Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ralph Waldo Emerson to William H. Seward, 10 January 1863

Date: January 10, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00760

Source: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:65-66. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Eric Conrad, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

Concord | Masstts
Jan. 10 | 18631

Dear Sir,

Mr Walt Whitman, of New York, writes me, that he wishes to obtain employment in the public service in Washington, & has made, or is about making some application to yourself. Permit me to say that he is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying, large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends; entirely patriotic & benevolent in his theory, tastes, & practice. If his writings are in certain points open to criticism, they yet show extraordinary power, & are more deeply American, democratic, & in the interest of political liberty, than those of any other poet. He is indeed a child of the people, & their champion. A man of his talents & dispositions will quickly make himself useful, and, if the Government has work that he can do, I think it may easily find, that it has called to its side more valuable aid than it bargained for.

With great respect,

Your obedient servant,

R. W. Emerson.

Hon. William H. Seward2, | Secretary of State.


1. This letter is addressed: Hon. W. H. Seward, | Secretary of State, | Washington, | D. C. [back]

2. William Henry Seward (1801–1872) was secretary of state from 1861 to 1869 under Presidents Lincoln and Johnson. [back]


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