Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elizabeth R. [Coffin?] to Walt Whitman, 1 January 1891

Date: January 1, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01211

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, Marie Ernster, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

321 Clinton St. Brooklyn
Jan. 1st 1891

Walt Whitman
Dear Friend,

I am moved this first day of the new year to send you a message of love and thanks. Through this year just gone I have come to count you my dear friend. I have found your love folded "in every leaf."1 And it grows to be a need for me to let you know how much joy and strength you have given me—and through me to others who did not know you till I took you to them.

Since I found my beloved Socrates2 no one has spoken such sane and manly words to me as you.

And you are in this world with me and it seems ungrateful to take so much in silence. I want you to know that you have helped another human being, who returns you love for the help and thanks you beyond expressing for "that blithe throat of thine."3

Dear friend may the new year be blessed and beautiful in all it brings to you.

Gratefully Yours
Elizabeth R. Coffin

The writer of this letter may be Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin (1850–1930), who was a Brooklyn native, an artist, and an educator. She was the first person in the United States to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree. Known for her paintings of Nantucket, Massachusetts, she later opened a school in Nantucket that offered trade and craft courses for men and women.


1. Coffin is quoting from Whitman's "In Cabin'd Ships at Sea," one of the poems in his Inscriptions series. [back]

2. Socrates (c. 470–399 BC) was a classic Greek philsopher, and he is known as a founder of Western thought and as the first moral philosopher. The most comprehensive account of Socrates is found in Plato's dialogues; Plato, also an Athenian philosopher, was a student of Socrates. [back]

3. Coffin is referring to Whitman's poem "Of That Blithe Throat of Thine." [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.