Title: Charles Warren Stoddard to Walt Whitman, 2 March 1869
Date: March 2, 1869
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.01943
Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Beverley Rilett
Honolulu. Hawaiian Islands.
To Walt Whitman.
May I quote you a couplet from your "Leaves of Grass"?
"Stranger! If you, passing, meet me,
"and desire to speak to me, why
"should you not speak to me?
"And why should I not speak to you?"
—I am the stranger who, passing, desires to speak to you. Once before I have done so, offering you a few feeble verses. I do not wonder you did not reply to them. Now my voice is stronger, I ask, why will you not speak to me?
So fortunate as to be traveling in these very interesting islands I have done wonders in my intercourse with these natives. For the first time I act as my nature prompts me. It would not answer in America, as a general principle, not even in California where men are tolerably bold. This is my mode of life:—At dusk I reach some village, a few grass huts by the sea or in some valley. 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. Glorious eyes that question, observe and then trust or distrust with an infallible instinct. 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 unconsciously, 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. In the morning he hates to have me go. I hate as much to leave him. Over and over I think of him as I travel: he doubtless recalls me some times, perhaps wishes me back with him. We were known to one another, perhaps twelve hours. Yet I cannot forget him. Any thing that pertains to him now interests me.
You will easily imagine, my dear sir, how delightful I find this life. I read your Poems with a new spirit, to understand them as few may be able to. And I wish more than ever that I might possess a few lines from your pen. I want your personal magnetism to quicken mine, how else shall I have it? Do write me a few lines for they will be of immense value to me.
I wish it were possible to get your photograph. The small Lithograph I have of you is not wholly satisfactory. But I would not ask so much of you. Only a page with your name & mine as you write it–Is this too much?
My address is San Francisco, Cal Box 1005. P. O. I shall immediately return there.
In all places I am the same to you.
Chas. Warren Stoddard..