Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Henry Wilson to Walt Whitman, 30 March 1868

Date: March 30, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02002

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 annotation, "Henry Wilson—ans. (to Ben) April 11, '68," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "Atty Genl office," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Cristin Noonan, Marie Ernster, Kassie Jo Baron, and Stephanie Blalock

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March 30/681

Dear friend Whitman

Your [highest?] we [cend?] the Dollar together for I was suddenly taken with a desire to get home and Started. But I must tell you the news which is the cause of my writing For, this bright beautiful day gave birth to young Walt Whitman, a name that Ben's2 baby was destined to bear, if it should prove a boy; more than Six months ago Ben came to this decision. And to day we are all rejoicing at the safe dilivery of our Nellie3 of a little Walt of whom we are all very proud.

Ben had taken a jo on [mowing?] machines and is working himself to death. I am still engaged in perfecting my invention by repeated experiments. I think I shall soon be able to show some results.4

Yours truly
Henry Wilson

Henry Wilson (1805–1870) was the father of Benton H. Wilson—a former U. S. Civil War soldier and one of Whitman's correspondents (for Benton Wilson, see Whitman's letters of April 12, 1867, and April 15, 1870). On May 15, 1870, Wilson informed Whitman of his father's death two weeks earlier; Benton's father, who "was insane at times," had written to Whitman on January 17, 1867, and on March 30, 1868.


1. This letter is addressed: Mr. Walt. Whitman | Atorney generals office | Washington D.C. It is postmarked: Syracuse | MAR | 31 | N.Y.; CARRIER | APR 1 | 7 P.M. [back]

2. 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. [back]

3. Nellie E. Gage (1841–1892), daughter of Ichabod Lewis Gage, married Benton H. Wilson in 1865 or 1866. She had two children from a previous marriage: Lewis and Eva Morrell, 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. [back]

4. In Benton H. Wilson's letter to Whitman of February 24, 1868, he reports that his father Henry, nearly two years out of the asylum at Utica, had been attempting to attain a patent (which is likely related to the "experiment" Henry discusses here): "When he left here he said he was going to New York as agent for a firm in this city & the next we hear of him he is in Washington trying to get some Patent which we would be very glad if he would come home & let it alone." [back]


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