Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Herbert Clifford to Walt Whitman, 21 August 1888

Date: August 21, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01299

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 Aug 23, 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Farmington, Maine,1
Aug. 21, 1888.

My dear Mr. Whitman:

I am content to have waited 40 years for this birthday-book which I have from you and Horace.2 If 40 more could hold promise and deserving of such another, I should face them with both hope and patience.

If this coveted but not-to-have-been-asked-for autograph means, as it seems to do, that the hand which wrote it is much stronger than when last I felt its generous touch, that token is alone enough to gladden this my little day.—Long life and all love!

J.H. Clifford.

John Herbert Clifford (b. 1848) was a Unitarian minister from Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennyslvania. In an 1890 interview, Whitman agreed with Clifford's assessment of the poet as a "prophet and bard." See "Walt Whitman on Himself." Shortly after Whitman's death in March 1892, Clifford contributed to "Sprigs of Lilac for Walt Whitman" in The Conservator, writing, "It was a great honor and sacred service to be one of the friends chosen to bear Walt Whitman to his final resting-place" (The Conservator, [June 1892], 26). Later, Clifford was part of the Philadelphia branch of the Walt Whitman Fellowship. Whitman referred to him as "a man-minister, not a minister-man" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, June 18,1888).


1. This letter is addressed: For Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: FARMINGTON | AU | 21 | 1888 | ME; CAMDEN | AUG | 2 [illegible] | 6 AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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