Interviews and Reminiscences

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Title: Walt Whitman's Purse

Creator: Anonymous

Date: December 17, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: med.00604

Source: The New-York Times 17 December 1886: 5. 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 and Shea Montgomerey

image 1




A cable dispatch printed yesterday in an evening paper announced that Walt Whitman, the American poet, was in need and almost starving, and that a movement had been started in Scotland to raise money to relieve his necessities. A public appeal had been made and sent to every leading paper in London, accompanied by a letter from Mr. Underwood, United States Consul at Glasgow, indorsing the statement as to Mr. Whitman's condition. It was further stated that a number of Glasgow artists had agreed to each contribute a picture, to be sold at public auction, in behalf of a benefit fund for the poet.

A very stanch friend of the Camden poet and a great admirer of his works is Mr. J. H. Johnston, the jeweler at the corner of Bowery and Broome-street. When his attention was called to the cablegram he read it with much interest. "If we were not in the midst of the holiday trade," he said, "I would jump on the next train for Philadelphia to see Walt. My last visit to Camden was early in October, before I went abroad. I did not see Walt then because he was out, but his housekeeper, Mrs. Davis, told me he was feeble, and she noticed a gradual breaking down physically. I asked her then about his financial condition, and she told me he had been having a pretty hard time, and very little money was coming to him. She did not give me to understand that there was a pressing need for necessities. If Walt was in distress he knows he would not have to look far for substantial aid. To me that London circular sounds like the production of a lunatic. It may be a swindling appeal. There are many ardent admirers of Walt's writings in London and Glasgow, and it would be easy enough to raise a few hundred pounds in as many hours. Why, when I was in Glasgow, I went into a shop and found a copy of the second edition of his works. It is very rare, you know. The owner wouldn't part with it at any price, and I bid as high as $20. An autograph letter of Walt's was sold in this city last Spring for $80 to my knowledge."

From the Philadelphia Call of Last Evening.

Walt Whitman, the poet, was seen this morning by a Call reporter regarding the paragraph which appeared in this morning's papers, stating that subscriptions were being received by the London News to relieve his actual wants. Mr. Whitman denied, laughingly, ever having been in such a condition. He said he had received numerous tokens of regard, pecuniary and otherwise, from English admirers in the past, for which he was very grateful. Should any more such testimonials be tendered him he would accept them likewise and return his heartiest thanks therefor. He said he had been much annoyed by the talk of the New York papers, which, he said, gave exaggerated ideas of his depleted financial condition in their head lines, but came nearer the truth in the body of the article. His health is very good, as is also his appetite.


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