Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Charles Warren Stoddard, 12 June 1869

Date: June 12, 1869

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:81–82. 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.01685

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Washington,
June 12, 1869

Charles W. Stoddard,
Dear Sir:1

Your letters have reached me.2 I cordially accept your appreciation, & reciprocate your friendship. I do not write many letters, but like to meet people. Those tender & primitive personal relations away off there in the Pacific Islands, as described by you, touched me deeply.3

In answer to your request,4 I send you my picture—it was taken three months since. I also send a newspaper.5

Farewell, my friend. I sincerely thank you, & hope some day to meet you.


Walt Whitman


Notes:

1. Charles Warren Stoddard (1843–1909) published Poems, edited by Bret Harte, in 1867. His most famous book, South-Sea Idyls (1873), is mentioned in Walt Whitman's April 23, 1870 letter to Stoddard. He was a journalist, a lecturer at the Catholic University of America from 1889 to 1902, and for a brief period Mark Twain's secretary. [back]

2. Stoddard's first letter was written on February 8, 1867, when he was about 24; he requested (or beseeched) an autograph. When he wrote again on March 2, 1869, he was in Honolulu, and passionately implored an answer. Fascinated with the "Calamus" theme, Stoddard began a correspondence with Burroughs; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 48. See also Whitman's April 23, 1870 letter to Stoddard. [back]

3. In his letter of March 2, 1869, Stoddard described his entry into a typical native village: "The native villagers gather about me, for strangers are not common in these parts. I observe them closely. Superb looking, many of them. Fine heads…Proud, defiant lips, a matchless physique, grace and freedom in every motion. I mark one, a lad of eighteen or twenty years who is regarding me. I call him to me, ask his name, giving mine in return. He speaks it over and over, manipulating my body unconciously , as it were, with bountiful and unconstrained love. I go to his grass-house, eat with him his simple food. Sleep with him upon his mats, and at night sometimes waken to find him watching me with earnest, patient looks, his arm over my breast and around me." After listening to Horace Traubel read this letter, Walt Whitman commented: "Occidental people, for the most part, would not only not understand but would likewise condemn the sort of thing about which Stoddard centers his letter" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:269). [back]

4. This phrase did not appear in the draft; otherwise there are no significant alterations. [back]

5. Whitman probably sent the Washington Sunday Chronicle of May 9, 1869. [back]


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