Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Grace E. Channing to Walt Whitman, 7 July 1887

Date: July 7, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01202

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Grace Ellery Channing," is in an unknown hand.

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

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Pasadena, Cal.1
July 7th

Dear Mr. Whitman:

It is so many years since I saw you—you will not remember the child-friend and disciple of yours, I am afraid. She is no longer a child—the more's the pity!—but she claims the title of disciple and in that name asks a favor.—

It has seemed to us that it would be a good thing to bring out a "Walt Whitman Calendar"2—of extracts from your Leaves of Grass—after the model (improved) of the Emerson3 and Shaksperean Calendars. They have a large sale among people who perhaps never own a copy of the poems. It is a means of disseminating and popularizing where we cannot always reach in other ways.

Will you give consent to the Calendar? Will you let me do it as my Christmas contribution to your comfort. I want to share with your other friends the honor of aiding and have nothing else to give. This I do believe I can do both speedily and well and your friends think it will sell widely.

A great deal of reading is already done towards it. I await only your card—a bare "yes" and all the rest is done. Time is so brief before the mark must be completed,— can you send me that word at once? A postal card will suffice. I shall count the days for it eagerly and anxiously.

My Uncle (W. D O'Connor)4 left us yesterday with my father,5 for Washington— very lame and feeble. Mr. Eldridge6 remains.

With great affection and esteem,
Grace E. Channing.

P.S. [Mama?]7 suggests that if you would telegraph your reply it would save a week of most precious time!


Grace Ellery Channing (1862–1937) was the daughter of William F. Channing and the niece of William D. O'Connor. After her initial refusal to ever read Whitman's work, Channing became enthralled by the poet's words and even published her own volume of Whitman-inspired poetry titled Sea-Drift in 1899.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Pasadena | Jul | 7 | 1887 | Cal. [back]

2. Whitman apparently first agreed to the idea but later claimed he never liked it and argued that his poetry does not lend itself to "piecemeal quotation" (With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, August 10, 1888). Work nevertheless went forward but it appears that the project never saw the light of day after several publishers had declined it. For more on the project, see Joann Krieg, "Grace Ellery Channing and the Whitman Calendar," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12, no. 4 (1995), 252–256. [back]

3. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. On November 30, 1868, Whitman informed Ralph Waldo Emerson that "Proud Music of the Storm" was "put in type for my own convenience, and to ensure greater correctness." He asked Emerson to take the poem to James T. Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who promptly accepted it and published it in February 1869. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. William Francis Channing (1820–1901), Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law and the son of William Ellery Channing, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Application of Electricity (1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, R. I., and Whitman accepted Channing's offer to visit Providence in a September 27, 1868[back]

6. Charles W. Eldridge was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who put out the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Walt Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster and eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)." [back]

7. "Mama" would be Mary Tarr Channing, Grace's mother. [back]


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