Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John B. Barnhill to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1889

Date: May 12, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01095

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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: Kara Wentworth, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Cambridge, Mass
5 De Wolf st
May 121

Dr. Mr. Whitman—

Our literary people are all agog over Mr. Howell's2 attempted dethronement of Scott,3 and the preference which he assigns to Tolstoi4 over the "Wizard of the North.5 Mr. Howell's has used a portion of your general indictment of all the old-world literatures viz that they are saturated in the aristocratic spirit—and lack that enthusiasum for democracy which the coming literature must have. Could you not give the public your views on the subject which is now cleaving literary Boston in twain? If you would not do this would you be so kind as to give me your private view—I would not publish it if you so desired. If you desired to submit a ms. on the subject to the papers or magazines here I would be glad to present it for you and would get you the best possible terms. You do not now remember me—I therefore give as references—Mr A. H. Stephenson6 214 Chestnut St Philadelphia—or Rev. Dr. A. A. Livermore7 Meadville, Pa.

Very Sincerely
John B. Barnhill.

John Basil Barnhill (1864–1929) was a writer, lecturer, and active Anti-Socialist; he was the editor and publisher of The American Anti-Socialist, a monthly magazine published in Washington D.C. in 1912, as well as other journals, including the American Anti-Suffragist.


1. This letter is addressed: Mr Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. Barnhill's return address is written on the envelope as follows: Barnhill | 5 De wolf | Cambridge | Mass. The letter is postmarked: Boston.Mass. | 9-30A | May 13 | 1889; Camden, N.J. | MAY | 14 |6 AM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was the novelist and "Dean of American Letters" who wrote The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) among other works. He described his first meeting with Walt Whitman at Pfaff's in Literary Friends and Acquaintances (New York: Harper & Bros., 1900), 73–76. [back]

3. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish statesman, historical novelist, playwright, and poet, best known for Ivanhoe (1820), The Lady of the Lake (1810), and Waverly (1814). For Whitman's view of Scott, see Vickie L. Taft, "Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Count Lev (Leo) Tolstoy (1828–1910) was a Russian novelist and moral philosopher best known for his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina (Barry Jones, "Tolstoy, Lev [Leo] Nikolaievich, Graf [Count]," Dictionary of World Biography [Australia: ANU Press, 2017], 840–841). [back]

5. "Wizard of the North" was a nickname of the Scottish statesman and writer Sir Walter Scott. [back]

6. Arthur H. Stephenson (1855–1902) of Philadelphia was a yarn merchant, a vocal proponent of the Single Tax, and the chairman of the Delaware Single Tax campaign committee. See "Obituary: A. H. Stephenson," Wool and Cotton Reporter 16.41 (October 9, 1902), 1323. [back]

7. Abiel Abbot "A. A." Livermore (1811–1892?) served as pastor in several cities, including Cincinnati, Ohio, and Yonkers, New York. For more than twenty-years he was the President of the Meadville Theological School in Pennsylvania, an institution that trained and educated young men for the ministry (Henry H. Barber, Memorial of A. A. Livermore, D. D. Sermon preached at the Memorial Serivces in Meadville, by Rev. H. H. Barber. Addresses at the Funeral by Rev. J.T. Bixby and Rev. F. L. Phalen, and Tributes from Other Friends (Meadville, PA: Press of the Crawford Journal, 1893), 41. [back]


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