Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Hezekiah Butterworth to Walt Whitman, 21 [May 1890]

Date: [May] 21, [1890]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01190

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Editorial Rooms.
The Youth's Companion,
Boston, Mass.1
21

Walt Whitman,
Camden, N.J.
Dear Mr. Whitman—

I have taken so much pleasure of late in re-reading your work that I would not render my spiritual dues did I not write to you to thank you, for so making me see America. I live in a quiet way, shun literary society, but gather around me those who are interested much in the spiritual problems of life. Like you I believe all things to be spiritual, and all things possible to creative spiritual power. I have read "Pioneers, O Pioneers" over and over again to my many friends, who study not books but life. The poem is a trumpet tone, and it will lead the new poets of America.

You have caught the spirit of the genius of our land, and have sung the song of the latest and finial march of the races. Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria face Asia, and in these cities is Ultimate America, and you have sung the march of the races towards the Puget Sea. I met Joaquin Miller2 at Tacoma last summer, and there dreamed over again your dream of America.

I love to read your address to time, and to quote "I once was visible."3 I have your picture in my room, and I never see it or take up your book without feeling what a glorious knighthood it is to be an American. I send you a few poems of my own. I shall be glad if they please you.4

Immortality—I wish I knew how you view it now in your serene years, when the drum taps have ceased. I hope that the doors open wider and wider as you go on, and that so it may be forever.

I am not a person that makes literary visits, but I wish that I could meet you this summer, on my return from Montana. Whether we ever meet or not, I thank you for the inspiration I have caught from your torch of life, and am ever,

faithfully and affectionately yours,
Hezekiah Butterworth.


Correspondent:
Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905) was an American author, educator, and poet. From 1870 to 1894, he was on the staff of the Youth's Companion, a magazine he had frequently contributed to prior to his employment. He is the author of more than seventy books, including The Story of the Hymns (New York: American Tract Society, 1875), Young Folk's History of Boston (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1881), and the Zigzag Journeys, a series of seventeen travelogue adventures published by Estes and Lauriat. For more information, see Butterworth's obituary, "Hezekiah Butterworth Dead" in the Fall River Globe (September 6 1905), 2.

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: BOSTON | MAY 25 | 6 PM; PHILADELPHIA, PA | MAY | 30 | 830 AM | 1890 | TRANSIT; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAY | 30 | 6 PM | 1890 | REC'D. [back]

2. Joaquin Miller was the pen name of Cincinnatus Heine Miller (1837–1913), an American poet nicknamed "Byron of the Rockies" and "Poet of the Sierras." In 1871, the Westminster Review described Miller as "leaving out the coarseness which marked Walt Whitman's poetry." In an entry in his journal dated August 1, 1871, John Burroughs recorded Whitman's fondness for Miller's poetry; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), 60. Whitman met Miller for the first time later in 1872; he wrote of a visit with Miller in a July 19, 1872, letter to Charles W. Eldridge. [back]

3. Butterworth is paraphrasing Whitman's "Full of Life Now": "When you read these I that was visible am become invisible. . . ." [back]

4. Along with this letter, Butterworth enclosed a selection of his poems, including "The Orange-Tree," "At Pasadena," "Champlain," "Two Conquerors," "The Clocks of Kenilworth," and "Liberators." [back]


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