Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Sylvester Baxter, 25 May 1887

Date: May 25, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: bpl.00011

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Boston Public Library. 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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2

328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey
May 25 '87

Thanks & God bless you my dear Sylvester Baxter for your kind project for me—(whether it comes to a fulfilment or not)1

—I am feeling pretty well as I write—Should most gratefully accept & most intensely enjoy a little spot of my own to live in 6 or 8 months of the 12 in country air, so pined for by me—As it is I cannot go to a hotel,— nor visiting either—although I have many & kindest invitations—I want a cheap ¼ or ½ acre & 4-or-5-room house, spot & design selected by myself—

—If convenient let Sloane Kennedy2 & Dr Bartol3 read this—& God bless you all—

Walt Whitman

Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Whitman's friend William Sloane Kennedy (see following note) had proposed the idea of building the poet a "summer 'shanty'" on the farm land owned by George and Susan Stafford (parents of Whitman's young friend Harry Stafford), a place Whitman often visited in the summer. Baxter took charge of raising funds for the project in and around Boston. See William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), 10–11. [back]

2. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Dr. C. A. Bartol was one of the contributors to the Cottage Fund; see Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1964), 5 vols., II, 299. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.