Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to [the Editor of the New York Herald], 16 December 1887

Date: December 16, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: hav.00006

Source: Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections. 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 derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Editorial notes: The annotations, ""As the Greek's Signal Flame" for Whittier's 80th Birthday 7/87," and "3 pcs.1250— latxx ," are in an unknown hand.

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

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Camden New Jersey
Dec: 16 '87

Thanks for the handsome pay for the Whittier1 sonata2— Best regards to Mr Bennett,3 Mr Chambers4 & all the boys—

Walt Whitman


1. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) earned fame as a staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. As a poet, he employed traditional forms and meters, and, not surprisingly, he was not an admirer of Whitman's unconventional prosody. For Whitman's view of Whittier, see the poet's numerous comments throughout the nine volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers: 1906–1996) and Whitman's "My Tribute to Four Poets," in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882–'83), 180–181. [back]

2. On December 11, 1887, Julius Chambers of the New York Herald asked Walt Whitman to write a poem to commemorate John Greenleaf Whittier's eightieth birthday. The poet replied on December 12, and on December 14 (Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.) sent "As the Greek's Signal Flame [For Whittier's eightieth birthday, December 17, 1887]," which was printed in the Herald on the following day. Although Whitman asked twenty dollars, he was paid twenty-five (Whitman's Commomplace Book). [back]

3. James Gordon Bennett Jr. (1841–1918) was the editor and publisher of the New York Herald, founded by his father in 1835. Julius Chambers (1850–1920) was an American author, investigative journalist, and travel writer; after working as a reporter for the New York Tribune, he became an editor of the New York Herald and, later, managing editor of the New York World. For more on the Herald and the many poems by Whitman that were published in it, see Susan Belasco, "The New York Herald." [back]

4. Julius Chambers (1850–1920) was an American author, investigative journalist, and travel writer. After working as a reporter for the New York Tribune, he became the editor of the New York Herald and, later, the New York World[back]


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