Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Bayard Wyman to Walt Whitman, [during or after 1871]

Date: [during or after 1871]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01979

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: Alex Kinnaman, Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elziabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Cristin Noonan, Erel Michaelis, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock



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Dear Mr Whitman

Please pardon my intrusion but as I am a great lover of literature especially poetry, I have always taken great interest in you and your poems and other writings and am a great admirer of them,

I have often looked for your photograph but have never succeeded in obtaining one and have no definite idea of your features. I have been much disappointed in not securing your photograph and concluded that, perhaps, I could procure one of you Have you a photograph of yourself which you could send me?

I enclose you 25¢ for photograph if you have one which you are willing to send to me.

I shall anxiously await your reply and hope that you will be so kind as to send a photograph I have long desired your opinion on several matters in literature but will only ask you one.

I have read and studied Mr. Joaquin Miller's1 poems "Songe of the Sierras" and have been greatly impressed by them.2 I am very curious to learn your opinion of him, and his poems. I shall be greatly indebted to you if you will give me an opinion of Mr. Miller's muse If you will be so kind as to answer my critical questions I will thank you very much.

Will you if you are not occupied please write me with your own hand a copy of one of your poems? I do not wish to be a nuisance and a bore to you and if you have not plenty of leisure I will not ask you for the poem I have poems in the handwriting of Bryant,3 Longfellow,4 Holmes5 and Whittier6 and with yours if you send it I will complete the series of the greatest American poets. If you do not wish to answer I will not be greatly surprised for I presume you are nearly bored to death by "autograph fiends" but I write you as a lover of literature and am not to be classed with the "fiends" in any sense.

With best wishes for your health and prosperity

I am always your friend and admirer
Bayard Wyman

Perry, Ohio


Correspondent:
As yet we have no information about this correspondent.

Notes:

1. Joaquin Miller was the pen name of Cincinnatus Heine Miller (1837–1913), an American poet nicknamed "Byron of the Rockies" and "Poet of the Sierras." In 1871, the Westminster Review described Miller as "leaving out the coarseness which marked Walt Whitman's poetry" (297). In an entry in his journal dated August 1, 1871, the naturalist John Burroughs recorded Whitman's fondness for Miller's poetry; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), 60. Whitman met Miller for the first time in 1872; he wrote of a visit with Miller in a July 19, 1872, letter to his former publisher and fellow clerk Charles W. Eldridge. [back]

2. Joaquin Miller's Songs of the Sierras was published in 1871, and this letter must have been written either during or after that year. [back]

3. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was an American nature poet and journalist who served as the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Evening Post from 1828 to 1878. He is known for his poem "Thanatopsis," and his influence helped establish Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. [back]

4. In his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was both a highly popular and highly respected American poet. His The Song of Hiawatha, published the same year as Leaves of Grass, enjoyed sales never reached by Whitman's poetry. When Whitman met Longfellow in June 1876, he was unimpressed: "His manners were stately, conventional—all right but all careful . . . he did not branch out or attract" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 10, 1888, 130). [back]

5. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894) was a poet, physician, and well-known essayist. His son, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935), was appointed a Supreme Court justice in 1902. [back]

6. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) earned fame as a staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. As a poet, he employed traditional forms and meters, and, not surprisingly, he was not an admirer of Whitman's unconventional prosody. For Whitman's view of Whittier, see the poet's numerous comments throughout the nine volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers: 1906–1996) and Whitman's "My Tribute to Four Poets," in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882–'83), 180–181. [back]


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