I’ve recently acquired a new treasure for my collection! The book, Walt Whitman in Mickle Street, by Elizabeth Leavitt Keller, who served as a nurse to Whitman in his last remaining years of life.
From the Editor’s Note, “While nursing her patient, Walt Whitman, during his last illness, she learnt much about his personality and home life, and much also about his unselfish friend and housekeeper, Mrs. Davis. The desire to tell the truth about the whole case – so often misunderstood or distorted – …”
Ms. Keller writes, “my second great desire – to set Mrs. Davis in her true light…” And she notes in the Preface, “One gentleman (Mr. James M. Johnston, of Buffalo), who has read the manuscript, and for whose opinion I have the greatest regard, remarked as he returned it: ‘It appears to me that your main view in writing in this was to exonerate Mrs. Davis.’” Keller further confirms, “He had discovered a fact I then recognized to be the truth.”
If you’ve read this post, you’ll recall the drama that ensued after Whitman’s death concerning Mrs. Davis and Whitman’s house. This should be an interesting read, and one that I hope does in fact “exonerate Mrs. Davis.”
One last note of interest, you might notice the image above of the frontispiece of Keller’s book. It’s a 1908 painting of 328 Mickle Street by Marsden Hartley. Remember him, there’s an interesting connection between him and Horace Traubel. Someday in a future post, I will share more about Marsden Hartley.
As for now, I’m going to read Walt Whitman in Mickle Street.
Keller, Elizabeth Leavitt. Walt Whitman in Mickle Street. New York: J. J. Little and Ives Company, 1921.