Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Hamlin Garland to Walt Whitman, [June 1889]

Date: [June 1889]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02138

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, "didn't res: these notes— & havn't seen them in print since W," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "See notes Oct 20, 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dear Mr. Whitman:1

I send you a few pages of notes which I intend— printing if you do not object.2 I want the authority to say some of these things. They will do you good. The first few pages will be taken up with a bit of description of the Banquet3 and so on—The rest of the letter is a free report of what we talked about in my visits to you. If any part of this displeases you, or misrepresents you—mark it—or indicate it to Mr. Traubel4 and return it to me.

Hartman,5 and others have done so much to misrepresent you in the papers that I wish to present something counter which shall help men to understand you. I wish you would read Mr. Howells6 later books—and essays, he is taking fearlessly high grounds.

If you dont feel like writing, ask Traubel to reply.

Everybody here sends well wishes—Baxter7—Chamberlain8—Clement9 etc—

With greatest esteem—
Hamlin Garland.

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).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Mickle st | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Philadelphia, PA | Oct | [illegible]| 8am; Camden, NJ | Oct 20 | 6am | 1889 | Rec'd. Garland's return address is printed on the envelope as follows: HAMLIN GARLAND | Teacher English & American Literature, Shakespeare, | Dramatic Reading, etc. Rooms at No. 7 Beacon St. | BOSTON SCHOOL OF ORATORY. [back]

2. Garland sent the poet "Whitman at Seventy" in typescript (Hamlin Garland Papers, University of Souther California). The essay was published in the New York Herald, June 30, 1889. As he tended to do, Whitman revised Garland's essay. [back]

3. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The committee included Henry (Harry) L. Bonsall, Geoffrey Buckwalter, and Thomas B. Harned. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, May 7, 1889. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (ca. 1867–1944) was an art historian and early critic of photography as an art form. He visited Whitman in Camden in the 1880s and published his conversations with the poet in 1895. Generally unpopular with other supporters of the poet, he was known during his years in Greenwich Village as the "King of Bohemia." For more information about Hartmann, see John F. Roche, "Hartmann, C. Sadakichi (ca. 1867–1944)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was an American realist novelist and literary critic, serving the staff of the New York Nation and Harper's Magazine during the mid 1860s. During his tenure as editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Monthly from 1871 to 1880, he was one of the foremost critics in New York, and used his influence to support American authors like Hamlin Garland, Stephen Crane, and Emily Dickinson. He also brought attention to European authors like Henrik Ibsen, Giovanni Verga, and Leo Tolstoy in particular. Howells was highly skeptical of Whitman's poetry, however, and frequently questioned his literary merit. In an Ashtabula Sentinel review of the 1860 edition Leaves of Grass, Howells wrote, "If he is indeed 'the distinctive poet of America,' then the office of poet is one which must be left hereafter to the shameless and the friendless. for WALT WHITMAN is not a man whom you would like to know." In 1865, Howells would write the first important review of Drum-Taps in the Round Table, demonstrating early signs of his conflicted opinion about Whitman. For more information on Howells, see Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, William Dean Howells: A Writer's Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). [back]

7. 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]

8. Joseph Edgar Chamberlin (1851–1935) was an American journalist for the Boston Transcript and the Youth's Companion. He wrote "The Listener" column for the Boston Transcript for many years. He wrote about Whitman for this column, and the piece was republished in Nomads and Listeners of Joseph Edgar Chamberlin (Books for Libraries Press, 1937), 128–134. [back]

9. 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, from 1881 to 1906. [back]


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