Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Two Minutes with Walt Whitman

Creator: Anonymous

Date: February 12, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: med.00633

Source: Rocky Mountain News 12 February 1889: 9. Our transcription is based on a digital image 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 Sabrina Ehmke Sergeant

image 1

Two Minutes with Walt Whitman.

In the little frame house on Mickle street, Camden, confined to his second story front room, with a cheerless view from the windows, surrounded by books, papers, medicines, letters and a pile of "November Boughs" (his last book), sat Walt Whitman yesterday afternoon when a Philadelphia Press reporter called. For seven months he has been confined to his room, most of the time to his bed, and all the time guarded closely from visitors by direction of his physicians. His greeting was breezy and he seemed to me the same democratic Walt we remember to have seen almost daily less than a year ago, seated upon the ferryboat with his breast bared to the sun and air.

The poet will be 70 if he lives until Decoration day, and, though feeble, he talked freely of his health, his friends and his hope of recovery. As he handed me a copy of his new volume, he said:

"The conflict of opinion goes on, and I tell you the author whose works are to endure must not write ornamentally. The main thing is to have something to say, and to say it in such a way as will do justice to writer and subject. There should be some purpose, aim, object, and this should be clothed in such a way as to be understood."

Could I keep back a smile when he uttered that last sentence? Can you?

And then, with a dash of vigor, he added, "And I could wish you young fellows would write for our audiences, our times, our country."

"Thoroughly American to the last," the reported exclaimed.

Yes, yes; but not in the proscriptive sense. America is orbic, truly catholic—not prohibitive."


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