Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Benton H. Wilson to Walt Whitman, 6 October 1868

Date: October 6, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01994

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, "Benton Wilson Oct. 6 1868 (Rec'd Dec. 10)," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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October 6th/681

Dear Friend
Walt Whitman

I have neglected to answer your last letter2 so long that I am most ashamed to write to you now but I know that you will excuse my seeming neglect for I have been very busy for the past three months.

This letter will be handed to you by our esteemed Friend Miss Kate C Riley3 of Washington who I would like to introduce to you. We made her acquaintance at the same time we did yours and under the Same circumstances performing debts of kindness to Sick & wounded Soldiers. She has made us several flying visits this summer & I have taken the liberty of sending you this letter of Introduction by her.

She can talk to you about David4 & myself from having seen us lately.

My little baby Walt5 is well & Bright as a dollar. with Love to yourself I will close for the present.

Please write Soon

your Friend
B. H. Wilson.

Benton H. Wilson (1843–1914?) was the son of Henry Wilson (1805–1870)—a harness and trunk maker—and Ann S. Williams Wilson (1809–1887). Benton Wilson was a U. S. Civil War soldier recovering in Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C., when he met Whitman. Later, Wilson was employed selling melodeons and sewing machines. He also sold life insurance and may have worked as a pawnbroker. He married Nellie Gage Morrell Wilson (ca. 1841–1892). Nellie had two children, Lewis and Eva Morrell, from a previous marriage, and she and Benton were the parents of five children. Wilson named his first child "Walter Whitman Wilson," after the poet; their other children were Austin, Irene, Georgie, and Kathleen Wilson. Benton Wilson's correspondence with Whitman spanned a decade, lasting from 1865 to 1875.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Washington | D.C. It is postmarked: Washington | Dec 10 | D.C. [back]

2. It is uncertain which letter is being referred to here. [back]

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

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

5. Walter Whitman Wilson (1868–1906) was the son of former U.S. Civil War Soldier Benton Wilson (1843–1914?) and Nellie Gage Morrell Wilson (ca. 1841–1892). Walter's father, Benton, had met Whitman in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, and Benton had named his first child in honor of the poet. Walter Whitman Wilson was a pawnbroker in New York for most of his life; he married Lillian M. Ferris Wilson Foran (1870–1935), and the couple had two children. [back]


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