Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James M. Scovel to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1885

Date: May 12, 1885

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.03721

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray



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Camden NJ1
5th 12th 85

Walt Whitman Esq
Dear Walt:

I fear you do not fully appreciate my relations to the Springfield Repub-people anent the W. W article.2

There has been a good deal of writing about it, between them & me—and about two weeks ago I sent on a red-hot interview of my own with H W Beecher.3 Well: they didn't "bite" at the HWB-MSS—it was a trifle too warm & cut both ways Blaine-&anti-Blaine4 but the managing editor quietly says "We are still waiting for that long-promised article on Walt Whitman"—

I thereupon promised it again within a week, & now they (the Spr. Repub folks) have a right to think I am a d—d, colossal & continental liar5 (which, en passant, I am not.)

Now to the point—I feel bound to get up that article PDQ.

And I want you to go at it or let me have my MSS. so I can get it off by next Saturday night. This is fair—& I don't want to keep bothering you about it.

I am hard at work at the Law—We all enjoyed your Sunday visit—

I wd feel much encouraged if I cd hear your gray goose quill was pointing toward Massachussetts

Thine as ever—
James M Scovel


Correspondent:
James Matlock Scovel began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War he was in the New Jersey legislature, and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast, as he did on December 2 and 9, 1877 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | # 328# Mickle St | Camden. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | M [illegible] | 12 | 10 [illegible] AM | 1885 | N.J. [back]

2. James Matlack Scovel's "Walt Whitman" finally appeared in the Springfield Republican on June 16, 1885—partially authored by Whitman himself and after months of negotiating between Scovel and the poet. [back]

3. Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887), Congregational clergyman and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, accepted the pastorate of the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, in 1847. Whitman described him briefly in the Brooklyn Daily Advertiser of May 25, 1850, reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols., ed. by Emory Holloway, I, 234–235; see also I Sit and Look Out, 84–85, and Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1996), 1:137–138. His father, Lyman Beecher (1775–1863), was also a clergyman, who upon his retirement lived with his son in Brooklyn. [back]

4. In the 1884 U.S. presidential election, Henry Ward Beecher campaigned for Democrat Grover Cleveland and spoke out harshly against Cleveland's opponent, Republican James G. Blaine, calling him "the prince of liars." [back]

5. Scovel is alluding here to the best known campaign rallying cry against Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine: "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, continental liar from the state of Maine!" [back]


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