User menu


Perkins, S. Lee (1827-?)


Little is known about Perkins 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" (62). Edwin H. Miller explains that most of the members “are only names: Charles Chauncey, Charles Kingsley, Ben Knower, Charles Russell, Perkins, and Raymond. From Whitman’s and their letters we can deduce that they were young men, that they drank and caroused together at Pfaff’s and elsewhere” (“Introduction” 11). In a letter to Hugo Fritsch, Whitman mentions that Perkins played the fiddle (CW 1:158).

Thomas Gunn refers to a "Perkins" in several instances throughout his diaries, and if the person is the same person that Rawson refers to in his article that Gunn can provide us with more insight into the life of this ellusive figure. Gunn refers to a "Mr. Perkins (who's attached to the "Life Illustrated") in one entry and another he writes about "little Perkins, the lithographer" (Gunn vol. 8, 41; vol. 8, pg. 82). There was in fact a a weekly periodical called Life Illustrated, in which Whitman wrote a series of articles under the topic of "New York Dissected." Published by the Fowler brothers and Samuel R. Wells during the years 1854 to 1861, Life Illustrated was one of the first papers to review Whitman's work, Leaves of Grass (Stacy). In David S. Reynolds' biography of Whitman, there is a lithograph attributed to a "Serrell and Perkins" (cf. plate 32, Reynolds 670). In the New York City Directory from 1849-50, there is a listing for "Serrell and Perkins," who are described as lithographers (Doggett 378). According to Bettina Norton, Serrell and Perkins "were minor lithographers among a large field of New York City printing firms" (Norton 133). The listing for an individual with the last name of "Perkins" in the New York City Directory who was a lithographer suggests that his full name may have been S. Lee Perkins (Doggett 333). These clues, when taken together, suggests that the Perkins referred to in the Rawson article may have been a lithographer with whom Whitman had several connections through their work together at Life Illustrated, as well as their membership together in the Fred Gray Association. Beyond these tangential connections, though, there is no specific reference that links Perkins to Pfaff's, itself.