Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: In the Matter of Ages

Creator: Anonymous

Date: January 28, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: med.00580

Source: Danbury News 28 January 1880. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the interviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nic Swiercek, and Shea Montgomerey

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In the Matter of Ages.


Mr. Walt Whitman, who, although he is gifted with frosty locks, has not yet come to sixty years, has been heard to tell this story of himself:—

I was in a street car in Camden one day not long ago, when an Irishman came aboard. He was a middle-aged, respectable-looking fellow, but he had been imbibing pretty liberally. He sat down beside me and stared hard. Finally he hitched a little closer and leaned forward to look in my face. I felt ready for some fun, but I never noticed him—just looked as stern and unapproachable as possible. But he nodded, and grinned and hitched again, bringing his face close to my ear, then in a voice husky but loud, he said—

"An'—an'—how—ould are ye?"

The passengers smiled, but I never noticed him—just looked solemnly out at the opposite window. The Irishman thought I was deaf, so he raised his voice and shouted—

An'—how—ould are ye?"

"Sir-r-r?" I exclaimed, turning on him fiercely. But he was not to be put down.

"How ould are yees?" he finally yelled right in my ear.

If it had happened in a New York horse car everybody would have screamed out laughing; but Philadelphia folks will be proper if they die, so they only smiled behind their handkerchiefs. I turned round to the fellow, and looking as stern as ever I could, said slowly—

"I am one hundred and thirty-five!"

His under jaw dropped, he sank back in his seat and never spoke again.


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