Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elliott Coues to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1891

Date: July 21, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01214

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, "see notes July 27 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Ian Faith, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

1726 N STREET,
July 21, 1891.1

My Dear Friend—

If I may call you so—I wish you peace and joy, and many more years in which to know and feel how great is your fame. We have seldom met, and you will hardly remember me; but I recall pleasant hours with you in this city, just after the war, and I not long since came to see you in your home, with Mrs. Coues,2 among the many visitors who wish to do you homage.—Some of your published expressions lead me to think you may be in sympathy with the spirit of a little tract which I send,3 and which please accept. Should you find time to glance at it, and find any reflection of thoughts that have passed across the mirror of your own mind, I should be proud and pleased.

Your sincere friend,
Elliott Coues.

Walt Whitman, Camden,

Elliott Coues (1842–1899) was born in New Hampshire, the son of Sam Elliott Coues (1797–1867) and his wife, Charlotte Haven Ladd Coues (1813–1900). Elliott Coues graduated from Columbian University in D. C., and joined the U.S. Army as a Medical cadet in 1862, during the American Civil War. He became Assistant Surgeon and held that rank until he resigned in 1881. After the War, he worked as a naturalist and professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at Norwich University (Vermont) and, later, as a professor of Biology at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. He served as a collaborator at the Smithsonian Institute in 1875. He edited numerous geological and natural history publications and contributed several works on ornithology, including Key to North American Birds (1872) and Check-list and Dictionary of North American Birds (1882). Coues also became a strong advocate for women’s rights (see Paul Russell Cutright and Michael J. Brodhead, Elliott Coues: Naturalist and Frontier Historian [Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981], especially Chapter 21, "A New Wife and Women’s Rights"). For more information, see "Coues, Elliott," Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, ed. James Grant Wilson and John Fiske (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885), 1:754.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: WASHINGTON, D.C. | JUL 21 | 9–PM | 1891; CAMDEN | JUL 22 | 6 AM | 189[1]. | REC['D]. [back]

2. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

3. Coues enclosed a pamphlet he wrote called A Woman in the Case: An Address Delivered at the Annual Commencement of the National Medical College in the Congregational Church of Washington, March 16, 1887. Whitman described the work to Horace Traubel as "women's rights—an argument." Traubel and Whitman both misread Coues's signature on the letter and thought the correspondent's name was "Elliott Cones." See Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, July 27, 1891[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.