Title: Eugene Benson to Walt Whitman, 1 January 1877
Date: January 1, 1877
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: Photocopy held at the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.05962
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth M. Price
Jan 1st 1877.
22 Quattro Fontane.
To Walt Whitman.
Dear and great Poet,
Let me greet you. Happy New Year to you. Your poems have come to me anew1—here in Rome—and have revived and deepened my consciousness of great things, of beautiful things, of everything that lives. In writing to you at this late time (for I knew your poems many years back) I do what I have often wished to do.—Thank you. Christmas Day brought me a present of all your writings—original editions—and hence this movement of admiration and love towards you.
It is fine to have your words, your brave sweet words, here where old Rome crumbles and new Rome grows; it is fine to have your visions of the States, of men and women in our land, while I am close to the Coliseum, not far from the Pantheon and the Appian Way. I shall write. Your poems are an Appian Way for the triumphal thoughts of the American, and you celebrate a theatre of action greater than Rome's Coliseum in celebrating our wide land. I shall hope for the chance to say publically what I now write to you. I have been several years in Rome. I have my studies here—for I am a painter. I trust that the time may come when, before this year has gone—I may have the pleasure of seeing you.
Eugene Benson (1839–1908) was an artist and cultural critic who published several articles in the Galaxy about Whitman in the 1860s. In the 1870s, he moved to Italy. For more on Whitman's relationship with Benson, see Robert J. Scholnick, "'Culture' or Democracy: Whitman, Eugene Benson, and The Galaxy," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 13.4 (1996), 189–198.
1. Benson had recieved Whitman's collected writings in 1876, prompting this letter. [back]