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APPENDIX B WHITMAN IN NEW ORLEANS
Edward Carpenter wrote in the Reformer, February, 1902, p. 89: “In a letter to J. Addington Symonds (19th August, 1890),[779] he [Whitman] mentioned that he had six children. Symonds, writing to me in 1893, quoted the passage in question from this letter of Whitman’s, and it runs as follows: ‘My life, young manhood, mid-age, times South, etc., have been jolly bodily, and doubtless open to criticism. Tho’ unmarried I have had six children—two are dead—one living, Southern grandchild, fine boy, writes to me occasionally—circumstances (connected with their fortune and benefit) have separated me from intimate relations.’”

In a letter to Carpenter, further attested in conversation with myself, Horace Traubel says: “Walt frequently in his later years made allusions to the fact of his fatherhood. That is, to me. One night, just previous to his death, I went with Harned to Walt’s room, at Walt’s request, to get a sort of deposition in the matter, its detail, etc., etc.... But he was taken sick in our presence and was unable to proceed. There the thing rested ... he ... could never resume the subject. He wished to have the recital ‘put away in Harned’s safe,’ as he said, ‘in order that some one should authoritatively have all the facts at command if by some misfortune a public discussion of the incident were ever provoked’.... He did not wish the matter broached. He felt that it would indisputably do a great injury to some one, God knows who (I do not). During Walt’s last sickness his grandson came to the house. I was not there at the time. When W. mentioned the occurrence to me I expressed my regret that I had missed him. ‘I wish I might see him.’ ‘God forbid!’ [said Whitman]....”
I was informed in Camden that there were two Southern (?) ladies, one of whom had died. There was an impression among my informants that Whitman was explicitly pledged, by the family of one if not both of these ladies, never to hint at his relationship to the children. He told Traubel that this enforced separation was the tragedy of his life. There is a love-letter extant, signed with a pseudonym, dated from New York in 1862, evidently written by a cultivated woman. If the grandchild who called at Mickle Street in 1891 was from the South—the correspondent of Symond’s letter, as one may suspect—it is difficult to put the birth of his father or mother much later, I think, than 1850. It is noticeable that Whitman destroyed the references among his papers to the New Orleans visit, beyond those already printed in his prose works. In a book of memoranda referring to his early years, now in the possession of Mr. Harned, I have noted the tearing out of several leaves after the entry of his starting for New Orleans. The specification of “one living Southern grandchild,” and of four children still living in 1890, suggests the probability that the second lady was not living in the South.

The End


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