828- 1861) biography of William Blake, which may have helped influence Whitman in creating his Blake-inspired family crypt. She also wrote A Woman’s Estimate of Walt Whitman, in 1870, an early criticism of Leave of Grass. She was also a friend and neighbor to a Whitman literary foil, Thomas Carlyle. Beatrice came to attend Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, the first medical school for women. Herbert studied art and later painted a portrait of Whitman in the Whitman House. Grace wrote an essay, An Evening with Walt Whitman after the poet’s death.
Sept 14-15 – Whitman visits the Gilchrists in Philadelphia (with Burroughs).
Oct 1-3 – Whitman returns to the Stafford farm.
Oct 19 – Charles Eldridge visits.
Oct 24 – Whitman attends the Centennial Exposition in a rolling chair. He spends the day with Hattie and Jessie, who return to St. Louis the next day. He is especially enamored of the art displays.
Oct 28-31 – Whitman is back to the Stafford farm.
Jan 6-10 – Whitman stays at the Stafford farm.
Jan 10-16 – Whitman visits the Gilchrists.
Jan 18-23 – Back to the Stafford farm.
Jan. 28 – Whitman takes part in 140th Birthday celebration of Thomas Paine, Lincoln Hall, Philadelphia. He gives and oration entitled “In Memory of Thomas Paine”.
Feb 7-13 – Stafford farm visit.
Feb 15-21 – Whitman stays at Gilchrists.
March – Whitman stays at the house of John H. Johnston (1837- 1919). Johnston, a Manhattan jeweler, will become a great friend to Whitman. He would later serve as a patron of Whitman’s, organizing a Lincoln Lecture at Madison Square Garden in 1887 and the “Liberty in Literature” lecture by Robert Ingersoll (1833- 1899) in Philadelphia, in 1890. Additionally he served as the Chairman of the Walt Whitman Reunion Association, the original group formed May 31, 1892, which is the origin of today’s Walt Whitman Association. His wife, Amelia, died at the tail end of Whitman’s visit. His second wife, Alma Calder Johnston, wrote a reminiscence of Whitman years later. Johnston’s children all loved Whitman and knew him as “Uncle Walt”. Whitman was famously photographed with the young Harry and Kitty Johnston in 1879. Johnston’s daughter, Bertha (1864- 1953), would also become a favorite of Whitman’s. She was a writer and suffragist and she attended Whitman’s last birthday party at the Camden house in 1891. At a reception while visiting, Whitman befriends Richard W Gilder (1844- 1909). Gilder will be an important literary figure for Whitman. He is editor of The Century, which is one of the most influential literary magazines in the US; he is also a big supporter of Whitman. The Century published many Whitman pieces over the years. Gilder himself was a financial supporter of the poet as well.
May 2 – Edward Carpenter (1844- 1929) visits for the first time; he will remain in Philadelphia for several weeks, visiting Whitman frequently. Carpenter, a prolific writer, is most famous for openly writing about homosexuality.
May 31 – Whitman turns 58.
July – George and Lou’s second child is stillborn.
Summer – Maurice Bucke (1837-1902), a Canadian psychiatrist who treated patients in a much more modern than normal method at that time and who would become a huge part of Whitman’s latter years, visits for the first time.
Summer – Hattie and Jessie visit from St. Louis.
Summer – Whitman makes many visits to the Staffords and Gilchrists
Dec. 24 – Whitman goes to the Walnut St. Theatre with Joaquin Miller to see Miller’s Danites of the Sierras
May 31 – Whitman celebrates his 59th birthday.
June 14 – Whitman attends the William Cullen Bryant (1794- 1878) funeral in New York with Bucke. Whitman had known Bryant from his Brooklyn days, where Whitman recalled taking long walks and learning about the wider world. He wrote of the funeral in Specimen Days, where called Bryant, “The noble old citizen and poet… the bard who loved Nature so fondly.”
Summer – Whitman travels with Burroughs to New York.
November 24 – Col. John R Johnston presents Whitman with a small portrait in oil. It is approximately the fifth anniversary of their meeting. That painting is currently a part of the collection of the Whitman House.
Dec. 11 – Bucke visits.
1879 – Maurice Bucke publishes his first book, Man’s Moral Nature, which is dedicated to Walt Whitman, “who inspired it… the man who of all men… past and present… has the highest moral nature.”
Feb. 16 – Sidney H. Morse (1832-1903), a radical author and sculptor who became a part of Whitman’s Camden circle, first bust of Whitman arrives; Whitman calls it “wretchedly bad”.
March 16- Whitman attends a dinner party with Frank Furness (1839- 1912). Furness was one of the leading architects in 19th century America. Among his buildings are the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the entrance buildings to the Philadelphia Zoo. Furness was the brother of Horace Howard Furness (1833- 1912), a leading Shakespearean scholar and another friend of Whitman’s. Thomas Harned told a story that Horace Furness passed Whitman on Chestnut St. in Philadelphia with a greeting of “You are too handsome for words”. Their father was William Henry Furness (1802- 1896), a Unitarian pastor (his First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut Street, was built by his son Frank, replacing an earlier one by William Strickland (1788-1854), who had also worked on Independence Hall’s Bell Tower) and great friend to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The elder Furness gave the sermon at Emerson’s funeral.
April 9- June 14 – Whitman stays in New York with the Johnstons.
April 14 – Whitman presents Lincoln Lecture for the first time at Steck Hall in New York. He speaks of seeing Lincoln for the first time and narrates the occurrence of his death- based on a first-hand account given by Peter Doyle (1843- 1907), who had been in Ford’s Theatre that fateful night. Doyle had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He met Whitman in Washington in 1865. Whitman plans on this lecture being an annual event to commemorate the fallen hero.
April 23- May 3 – Whitman visits Burroughs.
May 31 – Walt Whitman is sixty years old.
June 9 – The Gilchrists return to Britain.
July and August – Hattie and Jessie visit.
Sept. – Whitman travels to St Louis to visit Jeff, continues on his first trip west, through the plains and on to the Rocky Mountains. He writes a great deal, both poetry and prose, regarding the vastness of America and her people.
Oct. – Whitman suffers a relapse of bad health (and perhaps a shortness of funds); he will stay with Jeff until January, 1880.
Dec. 17- “What Best I See in Thee” is published. This is a poem about Ulysses Grant, the former general and President, who returned from a world tour. What Whitman saw as best was that while Grant walked with kings also with him were, “Those prairie sovereigns of the West… with thee walking.” Whitman always liked Grant; he wrote about him several times. For Whitman, he stood, like Lincoln, as that plain person from the American heartland who represents the ideal of American democratic life.
Jan. 4 – Whitman heads home.
January – Whitman learns Maurice Bucke is working on a biography of the poet. It is generally felt that Whitman provided a great deal of information, inspiration, and perhaps text, to this book.
March 25 – Whitman is introduced to Robert Ingersoll (1833- 1899) by letter. Ingersoll, known as “The Great Agnostic” will become a part of Whitman’s circle. He was an attorney and politician who had served in the Civil War in the West- fighting at Shiloh. Ingersoll is most famous as an orator; he especially was known for speaking about family and against organized religion. Whitman saw him as a kindred spirit. Ingersoll gave the eulogy at Whitman’s funeral.
March – Whitman makes first mention of William Sloane Kennedy (1850- 1929). Kennedy was a journalist and writer. He wrote about Longfellow and Burroughs and, extensively, about Whitman (among other publications, The Fight of a Book for the World). He became a defender of Whitman in the poet’s later years and especially after his death.
April 15 – Whitman delivers a Lincoln Lecture, Association Hall, Philadelphia.
May 25 – Whitman attends a lecture by Ingersoll with Dr. Bucke; this is his first meeting with the orator.
May 31 – Whitman celebrates sixty-first birthday.
June 1 – Whitman writes a new will where George and Louisa are executors and Edward is greatly provided for.
June – “Patrolling Barnegat”, a poem about the Jersey Shore, is published.
June 3 – Whitman begins a long trip to Canada with Bucke, starting at Niagara Falls. He stayed for some time with Bucke at his asylum and made a roughly three week journey through Eastern Canada- much of it by steamship. He wrote a great deal during this trip, including a long diary of his adventures. This was later edited by William Sloane Kennedy. He also wrote “The Dalliance of the Eagles”, one of his controversially sexual pieces, which would result in his later being “banned in Boston”.
October – Whitman comes back to Camden.
November – “The Dalliance of Eagles” is published.
November – Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833- 1908) article, “Walt Whitman”, is published. Stedman was a journalist, poet, critic and editor. He edited Poe’s works and put together volumes of poetry Victorian Poets and Poets of America. He was an early advocate for Leaves of Grass and his essay gave intellectual heft to Whitman’s work. Stedman had known Whitman off and on since the days at Pfaff’s and would remain and friend and supporter of the poet.
Nov. 6-16 – Whitman spends time with the Staffords
Nov. 17 – Percy Ives (1864- 1928) visits Whitman. Ives was grandson to a family friend of Whitman. He was in Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Ives would paint Whitman on two occasions.
Nov. 21 – Kennedy visits.
March 8 – George P. Lathrop (1851- 1898) visits from Boston. Lathrop is a novelist and poet who is married to Rose Hawthorne (1851- 1926), daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804- 1864). After Lathrop’s death, Rose became a nun and founded an order called the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Rose’s brother Julian (1846- 1934) attended Whitman’s 70th birthday celebration in Camden and read a tribute and later was a pallbearer at Whitman’s funeral. In 1881, the Lathrops live in “The Wayside” where Rose had lived as a child. “The Wayside” had also been the home of the Amos Bronson Alcott (1799- 1888) and his family after their time in Germantown. Lathrop is arranging a Lincoln Lecture for Boston that spring.
March 23 – Eddie is moved to a facility at Glen Mills, PA
April 13 – Whitman travels to Boston.
April 15 – Whitman presents Lincoln Lecture in Boston.
April 16 – Whitman visits Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
April 18 – Whitman visits Quincey Shaw (1825- 1908), who has a collection of works by Henri Millet (1814- 1875) that enrapture Whitman. He spends two hours. Whitman will later have a Millet print in his Mickle Street home. Millet is a French painter who often portrays workers- such as farmers- going about their day. Shaw is cousin to historian Francis Parkman (1823- 1893) and uncle to Robert Gould Shaw (1837- 1863) who was killed at the head of the 54th Massachusetts Colored troops (as commemorated in the film Glory).
May 31 – Whitman turns sixty-two.
July – Whitman travels to Long Island with Bucke.
July 2 – President James Garfield (1831- 1881) is shot in Washington, DC. Garfield, a Civil War General, had known Whitman in Washington when he was serving in Congress. His greeting to the poet was always a hearty, “After all not to create only!” in honor of the Whitman piece.
August 1-6 – Whitman visits New York.
August 6- 19 – Whitman stays with the Johnstons.
Aug. 16 – Whitman visits his old stomping grounds: Pfaff’s and the offices of the Brooklyn Eagle; he also sees the painting, “Custer’s Last Rally”.
Aug.- Sept. – Back in Boston, Whitman stays for a time in Concord with Franklin Sanborn. There he visits the graves of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau (1817- 1862), as well as Thoreau’s cabin at Walden. He also sees Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos Bronson Alcott (1799- 1888), and Louisa May Alcott (1832- 1888), in Concord. Whitman had known Bronson Alcott for years. Alcott had looked him up while he was living in New York, thanks to Emerson providing an address. He subsequently introduced Whitman to Thoreau. In that same circle was Samuel Longfellow (), a Unitarian minister and the brother of Henry. Whitman and Louisa Mae had Civil War hospitals in common- both had volunteered as nurses and both had written about their experiences. In Boston, he meets Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809- 1894) and Henry James (1843- 1916). Holmes was a physician and poet, who coined the term “Boston Brahmin” and was one of the critics of Whitman’s sexual writings, though he would write highly of Whitman’s treatment of the common man. James was a novelist, who spent most of his time in Europe; as a young critic he called Drum Taps “monstrous”, which he later regretted when he reevaluated Whitman to the positive. Whitman also reacquainted with Joaquin Miller and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
September 19 – President Garfield dies from infection in his wounds. Whitman hears the news at about midnight; he immediately sits down and writes “The Sobbing of the Bells”.
October – Whitman goes back to New York with Bucke, stays with Johnstons and Burroughs.
November – The Sixth Edition of Leaves of Grass is published in Boston by James Osgood.
Nov. 3 – Whitman is back in Camden.
Dec. 21 – Percy Ives sketches Whitman for his oil painting.
January 18 – Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) visits Whitman in Camden. Wilde was a poet, novelist, playwright, and the leading light of the aesthetic movement. Whitman and he talked for a couple of hours over a bottle of homemade elderberry wine; Wilde said he would have enjoyed it had it been “vinegar”, so much was his “admiration” for Whitman. Whitman, in turn, felt the author a “fine large handsome youngster”.
February 7 – Whitman works on revising Bucke’s biography.
March – Leaves of Grass is banned in Boston.
March 13 – Whitman travels by train to Atlantic City.
March 24 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dies.
March 24-31 – A visit to the Staffords,
April 8 – “Death of Longfellow” is published.
April 10 – Whitman’s publisher, James Osgood, drops him over the issue of revisions to Leaves of Grass and its banning.
April 22-27 – Whitman spends time with the Staffords.
April 28 – William O’Connor protests Leaves banning.
May 3 – Whitman rekindles correspondence with O’Connor.
May 6 – “By Emerson’s Grave” is published.
May 10 – Oscar Wilde visits again.
May 31 – Whitman is 63 years old.
June 3 – “Edgar Poe’s Significance” is published.
June 28 – Whitman gets a new publisher for Leaves of Grass, Rees Welsh in Philadelphia. David McKay (1860-1918) worked for Rees Welsh and Co., who mostly published law books. In 1882, McKay started his own business; Whitman was his first client; Leaves of Grass was his first book. He followed it up that same year with Specimen Days. McKay would publish Whitman for the rest of the poet’s life (and beyond). He published Bucke’s biography, Walt Whitman and Camden’s Compliment to Walt Whitman. McKay, who remained a frequent visitor to Whitman’s Mickle Street home, was a pall bearer at Whitman’s funeral.
June – “Memorandum at a Venture” is published, defending his work against being banned.
July3-5 – Whitman is at Staffords
July – Leaves of Grass printed and sells out- five printing runs altogether, with over 6,000 copies sold.
September 8 – Specimen Days and Collect are published, again by McKay.
October 10 – Whitman meets Tom Donaldson (1843- 1898). Donaldson was an attorney and became a major part of Whitman’s circle. He published a biography of Whitman, Walt Whitman, the Man, in 1896. Donaldson gave Whitman a rocking chair, which Whitman left to Donaldson’s children, which they subsequently returned to the Whitman House when it became an historic site in the 1920’s. He was one of Whitman’s literary executors in an early will. He served as a pall bearer for Whitman’s funeral.
November 9 – Whitman sells a lot he owns at 460 Royden St., Camden.
December 23-25 – Whitman stays with Robert Pearsall Smith (1827- 1898) family in Germantown. Smith was a businessman turned evangelist/ speaker/ writer. He travelled extensively in England. Whitman wrote him there in 1889 from his “big old chair in the 2d story room”. It is Smith who took Whitman to the 1887 Lincoln Lecture in New York and organized a large reception after. Hannah Whitall Smith (1832- 1911) was a suffragist who also wrote evangelical books. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865- 1946) also wrote, though mainly from a literary bent. Daughter Mary (1864- 1945) married Bernard Berenson (1865- 1959) they were both important art historians, who lectured on fine arts and increased attention to collecting important works. Mary was the member of the family who had wanted to meet Whitman in the first place. Daughter Alys (1867- 1951) married philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872- 1970) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. He wrote about Whitman: “The sort of joy which most people feel only in those who are exceptionally beautiful or splendid Walt Whitman felt in almost everybody.”
June 20 – Bucke’s biography, Walt Whitman, published
July 3-17 – Whitman stays with the Staffords.
August 4-28 – Whitman visits with the Smiths
August-December – Jessie and Mannahatta visit Camden.
September 21 – John Burroughs writes from Ocean Grove NJ where he is staying for health reasons- he invites Whitman to come down and stay.
September 26 – October 10- Whitman joins Burroughs in Ocean Grove, NJ (just south of Asbury Park).
November 17 – “Our Eminent Visitors (Past, Present, and Future)” is published in The Critic. The Critic is published by Jeanette(1849- 1916) and Joseph Gilder (1858- 1936)- who are siblings to Richard Gilder. It is an influential literary magazine. Whitman is frequently published, and written about, therein.
December 22-26 – Whitman visits Francis H. Williams (1844- 1922) family in Germantown. There is a photograph in the Library of Congress showing Whitman with the wife and children of Williams. Williams is a poet and playwright who wrote a great deal on Whitman- including a poem “Walt Whitman”, dated March 26, 1892, the day Whitman died. In that poem he wrote “There is no darkness for the central sun/ Nor any death for immortality” and he called Whitman “Democracy’s divine protagonist”. That poem was a part of E. C. Stedman’s An American Anthology, 1787- 1900. Williams also took a great role in Whitman’s funeral. He did a series of readings between the various remembrances and orations.
January 5 – “A Backward Glance on My Own Road” is published in The Critic. It will later become a part of A Backward Glance O’er Travelled Roads when combined with three other essays.
January 30 – Whitman sees the play Francesca da Rimini in Philadelphia. The play is written by George Boker (1823- 1890), who was in the circle of Whitman’s friends while living in Camden. Boker, a poet and playwright- as well as a diplomat, was one of the founders and the head of the Union League in Philadelphia. Whitman called the acting “first rate” and reported that he “fell in love” with the leading lady, Marie Wainwright (1853- 1923). Whitman was invited backstage to visit with star, Lawrence Barrett (1838- 1891), though he declined a dinner invitation. Barrett often worked with Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth (1838- 1865)) to whom Whitman wrote seeking a portrait of the actor’s father, Junius Brutus Booth(1796- 1852), whom Whitman quite admired. Whitman wrote glowingly of Booth’s portrayal of Richard III. Ironically, he also saw John Wilkes Booth in the same role and was more tepid in his opinion- comparing son to father as a bust of Henry Clay (1777-1852) to the actual orator (this before the ignominy of Booth). Both Booth and Barrett, as well as Boker, donated money to the Whitman carriage fund in 1885. Boker (along with H.H. Furness and George Childs) also sent “substantial checks” to Tom Harned in 1888 to pay for health care for Whitman.
March 20 – Whitman meets Bram Stoker (1847- 1912) and Henry Irving (1838- 1905) at Tom Donaldson’s House. Henry Irving ran the Lyceum Theatre Company, which was managed by Stoker. They were touring in America. Irving was one of the most famous of English actors- the first to be knighted for his craft. Irving told Whitman, “You are like Tennyson… You quite remind me of him.” When he worried if that offended Whitman, the poet replied “I am very proud to be told so!” Whitman commented later on Irving’s “intellectual power and heart”. Interestingly, Donaldson had given Irving a gift of Edwin Forrest’s (1806-1872) watch several months earlier in New York. Forrest was a favorite actor of Whitman’s from his days in New York. A Philadelphia native, Forrest became one of the United States early well-known thespians- though not without controversy. His public, and at times, controversial feud with British actor William Macready led to the Astor Place Riot in New York, where over a score were killed and perhaps two hundred or more injured. Stoker, yet to make his claim as an author of works like Dracula, was a great fan of Whitman. He felt Whitman was “all that I ever dreamed of… understanding with an insight that seemed more than human”. Whitman felt that Stoker was “like a breath of good, healthy, breezy, sea air.” Stoker was invited to call in Camden at any future date. Stoker eventually had a number of signed editions of Whitman’s in his collection as well as some writing fragments given him by Donaldson.
March 26 – Whitman moves to 328 Mickle St., the house he would refer to as his “Shanty”.
April 3 – Whitman finalizes the purchase of the only house he would ever own for $1,750. He had borrowed some of the money from George Childs.
June 18-20 – Edward Carpenter visits.
June 20 – Jeff and daughters arrive for a visit.
September 14 – Whitman travels to Cape May.
October 10 – “Red Jacket (from Aloft)” is published.
October 26 – “If I Should Need to Name, O Western World” is published.
November 3 – Whitman is drawn by Edward Clifford (1844- 1907), an English artist and a part of the Aesthetic Movement. Clifford was visiting the Smiths; he was also a friend of John Addington Symonds (1840- 1893). Symonds was a critic and historian- especially of the Renaissance. He was also one of- if not the first- to use the word “homosexual”. Whitman’s Calamus poems were an inspiration to him and his thinking. He wrote Whitman frequently; in 1890, he asked openly about the homoeroticism in Calamus. Whitman responded that his view was “undream’d and unreck’d possibility of morbid inferences”. In 1893 Symonds published Walt Whitman, A Study, on the day he died.
November 8-10 – Whitman visits with the Smiths and Clifford.
November – Sadakichi Hartmann visits for the first time. Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1867- 1944) was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and German father and was raised in Germany. At 15, he was sent to live with an uncle in Philadelphia after leaving military school. He wrote poetry, including some of the first English haiku, plays, and criticism, including early criticism on photography. Hartmann spent a fair amount of time with Whitman over the years. He wrote a book in 1895 entitled Conversations With Walt Whitman. He tried to start a Whitman Society in Boston in 1887, but alienated many Whitman supporters and failed in his attempt. In his account, he wrote of a visit after Whitman had died and hoped that the house could be preserved: “Why not try and be original—original in the manner that Walt Whitman would have liked—and give a perfect fac-simile of the room as it was during the lifetime of the poet—the floor strewn with newspapers, magazines, and books; on the table a demijohn with spring water; on the mantelpiece photographs; on the walls pictures of his parents; in one corner a large heap of his own books? It would be the work of an artistic person, who was familiar with Walt Whitman’s way of living, to rearrange the room; but it could be done and would be unique.”
December – Dr. Bucke visits. The two are joined by Burroughs and visit the Smiths.
January 2 – William Sloane Kennedy visits.
January 5 – Edmund Gosse (1849- 1928) visits. Gosse was a poet, critic and biographer. He influenced writers from James Joyce (1882- 1941) to Siegfried Sassoon (1886- 1967). He was friends with Robert Louis Stevenson (1850- 1894), Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837- 1909)(of whom he wrote a biography), and John Addington Symonds. Swinburne started off seeming to like Whitman, including a poem “To Walt Whitman in America”, but apparently cooled in his views as time went on, criticizing the poet and his devotees in a piece called “Whitmania” in 1887. Stevenson wrote about Whitman several times- including the essay “Books Which Have Influenced Me” where he said Whitman’s work performed a “singular service”. He donated money to Whitman in an 1885 English fundraising.
January 25 – Whitman has his first meal with Mary Davis
February 22 – “Ah, Not This Granite, Dead and Cold” is published.
February 24- Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 38- 1908) and pets move in. Whitman had started taking meals with her the previous month after the former residents of 328 Mickle, the Lays, had moved out. Mary Davis was the widow of a ship captain. She had previously taken care of an infirmed friend at the end of her life and then her husband (also a ship captain) who had lost his sight. She raised their children, Frederick Warren (1866- 1899) and Henry M. Fritzinger. Warry, who was a sailor, became Whitman’s nurse at the end of the poet’s life and kept Whitman’s circle of friends informed of Whitman’s condition. Whitman referred to him as his “sailor boy”. Harry was also a sailor. On December 25, 1891, he had a son who he named Walt Whitman Fritzinger, who was remembered in Whitman’s will. Whitman’s last words were “Shift, Warry”. Mary Davis was not paid but received money in Whitman’s will (and also from a lawsuit against the estate for wages). Walt depended upon her as his health failed for food, sewing clothes, health care, organization of the household, her furniture (which was something he lacked), and generally putting up with his sometimes difficult foibles. Overall, she was an eminently important part of life on Mickle Street for the poet.
May 16 – “As One by One Withdraw the Lofty Actors” is published.
August – “Fancies at Navesink” is published.
September 15 – Horse and buggy gift organized by Tom Donaldson. Following this gift, the carriage stone with “WW” engraved would be placed in front of the house. The carriage fund was through a series of $10 donations made through Whitman’s friends and admirers- including Samuel Clemens (1835- 1910). Clemens and Whitman had a curious relationship. Near contemporaries, with similar-ish philosophies and controversies, they seemed to warily circle each other. Whitman said that Mark Twain “comes near being something, but never arrives.” Clemens reported that he “never read fourty lines” of Whitman. However, Clemens attended Whitman’s 1887 New York Lincoln lecture and twice donated money to Whitman relief funds. They exchanged books as well. Twain felt that “we need to make the splendid old soul comfortable.” Whitman also wrote a “deep-felt personal thanks” to Clemens and spoke of “the friendly hand of Mark Twain” regarding a publishing effort late in life. Twain also wrote an unfinished, unpublished piece, “The Walt Whitman Controversy” defending the poet against obscenity charges by offering examples of Whitman’s “obscenity” versus that of other works regarded as classics, such as Rabelais, Boccaccio, and Shakespeare. He even wrote the phrase, unfinished, “Whitman’s noble work…”
November 28 – Whitman travels to Atlantic City by train.
February 2 – Whitman presents his Lincoln Lecture in Elkton, MD.
February 22 – Whitman painted by John White Alexander (1856- 1915). This painting is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A signed proof of the work is in the Whitman Collection of the University of Pennsylvania. Alexander also painted John Burroughs. He drew for Harper’s Weekly and trained in Europe. Ironically he died on May 31, Whitman’s birthday. He used Evelyn Nesbit (1884- 1967) as a model. She was a model and actress- her story inspired two movies The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) and Ragtime (1980). She was involved with Stanford White (1853- 1906), the Architect of among other things the second Madison Square Garden. White came from a sick-bed to meet Whitman after his 1887 Lincoln Lecture in New York. White was famously and publically murdered at Madison Square Garden by Nesbit’s husband, Henry K. Thaw (1871- 1947). Thaw was a multi-millionaire heir to a steel fortune who shot White because his wife claimed the architect had taken advantage of her when she was a teenager. Incidentally, White’s father was Richard Grant White (1822- 1885). The elder White was a noted Shakespearean scholar. He also published a fairly mean-spirited lampoon of Whitman in 1884, called “After Walt Whitman”, beginning “I happify myself…” and going on to say “I glorify schnapps, I celebrate gin…”
March 1 – Lincoln Lecture, Morgan Hall, Camden. Morgan Hall stood at the corner of Fourth and Market Streets. It was at one time the finest meeting hall in the city. Whitman’s large gathering for his seventieth birthday was also held in the same place.
April 15 – Lincoln Lecture, Chestnut Street Opera House, Philadelphia. The Chestnut Street Opera House was on the eleven hundred block of Chestnut until closing in 1913. It was a “sort of benefit- Thomas Donaldson and Talcott Williams are the instigators of it all- (‘I am receiving great & opportune Kindnesses in my old days’)”, wrote Whitman. Talcott Williams (1849-1928) was a longtime friend and literary defender of Whitman’s. He defended the poet over his 1882 Boston banning. That year, Whitman wrote William O’Connor that “Talcott Williams is an ardent friend….” In a letter to Williams that same year, Whitman mentioned his “friends in this conjuncture (I consider you one of them, you blew the first blast as clear & loud as eve trumpet pealed”. He later stated that “The only thing that saves the Philadelphia Press (for which Williams worked) from entire damnation is Talcott Williams. Now there’s a man with some stuff to ‘im.” His wife Sophia Royce Williams (1850- 1928) was also a writer. She too was a friend of the poet’s. She donated money to some of the various fundraisers for the benefit of Whitman. It was Sophia Williams who took the famous photograph of Whitman sitting by the open window in the front parlor of 328 Mickle Street in 1886.
April 15 – Whitman dines with Richard Gilder and Agnes Irwin. Irwin was an educator, longtime principal of the school that today bears her name in Bryn Mawr, PA, and later the dean of Radcliffe College. She was also the great- great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin (1706- 1790) and granddaughter of Secretary of State Alexander Dallas (1759- 1817). She co-authored the book Worthy Women of Our First Century in 1877. Her biographer was essayist and author Agnes Rapplier (1855- 1950). Rapplier was ironically expelled from Agnes Irwin’s school, but managed to make herself one of America’s leading female writers. She visited Whitman in Camden, remembering his room “littered with old newspapers, so that one lighted match carelessly discarded would send him into another world.”
April – Dr. Bucke visits.
May 18 – Lincoln Lecture, Haddonfield, NJ. This benefit is from Whitman for a new church to be built in Collingswood, NJ.
July 3-6 – Whitman travels to Sea Isle City.
July 11 – “How I Made a Book- or tried to” published.
August 14 – “A Thought on Shakespeare” published.
September 3 – Whitman’s niece Mannahatta (“Hattie”)dies.
November 3 – Bram Stoker accompanies Tom Donaldson to Mickle Street. Whitman sat in the rocking chair that the Donaldson family had given him. The two discuss, among other things, their mutual admiration for Abraham Lincoln. Stoker feels Whitman has slowed a bit- at least in body. He recalled the room being “strewn in places knee-deep with piles of newspapers and books and all the odds and ends of a literary working room”. He wrote, “the memory of that room will never leave me”.
November- “Robert Burns As Poet and Person” is published. Burns (1759- 1796) was a Scottish poet and is considered the national poet of Scotland. Among his works are “Auld Lang Sine” and “A Red, Red Rose”. He is considered among the most important of the romantic poets of the late 18th– early 19th centuries.
January 1 – “A Word About Tennyson” is published. Whitman referred to Alfred, Lord Tennyson (as “the boss of us all” after Tennyson wrote and congratulated him on his seventieth birthday. Tennyson (1809- 1892) was the poet laureate of Great Britain for over four decades- the longest serving ever. Amongst his well-known works are Idylls of the King and “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. In 1871, Tennyson wrote Whitman that he hoped “for the pleasure of receiving and entertaining you under my own roof”.
Jan. 25 – “New Orleans in 1848” is published.
February 23 – Whitman recites “A Mystic Trumpeter” and “A Word Out of the Sea” at Contemporary Club, Philadelphia. Talcott Williams is one of the founders of the club. Dr. Daniel Brinton (1837-1899) is one of the other members. He wrote a formal thank you to Whitman for his attendance. He was another of Whitman’s strong, local admirers and supporters. He served as a Union Army surgeon during the Civil War. He later held posts as professor of linguistics and archeology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania. He also became an anarchist in later life. He spoke at Whitman’s funeral and wrote about the poet in The Conservator.
March 5 – Whitman attends Clito starring Wilson Barrett in Philadelphia. Barrett (1846- 1904) was an English actor who brought a company to Philadelphia. He sent a carriage to Camden with some of his company to pick Whitman up. Whitman took Mary Davis with him for the show and reported that he “was made much of”. Whitman had a photo of Wilson Barrett on his mantle (given him by Talcott Williams).
March 20 – Moncure Conway visits.
April 5 – Whitman gives Lincoln Lecture at Unitarian Society, Camden.
April 14 – Whitman presents his Lincoln Lecture, Madison Square Garden, New York. The manager for the lecture is Major James Pond. Pond (1838- 1903) won a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War. After, he became an impresario. He managed, among others, Mark Twain, Henry Stanley and Frederick Douglass.
April 28 – Whitman travels to Billy Thompson’s Restaurant in Gloucester City for a planked shad dinner.
May 29- Whitman receives his first letter from Bolton, England. Whitman would eventually send over 100 letters and cards to this town. A group of admirers formed in Bolton, calling themselves the “Eagle Street College”. They met for the first time in 1885 at the home of James W. Wallace (1853- 1926). They began a tradition, that continues to this day, of celebrating the poet’s May 31 birthday. Wallace visited Whitman in 1891. He also visited Maurice Bucke and other places related to Whitman. He wrote two books about Whitman: Whitman and the World Crisis and Visits to Walt Whitman 1890- 1891. The second was written with John Johnston, who had made a similar trip through Whitman’s world in 1890. John Johnston (1852- 1927) was a physician. He had sent Whitman a photograph of himself and another he had taken of the birthplace of Thomas Carlyle. He was delighted to see these photos on Whitman’s mantle in the parlor when he visited in 1890. He took many photographs of the interior and exterior of the house while he visited. These have been instrumental in the restoration (as they continue to be) of Whitman’s “shanty” due to the details shown of the poet’s residence therein. Maurice Bucke presented the Bolton “Whitmanites” with a stuffed canary during an 1891 visit. It had been the source of a poem, “My Canary Bird”, written after an illness. It resides in the Metropolitan Library in Bolton today.
Spring- Whitman receives a series of brief visits from John Newton Johnson (1832- 1904) of Alabama. Johnson started writing to Whitman in 1874 after reading some of the poet’s works. He wrote over 30 letters in the intervening years. He reported himself as a former Confederate soldier and he claimed to live in a “backwoods hermit home”.
June 3- Herbert Gilchrist visits.
June- “The Dying Veteran” is published.
Summer- Herbert Gilchrist paints Whitman while Sidney Morse sculpts him. Thomas Harned reports a visit to the sweltering house where Whitman was stirring a pot of stew on the stove while the unfortunate artists tried their best to work on their treatments.
October 18- William O’Connor’s last visit.
October “Shakespere- Bacon’s Cipher” is published.
November- “November Boughs” plus four other poems are published.
December 15- “As the Greek’s Signal Flame” is published.
December 22- Stoker returns again to Camden. They discuss the potential of cutting some controversial lines from Leaves of Grass to increase its audience. Stoker had spoken of this with Talcott Williams, a mutual friend. Whitman was adamantly opposed to any cutting at all. Stoker feels that Whitman looks like a famous portrait of King Lear. After Whitman dies, Stoker again returns to Camden where Tom Donaldson gives him an envelope that Whitman had left for him. It contained “a full report of my Lincoln Lecture for our friend Bram Stoker”- the notes for his 1886 Lincoln Lecture in Philadelphia.
December 25- Whitman spends Christmas with Harneds and Ernest Rhys (1859- 1946). Rhys is a Welsh writer and poet. He also is editor of the Everyman’s Library- a collection of 100 all-time classics published at affordable prices.
December- Thomas Eakins (1844- 1916) paints Whitman at 328 Mickle Street. That portrait is located at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The two had been introduced by Talcott Williams and became great friends. Like Whitman, Eakins got himself in trouble due to his art; he was fired by the Academy and was always controversial for his use of nudity (including the use of nude male models in front of female students) and realism (i.e. the blood in his surgical paintings). He gave Whitman a print of his classic “The Gross Clinic” which hung in the parlour when it was photographed in 1890. His “Agnew Clinic” (1889) featured- among the observers- Dr. Nathan Baker (1859- 1928) who had been for a time Whitman’s first nurse and was the witness to his June 29, 1888 will. He worked for Whitman in June and July of 1888, while in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. The Whitman portrait was given to the poet, who left it to Maurice Bucke, whose heirs sold it to the Academy (which had ironically fired Eakins).
January 27 – “For Those Who’ve Failed” is published.
January 29 – “Halcyon Days” is published.
Spring – A long series of poems published in New York Herald, like “America”, “My Canary Bird”, and “Paumanok”.
March 28 – Horace Traubel begins to record details of Whitman’s life and their conversations.
April 24 – Whitman partakes of an annual shad dinner in Gloucester City.
June 3 – Whitman suffers a stroke- Drs. Bucke and Osler take care of him. William Osler (1849- 1919) was another Canadian physician. By the mid-1880’s he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. He would later be one of the founders of both the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School. He came up with the notion of residency for new doctors. He was also interested in the study of brains; his own was donated to the Wister Institute in Philadelphia and today resides in the Mutter Museum. The group to which it was given, the American Anthropometric Society, also took Walt Whitman’s brain upon his death. Dr. Edward Cattell (1862-1936) performed the autopsy and took Whitman’s brain for study. The brain was subsequently lost. The story for years was that it was dropped (a la the 1931 film Frankenstein). But recently Cattell’s own diary was found to contain the answer. “I am a fool… I left Walt Whitman’s brain spoil by not having the jar properly covered.”
June 10 – Whitman takes on his first nurse, Nathan Baker.
June 29 – Whitman writes a new will.
July 14 – Baker leaves, W.A. Musgrove replaces as nurse.
August 12 – “Over and Through the Burial Chant” is published.
Fall – November Boughs- essays and poems- is published.
September 7 – Whitman sells horse and buggy.
September 26 – Hamlin Garland visits. Garland (1860- 1940) was a writer and poet who also made a name as a parapsychology skeptic. He was born in Wisconsin, but eventually made his way to Boston. He taught Whitman in Boston as of the 1880’s. He told Whitman he was “everywhere making your claims felt”. He also attended the poet’s 70th birthday party where he spoke glowingly of Whitman.
November 5 – Edward Wilkins brought on as nurse. Dr. Bucke was driving force as he had heard that Musgrave was not up to snuff (most likely from Traubel or Harned who did not seem to be fans). Ed Wilkins came from Bucke’s hospital and was “a real good, nice looking, young fellow. I have known him some years. He is as good as he looks.” Whitman later wrote to Bucke that “Ed Wilkins pleases me… He is very good and attentive.”
Fall – Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman, 1855- 1888 is published.
January 5 – “To the Year 1889” is published.
February 20 – Jeff Whitman visits.
February 26 – Dr. Bucke visits.
May 10 – Whitman receives a gift of a wheel chair; he has his first outing since June, 1888. The gift was organized by Geoffrey Buckwalter (1849- 1912), Henry Bonsall (1834- 1900), and Thomas Harned. Bonsall was the founder and editor of the Camden Daily Post and the Superintendent of Schools for Camden. He read a short poem in Whitman’s honor at his 70th birthday party. Buckwalter was a teacher in Camden, who had befriended the poet. He was the one who insisted on the portrait. Buckwalter also helped to organize the 70th birthday party for Whitman. He also attended the Liberty in Literature Lecture with Whitman on Oct. 21,1890. He dined with Whitman that same evening. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins picked out the chair at John Wanamaker’s Department Store on May 8.
May 26 – Visit of “three Hindus” to Whitman house.
May 31 – Whitman attends a big birthday celebration at Morgan Hall, Camden. About two-hundred attend. Whitman is not pleased that the party is all men. This is Whitman’s first real outing in a year. He had planned a short pop-in, but stayed for two hours and partook of some champagne and greatly enjoyed hearing himself feted and well-wished.
June 2 – Whitman suggests Camden’s Compliment be published with an accounting of the birthday festivities, which it will be.
June 7 – “A Voice from Death” is published in the New York World. The World was run by Joseph Pulitzer (1847- 1911). He is famous for the idea of yellow journalism” and, of course, the Pulitzer Prize. He had actually started his career with a paper in St. Louis, where Jeff Whitman lived. He lived in a New York House built by Stanford White. Whitman had been approached to create a “threnody” memorializing the Johnstown Flood. The dam had broken at about the time his birthday was being celebrated on May 31. Whitman, when he heard the news, was a bit shaken to think that such a tragedy had occurred at such a happy time for him. The poem revitalizes his poetry bug. He said he “got it off” in an hour and a half. He remarks he may need to create a new “annex to the annex” of Leaves of Grass.
August 6 – Whitman photographed by Frederick Gutekunst, Philadelphia. He travelled with Geoffrey Buckwalter (1849- 1912) and Ed Wilkins. Gutekunst (1831- 1917) was one of the best known American photographers of the day. His fame grew with a well-known portrait of Ulysses Grant. He also created a panorama view of the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. The photo taken of Whitman pleased the old man; he is wearing a light colored suit. Whitman reports that the photo “satisfies”. He calls it “one of the best”. Bucke and Burroughs both like it as well.
August 17 – Sadakichi Hartmann visits.
September 13 – Sir Edward Arnold visits. Arnold (1832- 1902) was an English poet and writer. He sponsored explorations in Africa by Henry Stanley (1841- 1904) and coined the term “Cape to Cairo Railway”. His poetry included “The Light of Asia” which is an examination of the East. According to a newspaper account of the meeting, Whitman recited some of Arnold’s work.
September 28 – “ Bravo Paris Exposition” is published.
October 10-19 – Work is done on the house.
October 21 – Ed Wilkins leaves- Warren Fritzinger takes over as nurse, he will remain the rest of Whitman’s life. He is Whitman’s favorite of all the nurses.
October – Camden’s Compliment published.
October – An electric street light is installed outside of Whitman’s house. He enjoys watching it through the window.
November 13 – Ellen O’ Connor visits; she asks Whitman to write a preface for Three Tales. This is to be a posthumously published work by William O’Connor.
December 5 – Whitman offered a burial plot in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. This is a new Cemetery and seeks out a famous name for future internment.
December 24 – Whitman chooses burial plot in Harleigh Cemetery.
December 25 – “A North Star to the South” is published.
February 2 – “A Death-Bouquet” published.
February – “Old Age’s Ship and Crafty Death’s” published.
March – Horace Traubel published the first issue of The Conservator, it would continue on for thirty years as a monthly journal.
April 15 – Whitman presents a Lincoln Lecture at Philadelphia Art Gallery.
May 14 – Whitman travels to cemetery and for a ride along Haddonfield Pike.
May 22 – “For Queen Victoria’s Birthday” is published.
May 31 – Thirty-one friends throw a 71st Birthday for Walt Whitman dinner at Reisser’s Restaurant in Philadelphia. Speeches and letters are read. Robert Ingersoll delivers a 55 minute address.
June 5 – Whitman takes Mary Davis to visit his gravesite.
July – John Johnston arrives from Bolton to visit and photograph.
July 23 – Whitman meets with vault builders about his tomb design. He has chosen a tomb modelled on a sketch by William Blake.
August 3 – “Old Brooklyn Days” is published.
August 16 – “An Old Man’s Rejoinder” is published.
September – Whitman starts work on Goodbye, My Fancy.
October 21 – Robert Ingersoll lecture “Liberty in Literature” at Horticultural Hall (built for Centennial Exposition) in Fairmount Park. Whitman attends with about 2,000 others; the benefit raises him over $800. He waves and speaks (rather quietly) from the stage. He dines in Philadelphia that evening with Ingersoll and others. The two debate a bit about death and religion. Whitman reads his version of “The Midnight Visitor” by Henri Murger. Murger (1822- 1861) was a novelist and poet who chronicled the original “Bohemians” in Paris. Whitman enjoyed his poem “Ballade du Desespere” enough to frequently recite it.
October – “The Human Voice”, also called “The Perfect Voice” published.
Fall – Jessie Whitman visits.
November 25 – Jeff Whitman dies in St. Louis.
November – “Old Poets- And Other Things” is published.
December – “To the Sun-Set Breeze” is published.
December 13 – Whitman writes an obituary for Jeff.
Christmas – Whitman gives Mary Davis a gold ring.
January – Thomas Eakins’ portrait of Whitman displayed at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
January 10 – “The Pallid Wreath” is published.
March – Lippincott’s has a Whitman section- poetry and prose
March 12 – “Ship Ahoy” is published.
March 19 – “Old Chants” is published.
April 3 – William O’Donovan, sculptor, visits. He is working on a bust of Whitman. O’Donovan (1844- 1920) was connected to Eakins, who took a photograph of him in May 1891, as he worked on the bust of Walt Whitman. O’Donovan fought as a Confederate in the Civil War. He was a self-taught sculptor who was best known for historical memorial statues.
May – “Good-Bye My Fancy” is published.
May 1 – Samuel Murray photographs Whitman. Murray (1869- 1941) studied under Eakins and often accompanied him on his visits to Whitman. He is primarily known as a sculptor. Amongst his well-known works are the grand Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg battlefield, the statue of Commodore John Barry (1745- 1803), a naval commander during the American Revolution, behind Independence Hall and the bronze statue of George Washington (1732- 1799) in front of Independence Hall, which was cast from a deteriorating marble one that had stood on the same spot.
May – Murray photographs Whitman sitting in profile in the parlor with his wolfskin, acquired on his western jaunt, draped over the back of his chair.
May 4 – Whitman visits the tomb, suggests that Traubel go to see the progress.
May 28 – Horace Traubel and Anne Montgomerie marry in Whitman’s bedroom with 27 people in attendance.
May 30 – Whitman visits tomb, offering suggestions for placement of himself between his parents in the crypt.
May 31 – 33 guests gather on the first floor of the home for Whitman’s 72nd birthday. Thomas Eakins is pressed by the group to speak; he discusses painting the poet’s portrait: “began in the usual way… found that wouldn’t do… technique, rules, and traditions be thrown aside… he has to be treated as a man”.
July 8 – Maurice Bucke leaves for England carrying Whitman’s stuffed canary to his Bolton friends. The canary still resides in the library in Bolton.
August 10 – Bucke writes regarding meeting Tennyson and discussing Whitman with him.
September 8 – J. W. Wallace visits US from Bolton.
September 12 – Moncure Conway visits from England; he is working on Thomas Paine biography.
September 15 – In a letter to John Johnston, Whitman refers to a “really complete” Leaves of Grass, the “Death Bed Edition”.
October – William O’Connor’s Three Tales posthumously published with Whitman’s preface and a character based on the poet.
November 2 – Three visitors call on Whitman: Sir Edwin Arnold, John Russell Young, Major James Pond. At this visit Whitman asks Arnold to recite some Whitman, as Pond reports. Young (1840- 1899) is an Irish-born writer and journalist. He accompanied Ulysses Grant on his world tour and wrote a book about it. He would also serve as minister to China and Librarian of Congress. He was in that position when the Library of Congress moved to its own building for the first time ever.
December 17 – With Whitman’s failing health, Doctors Longaker and McAllister attend him.
December 24 – Whitman completes his final will.
December 25 – Harry Fritzinger names new son Walt Whitman Fritzinger.
December 28 – Elizabeth L. Keller hired as new nurse. Keller (b. 1839) will testify in a lawsuit filed by Mary Davis against George Whitman in 1894. She published a book called Walt Whitman in Camden in 1921. There was also a condensed version of material from her book published in Putnam’s Magazine in 1909. These are ostensibly biography and defense of Mary Davis, while criticizing some of Whitman’s circle. She also has little positive to report about the poet himself. There is also some thought that the main writer was an eccentric Greenwich Village Bohemian named Guido Bruno (1884- 1942).
January 27 – Whitman writes Bucke of the latest edition of Leaves of Grass, which “supersedes them all by far” and is advertised as “Now Completed”.
February 22 – Whitman’s new bed (in bedroom today), which had been purchased at Van Sciver’s put in place for the ailing poet.
March 8 – Elizabeth Keller leaves.
March 16 – Whitman gives Traubel “A Thought of Columbus”, which is published in the summer.
March 25 – A water mattress is installed in Whitman’s bed.
March 26 – Whitman dies at 6:43 p.m.; his last words were to Warren Fritzinger: “Warry shift”. A death notice was written and placed on the door in the hand of Dr. Alex McAlister, along with Horace Traubel and Thomas Harned. These, along with Mary Davis, were all present for Whitman’s passing. Dr. McAlister (1862- 1938) was closest of Whitman’s various physicians, thus he could quickly arrive at the poet’s side. He also would have the longest-lasting connection. He personally retained the death notice for three decades, returning it to the house when it became a city historic site. He also took the lead in the Walt Whitman Foundation which formed in the early 1920’s from the remnants of The Walt Whitman Fellowship to preserve the house and return its contents as much as possible. He and his wife, Sarah (1864- 1936) were at the Whitman birthday in 1892 where the Fellowship was originally proposed. The two are buried near Whitman in Harleigh Cemetery.
March 27 – Thomas Eakins, Samuel Murray, and William O’Donovan make a death mask and cast Whitman’s left hand.
March 27 – Doctors Cattell, Dercum, Longaker, and McAlister perform autopsy in dining room. George Whitman is aghast and completely in opposition to such proceedings; he is overruled by a letter signed by his brother giving permission to Dr. Longaker. Francis X. Dercum (1856- 1931) was a neurologist who is perhaps most famous for treating Woodrow Wilson after his stroke in 1919 which was kept a secret. Longaker (1858- 1949) treated Whitman in those last days. He did not always see eye to eye with McAllister. Longaker was politically similar to Traubel, which is likely why he became Whitman’s physician. He and the poet enjoyed each other’s company. He attended the birthday in Whitman’s honor that May.
March 30 – Whitman’s funeral. Traubel and Fritzinger gather papers. From 10:30 A.M. until about 1:50 P.M., when the line had to be stopped, there is a line of as long as three blocks, with all manner of folks on hand; Whitman’s friends are quite surprised. Many speeches and readings at Harleigh Cemetery; the main eulogy is given by Robert Ingersoll. Francis H. Williams serves as the master of ceremonies. Thomas Harned reports that “Camden will be best known and honored because it has known and honored Walt Whitman… Further generations will visit this shrine in adoration of one of the world’s immortals.” Ingersoll, in his remarks, opines that Whitman was responsible for one of the greatest lines in all literature: “Not til the sun excludes you do I exclude you.”
April – Horace Traubel dedicates his issue of The Conservator to Walt Whitman’s funeral. He recounts events and includes every speech and reading.
May 31 – A gathering of Whitman’s friends is held in honor of his 73rd birthday at Reisser’s Restaurant in Philadelphia- just around the corner on Fifth Street from Independence Hall. A formal proposal is made by Dr. Daniel Brinton to create a Whitman Fellowship- the ultimate result of which- through iterations- is today’s Walt Whitman Association. Brinton (1837-1899) was a Union Army surgeon during the Civil War. He later served as a Professor of linguistics and archeology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania. He also became an anarchist in later life. He spoke at Whitman’s funeral and wrote about the poet in The Conservator.