Title: Wilhelmina Walton to Walt Whitman, 16 August 1860
Date: August 16, 1860
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. 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.01003
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, and Vanessa Steinroetter
Walt Whitman. My Dear Sir:
I stood beneath the broad dome of the crystal palace.—within a nave viewing a piece of marble statuary: my soul seemed to breathe, did breathe into that form the breath of life: the broad chest heaved with passionate creation! those limbs were no longer pulseless and the eye returned my admiring gaze.—I reached out my hand to feel the life-blood thrill beneath my fingers—I was faint with transport. How divine! how wonderful!
But I was wakened from my trance by a hiss of dirision:—a jostle from the crowd, and a whispered caution—"Come away darling"!—My eyes were opened:—before me stood a nude figure! I should not have seen it but for the vulgar crowd
I had heard of your poem and a remembrance from the stationer made me desirous of having in my possession—all alone!
It lay upon my lap. I opened it with dainty fingers.—Starting at the faintest sound fearing intrusion!—But as I drank nectar from the fount of inspiration, a myriad spectre forms might jostle, hiss and frown—I understood the Poet!—I too had felt my heart beat against the broad bosom of the earth, and kissed the dewy tears from her face.—talked with the stars, and dallied with the ocean;—embraced the rough old scragly oak, and in return hear an anthem wail from his hoar branches:—had lain upon a mossy bed within the quiet, dusky dingle;—through my arms above my head to catch the stray sunbeams;—hugged it to my bosom transported with extatic emotion;—yet never came before my vision sensual forms or thought found place in my imagination;—Was I passionless?—Did I not love the sun and stars, the birds and flowers, rocks and trees and man, the laborer, broad chested, sun burnt, vigorous man! and woman—my sister—gentle, lovely woman.
Have I not blessed the tears.—the warm, sympathetic tears that crept from beneath my eyelids and rolled lovingly down my bosom, soothing my beating heart?
Have I not sought the vaulted chamber, canopying the earth, and gazed upon the myriad worlds listening to their murmuring voices—felt the [caution?] of the night, felt in [draperied?] fold about me—Oh, every thing was holy!
Why did you not drape your poems with a fig leaf brother Walt?—Not for me—it would have roused me from my dream of bliss. I had heard again the [illegible] cantiere [illegible] every darling; the crowd sneer at you;......
I have read your poem and pronounce it "good" as you merge from behind the screen and stand boldly forward—I give you my hand, and return your kindly greeting.—God bless you for the "Leaves of Grass" which you have gleaned from the meadow; on the highway;—by the seashore on the camp ground, wet with the dews of heaven and "tears of angels"—