Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James S. Charles to Walt Whitman, 20 December 1886

Date: December 20, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01201

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: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Omaha Nebraska
Dec 20th 1886
Camden N.J.

Dear Sir:

I send here with five dollars (5.00) a sort of "Widows Mite"1 to aid your Citizen, Poet, and Philanthropist—Walt Whitman

I marvel at our Country that its intellect should be an object of charity—And aid from a foreign Country called to bestow Alms.

But the universal greed for gain; which Americans to-day seek, to the exclusion of everything Morally, Socially or intellectually, gives little encouragement for a life devoted to Culture.

Yours Respectfully
James. S Charles, D.D.S.

James S. Charles (d. 1892) moved from Philadelphia to Marion, Iowa, and then in 1866 to Omaha, Nebraska, where he practiced as a dentist. Charles invented and patented a fountain-pen holder and a horseshoe. In an article about his death in 1892, which was ruled a suicide but which relatives believed was a robbery and murder, his ex-wife claimed that "her former husband was in the habit of carrying diamonds to the value of several thousand dollars and he always carried a valuable watch" ("Think it a Murder," Chicago Tribune 11 January 1892).


1. A Biblical reference to the donation by a widow of two small coins ("mites"), which Jesus says are worth more than the much larger (but proportionately smaller) donations of the rich; see Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. [back]


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