Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Hay to Walt Whitman, 12 March 1887

Date: March 12, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: brn.00007

Source: John Hay Library, Brown University. 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "from John Hay, acknowledging & paying for MS of "Captain, O Captain!"," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6


March 12.

Dear Walt Whitman;

I have received your books and MS. and send, with my hearty thanks, a New York check for $30. It is a little more than your modest charge. You will pardon the liberty; I am not giving you anything like what the writing is worth to me, but trying to give a just compensation for the trouble of copying, simply.

My boy, ten years old, said to me this morning, "Have you got a book with a poem in it called 'O Captain! My Captain!' I want to learn it to speak in school." I stared at him, bearing you in mind at the moment, as if he were a mind-reader— and asked him where he had heard of that poem. He said a boy had repeated it last year somewhere.

I made him happy by showing him the MS. and promising him it should be his if he deserved it, after I am gone.

With love and good wishes and hopes that the spring may bring healing on its wings to you

I am faithfully yours
John Hay

John Hay (1838–1905) was Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and a historian as well as Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt. Hay praised Whitman's "A Death-Sonnet for Custer" (later entitled "From Far Dakota's Cañons") when it appeared in the New York Daily Tribune on July 10, 1876. Whitman sent the 1876 Centennial Edition of Leaves of Grass to Hay on August 1, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Washington, D.C. | Mar 12 | 12 M | 87; Camden. N. J. | MAR 13 | 1PM | [illegible] Rec'd. [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.