Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Byron Sutherland to Walt Whitman, 12 September 1868

Date: September 12, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01951

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 notes: The annotations, "Byron Sutherland," and "Byron Sutherland Sept 12 '68 ans. enclosed," are in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Ashley Lawson, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

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State Normal School1 Edinboro Pa.2

My friend

Years have gone past since I have seen that face of my friend dear Walt. Whitman.

And not hearing from him his memory had almost gone out.

But to day I found a review from the German                in the New. Eclectic Magazine.3 Entitled Walt. Whitman4 And memories of Washington life came thronging back

I am at School, where I have been [for?] a year pas[t.?] This ensuing winter I shall teach. in a small town in the state New. York probaly

Hoping that I may again hear from you I am respectfully &c
Byron Sutherland
Sept 1868

Edinboro Erie Co.

Noah Byron Sutherland (1846–1915?) was born in New York; he was the son of John G. Sutherland (b. 1798), a farmer, and Anna (Anny) Sutherland (1807–1880). Byron Sutherland was a Union soldier during the U. S. Civil War, and he served in the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry. He met Whitman in Washington, D. C., and the two began corresponding on August 26, 1865. Sutherland did farm work in Pennsylvania after the Civil War, and he also studied law and teaching (among other subjects) at the State Normal School in Erie County, Pennsylvania. In April 1870, Sutherland was teaching in Jamestown, New York. In reply to Whitman's request for further information about his life, the former soldier observed on April 8, 1870: "You remember me in 1865 a green vain (?) lad of Eighteen—without, even, an imperfect knowledge of the rudimentary English branches, I came home from Washington and applied myself, as soon as possible, to school and to study . . . My life since we parted that July day upon the Treasury steps, has been one of hard work and little recreation—I find on looking back to that time, that I am not so pure or trusting—that the world isint quite so fair and beautiful as it seemed then—That the world is not precisely a green pasture for unsophistocated human lambs to skip in—That I like dreaming less, and work or excitement better—That I have lost a great deal of Ambition, and gained a like quantity of stupidity—That I dont know nearly so much as I once supposed I did." By 1877, Sutherland had moved to Minnesota, where he married Sarah Raymond Brown Peck (1848–after 1915?), practiced law, and worked as a farmer.


1. The State Normal School in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, was first chartered in 1856 as an academy. It became a normal school, meant for the training of teachers, in 1861. The normal school phenomenon had only recently caught on in the United States, with the first normal school having been established in Massachusetts in 1839. [back]

2. This letter is addressed: Walt. Whitman | Attorney Gen. Office | Washington D.C. It is postmarked: EDINBORO | SEP | 15 | P. A.; CARRIER | SEP | [16?] | 2 DEL. [back]

3. In its July 1868 edition, the New Eclectic Magazine published a translation of Ferdinand Freiligrath's "Walt Whitman," which had originally appeared in the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung on April 24, 1868. Freiligrath (1810–1876) was a German poet and translator and friend of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "Walt Whitman" was among the first notices of Whitman's poetry on the continent. A digital version is available in Walter Grünzweig's "Whitman in the German-Speaking Countries," which collects several examples of German reception of Whitman's poetry. [back]

4. See Ferdinand Freiligrath's "Walt Whitman" in Walter Grünzweig's "Whitman in the German-Speaking Countries," which first appeared in Walt Whitman and the World, ed. Gay Wilson Allen and Ed Folsom, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995), 160–230. [back]


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