Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 8 January 1864
Date: January 8, 1864
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 92. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.00431
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Bev Rilett, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert
Jan 8th 1864
At home everything is going along abt as usual, all abt the same.
A few days ago there came to the house for you the proof sheets of a small book which the author (no name given) wants you to read and give an opinion on the Circular you find within. The stuff itself is disgusting, the whole of it going to prove that the nigger is better than the white which the fool says over and over again6—do you want it sent on to you.
4. Copies of the Brooklyn Daily Union. [back]
5. Major Lyman S. Hapgood, the paymaster of the army volunteers, employed Walt Whitman as a copyist from December 1862 to January 1865. Charles W. Eldridge, co–publisher of the 1860 Leaves of Grass and later a clerk in Hapgood's office, helped the poet gain this employment. Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:11 and 162, n. 83). [back]
6. No record indicates the poet read this book, but he probably would not have been sympathetic with its thesis. Whitman also rejected arguments for white superiority; he marked an article on "The Slavonians and Eastern Europe," North British Review, American edition, 11 (August 1849), 283, which argued that there are "three varieties of human beings" and that "up to the present moment, the destinies of the species appear to have been carried forward almost exclusively by its Caucasian variety." The poet responded in the margin: "? yes of late centuries, but how about those 5, or 10, or twenty thousand years ago?" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]