Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Talcott Williams, [16 December 1890]

Date: [December 16, 1890]

Whitman Archive ID: col.00015

Source: Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New York. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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Tuesday Evn'g

Thank you for the papers requested—But the type written report of the Ing:2 conversation3 has not reached me

Walt Whitman

Talcott Williams (1849–1928) was associated with the New York Sun and World as well as the Springfield Republican before he became the editor of the Philadelphia Press in 1879. His newspaper vigorously defended Whitman in news articles and editorials after the Boston censorship of 1882. For more information about Williams, see Philip W. Leon, "Williams, Talcott (1849–1928)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This postal card is addressed: Talcott Williams | Office Press newspaper | Phila:. It is postmarked: CAMDEN| DEC 16 | 6 PM | 90; RECEIVED | DEC 16 | 830 PM | PHILA. [back]

2. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

3. In his December 8–9, 1890, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman noted that Talcott Williams of the Philadelphia Press had a stenographer present at Whitman's birthday celebration at Reisser's Restaurant in Philadelphia on May 31, 1889. The main speaker that evening was Col. Robert Ingersoll, who also had a conversation with Whitman on the subject of immortality—a conversation that the stenographer transcribed. Williams planned to type up the conversation and send copies to Whitman. [back]


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