Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Hamlin Garland to Walt Whitman, 9 November 1888

Date: November 9, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02132

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, "See notes Nov 10 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Jamaica Plain.1
Nov. 9/88.

Dear Mr. Whitman:

I talked last night to my Waltham class (of forty ladies) about your work and read to them. I wish you could have seen how deeply attentive they were and how moved by "Out of the Cradle" "To Think of Time" "Sparkles from the Wheel" and others. Many of them will now read your works carefully and understandingly. I told them to come at you through "Specimen Days."2 I always advise my pupils so. After reading your prose they are better prepared to sympathize with your poetic views. I am much pleased with "November Boughs"3 and expect to do quite a good review soon. Mr. Clement4 of The Transcript is a personal friend and is quite kindly disposed toward your work. Indeed, all the leading men on The Transcript are. Baxter5 is away. Kennedy6 I have not seen. Chamberlain7 is in the library as usual. I think I told you of the good letter I had from Burroughs.8 I hope Mr. Howells9 will succeed in doing something for "November Boughs" in the December number it is such a great number usually.

It rejoices me to think you are gaining. I hope the winter will not be too severe for you. Though I believe you stand the cold better than the heat. I hope to hear a word from you occasionally.

Very sincerely—
Hamlin Garland


Correspondent:
Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) was an American novelist and autobiographer, known especially for his works about the hardships of farm life in the American Midwest. For his relationship to Whitman, see Thomas K. Dean, "Garland, Hamlin," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St. Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Jamaica Plain Sta'n | Nov | 9 | 2PM |Mass.; Camden, N. J. | Nov | 10 | 10AM | 1888 | Rec'd. [back]

2. The first issue of Whitman's Specimen Days and Collect was published by the Philadelphia firm of Rees Welsh and Company in 1882. The second issue was published by David McKay. Many of the autobiographical notes, sketches, and essays that focus on the poet's life during and beyond the Civil War had been previously published in periodicals or in Memoranda During the War (1875–1876). For more information on Specimen Days, see George Hutchinson and David Drews "Specimen Days [1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Edward Henry Clement (1843–1920) of Chelsea, Massachusetts, began his career as a journalist with the Savannah Daily News in the mid-1860s. He later became the editor of the Boston Transcript, a position that he held for twenty-five years. [back]

5. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Mellen Chamberlain (1821–1900) was the librarian of the Boston Public Library as well as a lawyer and historian. [back]

8. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was the novelist and "Dean of American Letters" who wrote The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) among other works. He described his first meeting with Walt Whitman at Pfaff's in Literary Friends and Acquaintances (New York: Harper & Bros., 1900), 73–76. [back]


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