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Bloom, Nathaniel


Little is known about Nat Bloom outside of his affiliation with what was known as the "Fred Gray Association," a group of young men at Pfaff's whom Ed Folsom and Ken Price characterize as "a loose confederation of young men who seemed anxious to explore new possibilities of male-male affection" (Re-Scripting 62). Stepahnie Blalock describes the “Fred Gray Association” and includes Bloom in a running list of members and/or friends of the group: “The Fred Gray comrades organized their association on the basis of a two-tier structure: an in-crowd, and an extended network of participants and friends” (179). Blalock also believes the group, though vastly disparate in their respective educational and professional goals, within the common ground of the Pfaff’s. The beer-cellar was a place where the differing members and friends were able to still have “much in common to solidify their friendship: they were seemingly attracted by the literary fame of Pfaff’s” (179). Walt Whitman described Bloom as a "[b]road-shouldered, six-footer, with a hare-lip. Clever fellow, and by no means bad looking. . . . Direct, plain-spoken, natural-hearted, gentle-tempered, but awful when roused--cartman, with a horse, cart, &c, of his own--drives for a store in Maiden lane" (CW 9:142). Bloom eventually became a successful merchant and "operated a fancy-goods store on Broadway for many years" (Miller 11, 80).

Whitman wrote several letters to Bloom in his post-Pfaff's period as a hospital volunteer during the Civil War. In one of these letters addressed to both Bloom and Fred Gray he wrote, "I miss you all, my darlings & gossips, Fred Gray, and Bloom and Russell and every body. I wish you would all come here in a body--that would be divine. . . . Now you write to me good long letters, my own boys. You, Bloom, give me your address particular, dear friend. Tell me Charles Russell's address, particular--also write me about Charles Chauncey. Tell me about every body. For, dearest gossips, as the hart [sic] panteth, &c. so my soul after any and all sorts of items about you all. My darling, dearest boys, if I could be with you this hour, long enough to take only just three mild hot rums, before the cool weather closes" (CW 1:83-84).

In another letter Whitman wrote, "dear friend, how long it is since we have seen each other, since those pleasant meetings & those hot spiced rums & suppers & our dear friends Gray & Chauncey, & Russell, & Fritschy too, (who for a while at first used to sit so silent,) & Perkins & our friend Raymond--how long it seems--how much I enjoyed it all" (CW 1:142). It is obvious from the affection displayed in such letters as these that Bloom and the other men Whitman referred to as "my own boys" were an important part of the poet's experience at Pfaff's.