Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Helen A. Horner to Walt Whitman, 8 February 1870

Date: February 8, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01724

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, "Helen A. Horner," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Beverley Rilett, Ashley Lawson, Eder Jaramillo, John Schwaninger, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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New York City1
Feb 8th 1870

"Walt Whitman"

O! Beloved Soul, so great! so beautiful! so noble, so grand!
A God!

"O! Take my hand Walt Whitman"
"Lift me close to your face
Till I whisper"
"What you are holding is in reality "no letter" nor part" of a letter.

It is a girl "flushed and full-blooded" It is I."
"Here take from my lips this kiss"

"I give it especially to you.
A kiss from the lips of one born beneath a tropical sun a daughter of the Crescent City.
A kiss warm, and glowing from the lips of she, bred in the far West, and nurtured midst the Sierra Nevadas.
By your "Leaves of Grass" I have been ravished—
By all that you have written I have been won—
Won by you Love!
Won by your fine broad face, and large eyes.
Won by your warm heart and big soul
Won!—so that I dream of you all night, and Think of you all day.

I am "pensive and silent"
"What do I seek?"
"What do I need?"
I "seek" your love, I "need" your love
You have written "To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!"

Am I not so doing in writing this letter?
Am I not "leaping to the heavens of love, you have indicated to me?"

Am I not mad?

Verily I am but echoing you.

I am a child, "a romping rollicking girl" they tell me.

I am more, "They" know it not—I am a flame.
I am the "Promethean" fire
I am Vesuvius!

I am Love!

The world knows me—
somewhat—I stand before
it, frigidly, stolidly—

I declaim!

Cooly, composedly, whilst
the hot lava inwardly
boiling, rages through my breast.

You are my child—Lord & Ideal.
Of you I have been dreaming for nine years,—whilst cloistered within high Convent walls.
Having found you I hasten to make myself known to you.

Do you rebuke me? If so, you are not the "Leaves of Grass"
Would you know me? Answer this!

Some day I may hasten to greet you
Would you know me?
I am a bundle of imperfections.

I love!

Does love screen all defects?

I pray so!

Would you know me?
The world calls me handsome. I have many lovers—that is, I am loved.
I wish they could see my Soul. Would they deem it lovely.

I do not bother much about the exterior.

I seek to cultivate and make beautiful the inner being.

Towards this striving you have helped me.


Would you know me?
Beloved Soul!
I am not worth the knowing—
Save as one of humanity
Save as one of the "Miserables"
Save as one of the oppressed and despised sex.
I am worth the knowing
Beloved Soul!
For I am Love!
I am Sappho!
I am Heloise!
Who has loved deeply
I shall love deeper—
Who has loved "Walt Whitman"? more than all their flames put to-gether, mine shall rage fiercer, and with an intenser warmth.

Would you know me?
Then love me.
Would you know me?
Beloved Soul!
Then hasten speedily to respond to this.

On thy honor Walt Whitman keep this to thyself.
Mind you! it was all "whispered."
Pardon me, I am yet timid, fearfully cautious (subject) "given to fears"
A deep, long, long kiss,
Good bye—

address to
Miss Helen A. Horner

Station G. G.
New York City

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman (Poet) | Washington | State Department | D.C. | private. It is postmarked: New York | Feb [illegible] | Carrier | Feb | 21 | 7 PM. [back]


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