Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Baxter, Sylvester (1850–1927)
Author:
Griffin, Christopher O.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Sylvester Baxter was a Boston journalist and publicist largely associated with the Boston Herald and involved in the improvement and historical preservation of Boston and New England. Most of his writings concern the publicizing or evaluation of Boston's industrial, cottage, and leisure complexes, but Baxter also wrote about Mexico and New Mexican Indians and produced two collections of poetry.

Baxter first met Whitman in April 1881 at one of the poet's Lincoln lectures. That the two were amiable associates is evidenced by Whitman's writing to Baxter later in that year, asking for help in finding a room in Boston while the poet was seeing his forthcoming edition of Leaves of Grass through press. Baxter repeatedly wrote favorable reviews of Whitman's work, which certainly increased the poet's esteem for, and, thereby, association with the Boston journalist.

On 6 December 1886 Baxter promoted a government pension to support the poet, and in early 1887 Congressman Henry B. Lovering of Massachusetts introduced the twenty-five-dollar-per-month pension bill into the House. Apparently it passed committee but was then dropped, probably due to Whitman's objection to the idea. A substantial monetary gift from admirers in England most likely influenced Whitman in his decision.

Despite the abandonment of the pension bill, Baxter continued to work on the poet's behalf. In 1887, he and William Sloane Kennedy raised $800 to build a cottage for Whitman on Timber Creek, where he had spent several summers beginning in 1876 at the farm of George and Susan Stafford. Unfortunately, after assuming full control of both the money and the executive decisions regarding location and construction of the cottage, Whitman had to use the money for more urgent financial demands.

Bibliography

Gohdes, Clarence, and Rollo G. Silver, eds. Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family. Durham: Duke UP, 1949.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 4. New York: New York UP, 1969.


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