Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elizabeth Ford to Walt Whitman, 16 February 1875

Date: February 16, 1875

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02090

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, "from Elizabeth Ford, Adel, Leeds, England, Feb. '75," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

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

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Adel nr Leeds—
16th Feb. 1875.1

Dear Sir—

I do not know how to excuse myself to you for taking the liberty of writing to you—but I cannot help it. I must do it. A little while ago I read your Democratic Vistas,2 it was like a great help coming from a long way off. & it came into my mind that I must speak to you. Do not be angry with me—I should be frightened at myself, only I believe in what you say in your book so much that I can hardly feel fear. I want you to tell me that your trust in what you say is unshaken, that it grows as you grow?

it must be so different in your country from what it is here—it is hard sometimes to go on believing that the good will come—& it seems to me that you forget that it must come for us here as well as for you. we need it so! & if a good only comes to part of the world of people, it is not great enough—Do your people really in their souls care about such things? or is it only one or two? is it a dear belief to any of them that they hold steadfastly? we do some of us here believe in a true democratic spirit coming—but one hopes so in America & wants to trust in her. Therefore I am bold & write to you for a word of hope. Your words that you have written are such a strength, it is so wonderful to find said, things that hover in one. I mean, to read things that one's heart cries out in answer to. This is what makes me so that I cannot help writing to you.

Your's sincerely
Elizabeth Ford—

Elizabeth (Bessie) Helen Ford (1848–1919) was a violinist and the sister of Isabella Ormston Ford (1855–1924), an English social reformer, suffragist, and writer. The sisters lived together in Leeds; they were friends of Edward Carpenter, an English writer and Whitman disciple. After being introduced to Whitman's writings by Carpenter, Bessie and her sister quickly became admirers of the poet.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 431 Stevens St. (cor. West), | Camden | N.J. It is postmarked: NEW YORK | MAR | 5 | 6 PM. [back]

2. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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