Dinner with Walt

all things Walt Whitman

Dinner with Walt - all things Walt Whitman

123rd Anniversary of Whitman’s Death

Today, dear readers, marks the 123rd anniversary of Whitman’s death. A dear friend of mine, a wonderful Robert G. Ingersoll enthusiast, shared the letter below that Ingersoll wrote Whitman in December, 1891. It is as meaningful today as it was 122 years ago. Thanks Gerrie!

 

December 29, 1891

My dear Whitman,

I am glad that you have lived long enough to know that your Leaves of Grass will live forever—long enough to know that your life has been a success—that you have sown with brave and generous hands the seeds of liberty and love. This is enough—and this is a radiance that even the darkness cannot extinguish.

Maybe the end of the journey is the best of all, and maybe the end of this life is the beginning of another, and maybe the beginning of that is better than the ending of this.

But however and whatever the fact may be, you have lightened the journey here, for millions of your fellow-men. In the great desert you have dug wells and planted palms. As long as water and shade are welcome to the faint and weary, your memory will live.

Wishing you many, many days of health and happiness, and with a heart full of love,

I remain,

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll

*****

One last farewell letter arrived to Whitman from Ingersoll, just two days before Whitman died:

New York, N.Y.

March 24, 1892

My dear friend,

I am pained to know that you are suffering more and more, but was glad to know that your brave spirit has never been bowed–and that in all your agony your heart keeps sweet and strong.

I think of you a thousand times a day–and of the great good you have done the world. You have written such brave, free, and winged words–words that have thrilled and ennobled the hearts and lives of millions–that my admiration has deepened to obligation.

Again I thank you for your courage, and again I lovingly say farewell–and yet I hope to see you soon.

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll

*****

Links to previous posts on Whitman’s death:

2012

2013

2014

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March 26, 2013

Today marks the 121st anniversary since Whitman’s death. I have an interesting relic I acquired recently that is fitting for today. It’s Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly from April 14, 1892. The paper contains a small article and a  full page of images: Robert Ingersoll delivering his eulogy; Whitman’s casket in the parlor of his home on Mickle St. and three images of the huge gatherings of people at his funeral service, tomb and outside his home. See this post for more information on Whitman’s death.

 

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March 26, 2012

Today marks the 120th anniversary of Whitman’s death.

 

Horace Traubel’s volume’s of With Walt Whitman in Camden, show in great detail how Whitman was truly in very poor health the last remaining years of his life. He suffered much, but mostly never complained about his situation. In preparing for his own death, Whitman himself drew the plans for his final resting place and commissioned the work to be done on his mausoleum for the very hefty (1892) price of $4,000. (For which he suffered much ridicule).

 

 

 From Wikipedia on Whitman’s death:  “An autopsy revealed his lungs had diminished to one-eighth their normal breathing capacity, a result of bronchial pneumonia, and that an egg-sized abscess on his chest had eroded one of his ribs. The cause of death was officially listed as “pleurisy of the left side, consumption of the right lung, general military tuberculosis and parenchymatous nephritis.” A public viewing of his body was held at his Camden home; over one thousand people visited in three hours and Whitman’s oak coffin was barely visible because of all the flowers and wreaths left for him. Four days after his death, he was buried in his tomb at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. Another public ceremony was held at the cemetery, with friends giving speeches, live music, and refreshments. Whitman’s friend, the orator Robert Ingersoll, delivered the eulogy. Later, the remains of Whitman’s parents and two of his brothers and their families were moved to the mausoleum.”

 

An 1892 photo of the funeral gathering at Whitman’s tomb:

 

 

I have in my collection a copy of Robert Ingersoll’s eulogy, delivered on March 30, 1892.

 

 

Credits:

Mausoleum Image:  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/ww0062s.jpg

 

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