Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Hamlin Garland to Walt Whitman, 3 April 1889

Date: April 3, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02136

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Dear Mr. Whitman:1

I saw lately that you were not so well—but hope it is a newspaper report merely and that you are continuing to gain. I saw Mrs. Dr. Spaulding2 recently she is doing all she can for the acceptance of L. of G. By the way I found a lover where I least expected it, in Mr. Hezekiah Butterworth3 of the "Youths Companion." Who said when I invited him to hear my lecture upon your work—"I shall come by all means. I think Whitman one of the greatest if not the greatest of our American poets."

He is not afraid of your work but wishes some of it were left out of it, for a popular volume. He would think it all right in itself I presume. Mrs Moulton4 has gone south for a month. Returns in—May I hope she may be able to see you before she sails for England in June.— Kennedy5 I never see now. Dont know what he is doing. I should like to see him very much. I am digging away in a fair way to earn a living.

I gave two evenings to your work before my class at New England Conservatory. My class is composed of about fifty bright young girls studying music. You see I am not afraid to carry your word to anyone. To me there is not a line that has a downward tendency. Still I recognzie the fact that to many people "A woman waits for me" is wholly inadmissable, and I know that the rest of the book is a sealed book to them6—perhaps it would be anyway—there's consolation there. I shall have "Specimen Days"7 in my class during Spring term.

With greatest esteem
Hamlin Garland

Hamlin Garland


Correspondent:
Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) was an American writer best known for his fiction about the Midwest. He strongly endorsed Whitman's work, and he frequently wrote and lectured about him. Whitman sometimes misspells Garland's name as "Harland." For more on Garland's 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 Plains Sta | Apr | 3 | 8PM | 1889 | Mass.; Received 2 | Apr | 4 | 1130AM | 1889 | Phila; Philadelphia, Pa | Apr | 4 | 230PM | 1889 | Transit; [illegible] N.J. | Apr | 4 | [illegible] | [illegible] | [illegible]'D. [back]

2. Mrs. Ada H. Spaulding, of Boston, was an admirer of Whitman who praised him publicly. On March 17, 1889, she visited Whitman in Camden. When she returned to Boston, she wrote to thank him for the visit; on March 28, 1889, she sent Whitman flowers. [back]

3. Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905) was assistant editor (1870–1904) of The Youth's Companion, a prominent Boston weekly magazine for children. Garland published two poems in The Youth's Companion in 1889: "A Dakota Wheat Field," which appeared in the July 18 issue, and "By the River," which appeared in the August 15 issue. [back]

4. Ellen Louise Chandler Moulton (1835–1908) was an American poet and critic who published several collections of verse and prose, as well as regular contributions to the New York Tribune and Boston Herald. Moulton corresponded with Whitman starting in 1876 and visited him in Camden on April 23, 1888; she wrote of their meeting in "Three Very Famous People. Mrs. Cleveland, George W. Childs and Walt Whitman. Words of Washington and Philadelphia. Poet Who Wrote of the Birds on Paumanok's Shore," Boston Sunday Herald, April 29, 1888, p. 20. Though she had words of praise for Whitman and his work, Whitman said of her, "I can't endure her effusiveness: I like, respect her: but her dear this and dear that and dear the other thing make me shudder" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, March 1, 1889). In all likelihood Garland met Moulton in his Boston literary circles. [back]

5. 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]

6. In 1882, "A Woman Waits for Me" and "To a Common Prostitute" were two of the poems that the Boston district attorney referred to when officially classifying Leaves of Grass as an obscene book. [back]

7. 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]


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