Title: Harry W. Gustafson to Walt Whitman, 16 July 1884
Date: July 16, 1884
Editorial notes: The annotation, "from H W Gustafson | London | July 1884," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "431 Stevens St.," is in an unknown hand.
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.02120
Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Nicole Gray, and Ed Folsom
July 16. 1884
45 Upper Gloucester Place
Dear! Dear! Walt Whitman:
I came across your, and now my, Leaves of Grass when I was eighteen, that is a year ago, and was much surprised at what I found there.
I read, at one sitting, about half of the book and did not take it up again until the other day. I said, "I'll read this later on when I can understand it and now I have read it through and kissed it.
I took it to my mother and "wheedled" her as she says, and got her to give the "leaves" to me. Then I went to Philip Bourke Marston,1 the blind poet and borrowed your other volume Two Rivulets and have this moment finished it. At the page where you breathed on and pressed your hand, I also pressed my hand and so we have had a hand shake. You say also that you want America to have some original music, composed by an American and to be as entirely American as Beethoven is German.
Beethovens' Music is the Music of the Universe, by a German
I will compose the Universal Music, and it will be by an American.
I havn't any patriotism, Sectarianism or party feelings whatever and I believe such feelings only beget disease, and in fact are an outcome of disease.
I am a particle of the Universe and whatever I may do, will be a particle of the Universe.
I am what's called a "Strict Vegetarian" that is I do not take animal so called "food" in any shape not even milk and eggs and consequently have health.
Seeing that you gave alcohol as medicine, to the sufferers of the late war, I think you will be interested in a new work that has just come out here in England (and shortly to be published in America by Ginn Heath Co, Boston.)
It is making a great stir in the medical profession and elsewhere, and although only out a few weeks, the 1500 Edition, is gone, which means a great deal in England. The title is—The Foundation of Death.2
Next month I go to Derby Shire to spend a month among the Mountains. How I wish you could go with me!
I am saddened by the terrible condition of London and I am working hard to get out of it and back to America, where I shall bury my physical self in the Catskills or some where else and give my spiritual self more than ever to the world.
So long! Dear Walt. I feel that I know you, how can I help it! I love you! and you love me! And you have done my brothers & sisters, the race, good. They, whom you have taken by the ear and whispered to and me whom you have loved. And you are much to all and will be more and more so.
I kiss you.
Harry Walde Gustafson.
A strong, fine, poem that of yours in the Harpers.3
As yet we have no information about this correspondent.
1. Philip Bourke Marston (1850–1887) was an English poet of the Rossetti school. [back]
2. The Foundation of Death. A study of the drink-question by Axel Carl Johan Gustafson (born 1847), a Swedish-American temperance activist, was an apparent success, running through several editions in England and the U.S. and being translated into German, Swedish, French and Spanish. [back]
3. Gustafson is probably referring to the poem "With husky-haughty lips, o sea!" that was published in the March issue of Harper's. [back]