Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Jeannette L. Gilder, 20 December 1878

Date: December 20, 1878

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 6:19. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Transcript 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.07006

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman and Nicole Gray

Camden New Jersey
Dec 20

My dear Jenny Gilder1

Yours of to-day rec'd—(The other also—but I thought you merely contemplated it like, & no hurry)—I only write now in haste to say I will help you to any thing on the subject you desire—Will turn it over in my mind to write more fully Sunday, so you will get it Monday.

Walt Whitman

I have a notion that the raciest part of a fellow's life—mine at any rate—could be told by giving copious strings of characteristic fine personal anecdotes, incidents—&c—

Jenny, what is it for?


1. Early in December Jeannette L. Gilder wrote to Whitman, in his words, "that she is going to write my life & asking for items &c" (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–69], 3:141). Although Whitman complied with her request, nothing came of the proposal. About the same time, in a letter to John Burroughs of December 23–25, 1878, Whitman wrote: "(I would like best to be told about in strings of continuous anecdotes, incidents, mots, thumbnail personal sketches, characteristic & true—)." The biographical principle enunciated here was to be followed scrupulously a few years letter by Richard Maurice Bucke in his biography of the poet. [back]


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