Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elizabeth Porter Gould to Walt Whitman, 30 December 1889

Date: December 30, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02232

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: Kirby Little, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Chelsea. Mass.
Dec. 30/89.1

My dear Poet, Walt Whitman.

I feel sorry in looking over the "Camden Compliments" not to be numbered among the many friends who remembered the seventieth birthday.2

Possibly my answer to Mr. Traubel's3 invitation to the dinner,4 in the form of verse, never reached him, or else he thought it unworthy of representation. In case of the latter, I should have been glad had he thought my name worthy of mention as a friend. But in case it was not received, I am going to give myself the pleasure of sending to your own self a copy of the verses I sent him that you may see I did not forget you. This is but an added nod to the effort I am always making to bring to you the friendly love of our American people.

With loyal regards,
Your friend in truth,
Elizabeth Porter Gould.

For May 31st 1889.*5

"Splendor of ended day floating and filling me."
Comes to my mind as I think of the hour
When our poet and friends will be lovingly drinking
The mystical cup of the seventy years' power.

Were I the man-of-war bird he has pictured us
Nothing could keep me from flying that way.
But, though absent in body, there's nothing can hinder
My tasting the joys of that festive birthday;

For on the swift wings of the ending day's splendor
My soul will glide in to drink deep the cup's wealth
Who knows but the poet's keen sense of pure friendship
Will feel, midst the joy, what I drink to his health!

Splendor of ended day
Be but the door
Opening the endless way—
Life evermore.

*Song at Sunset

Elizabeth Porter Gould.

Chelsea, Mass.

Elizabeth Porter Gould (1848–1906) was a Massachusetts writer and reformer who edited the collection Gems from Walt Whitman (1889), a selection of poems from Leaves of Grass that she condensed to create short poetic "gems."


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman. | Camden. | New Jersey | Mickle St. It is postmarked: Boston, Mass. | Dec 30 | [illegible]PM | 1889; Camden, N.J. | Dec 31 | 9 AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]

2. The notes and addresses that were delivered at Whitman's seventieth birthday celebration in Camden, on May 31, 1889, were collected and edited by Horace Traubel. The volume was titled Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman, and it included a photo of Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman as the frontispiece. The book was published in 1889 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]

3. 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]

4. 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]

5. Gould has added a note following the heading "For May 31st 1889," which she has marked with an asterisk. The corresponding note refers to the title of the poem "Song at Sunset," which Gould has written after the final lines of the poem. [back]


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