Title: Jeannette L. and Joseph B. Gilder to Walt Whitman, 19 October 1888
Date: October 19, 1888
Editorial note: The annotation, "letter in response sent Oct 20 WW," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.
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.02213
Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
19 October, 1888.
Dear W. Whitman:
As one of the "Forty Immortals" elected by "THE CRITIC'S readers in the spring of 1884, we should value your answer to the question raised by Mr. Edmund Gosse1 in his paper in the October Forum, entitled "Has America Produced a Poet?"—the question, namely, whether any American poet, not now living, deserves a place among the thirteen "English inheritors of unassailed renown" (Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare , Milton, Dryden, Pope, Gray, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats).
Do you deem any American poet worthy of this honor?
If so, which one?
Very sincerely yours,
J. L. & J. B. Gilder
Your name will not be mentioned separately if you object2
Jeannette Leonard Gilder (1849–1916) and her brother Joseph Benson Gilder (1858–1936) edited The Critic together from 1881 to 1906. For more information on Jeannette Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Jeannette L. (1849–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
1. Sir Edmund William Gosse (1849–1928), English poet and author of Father and Son (a memoir published in 1907), had written to Whitman on December 12, 1873: "I can but thank you for all that I have learned from you, all the beauty you have taught me to see in the common life of healthy men and women, and all the pleasure there is in the mere humanity of other people" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, June 1, 1888). Gosse reviewed Two Rivulets in the Academy, 9 (24 June 1876), 602–603 (a digital version of this review is available at "Walt Whitman's New Book"), and visited Whitman in 1885 (see Whitman's letter inviting Gosse to visit on December 28, 1884 and The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977], 3:384 n80). In a letter to Richard Maurice Bucke on October 31, 1889, Whitman characterized Gosse as "one of the amiable conventional wall-flowers of literature" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection). For more about Gosse, see Jerry F. King, "Gosse, Sir Edmund (1849–1928)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
2. Whitman’s response was published in the November 24, 1888, Critic, along with responses by many other writers (including John Greenleaf Whittier, John Burroughs, Francis Parkman, and Julia Ward Howe). Whitman wrote that "the names of Bryant, Emerson, Whittier and Longfellow (with even added names, sometimes Southerners, sometimes Western or other writers of only one or two pieces,) deserve in my opinion an equally high niche of renown as belongs to any on the baker’s dozen of that glorious list." [back]