Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Swinton (?), 9 June 1865

Date: June 9, 1865

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:263. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Location of original letter manuscript is unknown.

Whitman Archive ID: med.00312

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson




Washington
June 9, 1865.1

My dear friend,

The Homer 2 has come & is now lying before me. I thank you deeply. I am very well, this summer, & go to the Hospitals daily & nightly—as I find a greater proportion of sad cases than ever—& for some reason or other there are few or no visitors. I enjoy my visits with a sad but profound joy & satisfaction—especially at night, when the light is nearly turned off, & I am soothing some suffering one.

I send you, same mail with this, two copies of the little book Drum-Taps. Farewell.


Walt Whitman3


Notes:

1. A facsimile of this letter is printed in George M. Williamson, Catalogue of A Collector of Books, Letters, and Manuscripts Written by Walt Whitman (1903). [back]

2. Probably this is Whitman's copy of The Odyssey of Homer, translated by Theodore Alois Buckley (1863), now in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection at the Library of Congress. On the flyleaf Whitman wrote: "Possess'd by me from 1868 to 1888 and read by me during those times—Sometimes in Washington & sometimes in Camden—Small or larger readings—Often in Camp or Army Hospitals—Walt Whitman." Obviously either the reference to the hospitals or the date "1868" is in error.  [back]

3. James Harlan (1820–1899), secretary of the interior from 1865 to 1866, dismissed Whitman from his second-class clerkship on June 30, 1865. Harlan apparently took offense at the copy of the 1860 Leaves of Grass which Whitman was revising and which he kept at his desk. With the help of William Douglas O'Connor and Assistant Attorney General J. Hubley Aston, Whitman secured a position in the attorney general's office. The Harlan episode led directly to O'Connor's pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet." Although Harlan was a Methodist, he was not a parson. Whitman may have sarcastically applied this term to Harlan because on May 30, 1865, Harlan had issued an official directive asking for the names of employees who disregarded "in their conduct, habits, and associations the rules of decorum & propriety prescribed by a Christian Civilization" (Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion [College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1978], 57). [back]


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