Title: V. D. Davis to Walt Whitman, 26 April 1883
Date: April 26, 1883
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: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.01436
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Alex Kinnaman, Natalie O'Neal, and Nicole Gray
36 South Hill Road
I posted to you the other day a copy of the London "Inquirer", containing a notice of your "Specimen Days & Collect," which I wrote some little time ago. Since then I have been very glad to learn that the book is already republished in England, & that a new edition of "Leaves of Grass" is to follow.
I hope you will not consider it an impertinence in quite a young man to write as I have done, but I have found so much refreshment & real delight in your books, that I was anxious to do what I could to extend the good gift to others.
If you have time & patience to read my review I should be extremely obliged if you would tell me whether there are any mistakes in the statement of facts as to your life. It is so easy to be led into inaccuracies, which ought to be corrected.
I have the "Leaves of Grass" constantly by me, & in the intervals of other work am trying to make a study of the book. It seems to me distinctly one of the prophetic messages of our day—a real voice of our best manhood, absolutely free from anything conventional, such as we need to make us feel the true grandeur & infinite capabilities of our life, & the divine beauty of the universe.
I am not sure that I altogether understand your message yet, especially with regard to the present evil in the world. It seems to me that in the degradation of women, & the brutal selfishness of so many men, we have a form of evil that ought not to be suffered with patience, or hidden under the soothing light of Hegelian Pantheism. On the contrary I feel that it is a part of our life where the exercise of human freedom must come in, & feeling that this is evil for which we are personally responsible, determine to be rid of it as far as we are concerned, & to do what we can to uphold the right principle of life, honour for women, continence for men, & the home the centre of all good & sacred influence. This I think is essential to the growth of a strong & healthy life, morally as well as physically, & to the full enjoyment of all that is good & beautiful in the world.
I shall not be surprised if you have just the same feeling—but, as I say, I do not think I have quite understood the whole of your message yet, & sometimes it has seemed to me as though you were too well satisfied with the present condition of our life, in such a way as to leave the poisonous canker of vice slowly eating its way through society, content to enjoy the picturesque side of even the lowest form of life, instead of rousing men in the strength of their moral capacity really to be men, & to set right whatever is wrong through their fault.
I am afraid you may be much troubled by unknown correspondents, but you have spoken to me so much as a friend through your poems, that I feel almost inclined to claim the right of friendship in saying what I have—& I trust that I shall not have caused you any annoyance.
If you can give me any help with regard to the above question, I shall esteem it a great kindness; & in any case I assure you of my lasting gratitude for all we have received at your hands.
yours very truly
V. D. Davis.