Title: Mollie W. Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 21 February 1881
Date: February 21, 1881
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: This photocopy is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.05966
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman and Nicole Gray
Stephentown, N. York.
Feb 21st 1881.
To Walt Whitman.
The conviction that I am the least and latest of all poets gives me courage to write to you who are so far beyond me in years, honors, knowledge and—most pathetic of all in one sense—the world's laurelled acceptance.
"When lilacs last in dooryards bloomed" I was reading from papers of yours in Colonel Romey's Progress. I then wrote to him a little prose sonnet trying to tell how much pleasure I crowded into those brief readings. There was a short poem of yours "Italian Music in Dakota" which has always been to me like a saunter through spicy, summer-warm woods, when the brooks were low-voiced under the alders, and the air was heavy with not yet escaped storm bursts.
Before the window where I do my morning work, there is an old lilac tree, dating from my grandmother's youth—and when in spring it is strong but proud, bearing great clusters of purple bloom, and I think always of you and your lines, heavy with [tears?], while you throw your lilac boughs on the martyr President's coffin. That is noble! The voice you speak with there!
If I had written anything to compare, even so slightly with this noble and rugged harmony of your verse, I would send it to you with this, asking you to read it and recognize it as from one of the youngest, the least aspiring of the children who follow and look up to you.
Won't you send me a line with your name? There! I have dared to ask much. Forgive my assurance, and, if possible give me that pleasure of that great recompense for being so unknown.
I have been reading Mr Stedman's article in the Nov. Scribner—it must be pleasant to have such friends, and such appreciation. I have read too your views in the North American Review on The Poetry of the Future.
I am very sincerely yours,
Mrs Mollie W. Carpenter.