Title: Charles Warren Stoddard to Walt Whitman, 14 June 1880
Date: June 14, 1880
Editorial note: The annotation, "books sent from London Canada June 26 '80," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.
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.
Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977).
Location: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester
Whitman Archive ID: man.00033
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Meyer, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
616 Harrington St
San Francisco. Cal
Dear Walt Whitman
It is years since I received from you a precious letter in reply to some South Sea sketches I had sent you;1 and though in that letter you said you did not like to write letters but preferred to meet people, I venture for several reasons to address you once more.
My copy of your "Leaves of Grass" Edt-67 has been with me to the Sandwich Islands2 and to Tahiti and all over Europe—to Egypt; up the Nile into Nubia,3 up into Asiatic Turkey and if you could see its well thumbed pages you would realize how faithful a reader I have been. It is now my chief delight and I am glad to tell you so.
May I ask if it will be possible for me to obtain a copy of the Original Edition—the large thin volume which, I am told, you helped to print? I want so much to have it. Did you set the type—or any part of it?
Have you still some copies of your complete works in two Vols, such as I saw in England? If you have, may I send you the price of them and receive the set with your photographs and Autograph (your name and mine) from your own hands?
Before me hangs a picture of you which I cut long ago from an Early Edition of your Poems. I like it above all others; It is the [best?]—a lithograph, I think—with the broad collar thrown open and such a glow of splendid health in the face.
I want so much, dear Friend, to have certain lines, which I have selected, in your hand writing, to frame with this picture. Am I asking too much in asking this? Command me in return, my friend, and see if I will not respond.
These are the lines I beg of you; are they not fit?
Will you so far indulge me as to write them on a single page and to post them with your name and mine also?
I beseech you do me this [favor?] and fear not that I will trouble you more—
"Behold this swarthy face, this unrefined face—these gray eyes,
This beard—the white wool unclipt upon my neck,
My brown hands, and the silent manner of me, without charm.
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean;
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged;
Missing one place, search an other;
I stop somewhere, waiting for you.
Walt Whitman to Chrs Warren Stoddard"
In rereading this letter I feel that I am asking much—too much—but have not the heart to suppress any part of it.
My friend Joaquin Miller4 and I have often talked of you. I desired much to see you when I was on my way home from the Old World—two years ago—but failed.
Please forgive me for this intrusion and believe in any case that
I am Yours
with hearty love
Chrs. Warren Stoddard.
1. Charles Warren Stoddard (1843–1909) published Poems, edited by Bret Harte, in 1867. His account of "A South-Sea Idyl," Overland Monthly, 3 (September 1869), 257–264, is mentioned in Whitman's April 23, 1870, letter to Stoddard. A journalist and a lecturer at the Catholic University of America from 1889 to 1902, Stoddard was for a brief period Mark Twain's secretary. [back]
2. Named by James Cook "Sandwich Islands" after the Earl of Sandwich, Hawaii returned to its Polynesian name in 1840. [back]
3. A region located today in southern Egypt and the Republic of the Sudan. [back]
4. Joaquin Miller was the pen name of Cincinnatus Heine Miller (1837–1913), an American poet nicknamed "Byron of the Rockies" and "Poet of the Sierras." In 1871, the Westminster Review described Miller as "leaving out the coarseness which marked Walt Whitman's poetry." In an entry in his journal dated August 1, 1871, John Burroughs recorded Whitman's fondness for Miller's poetry; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), 60. Whitman met Miller for the first time later in 1872; he wrote of a visit with Miller in a July 19, 1872 letter to Charles W. Eldridge. [back]