Title: Helen Wilmans to Walt Whitman, 21 May 1882
Date: May 21, 1882
Editorial notes: The annotation, "beautiful good letter | June '82," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes April 19 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.
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.04362
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray
I don't feel that I should apologize for writing to you. I have wanted to do so for years. I have loved you for years with my whole heart and soul. No man ever lived whom I have so desired to take by the hand as you. I read Leaves of grass, and got new conceptions of the dignity and beauty of my own body and of the bodies of other people; and life became more valuable in consequence. After a year or two—always carrying you in my thoughts—holding imaginary conversations with you and dreaming of you day and night—I came across a lady who knew you, Mrs Lizzie Denton Seybold, now Baker. She had your portrait painted in oil. I made every effort to induce her to let me have the picture but she would not. Since that time—I was living in glorious California then—I have read with deepest interest every word about you in the papers and magazines, as well as every thing you have written. Sometimes I have been furious at what immodest people—idiots, have dared say of you and have longed to write my own pure and true convictions of you. But I cannot. I am too impetuous; I feel my subject too deeply. And yet I am a writer and make my living by my pen. Now that I have come east this far, where I am employed as editor on the Saturday Express, I have the hope that I may sometime see your dearly beloved face, touch with my hand your beautiful grey hair, and possibly feel your arm about my waist. Because I love you so I have written these lines. It is nothing to me who sees them; I am proud of my feeling for you. It has educated me; it has done more to raise me from a poor working woman to a splendid position on one of the best papers ever published, than all the other influences of my life.
I know you must have many letters from strangers, and so I will not take any more of your time in reading what I have to say. Of course I have no hope of receiving an answer to this. But I thought it no harm to let you know that my love went with you, and perhaps in some unknown way was a blessing to you all these years.
Good bye dear Walt Whitman—my beloved, and may every influence in life contribute to your happiness.
Most lovingly your friend