Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Robert Underwood Johnson, 19 November 1887

Date: November 19, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02423

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "R. U. Johnson," is in an unknown hand.

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

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Nov. 19 '87

My dear Sir2

I tho't I w'd send you word that Mr Eakins the portrait painter of Phila:3 is coming over here to paint me next week & I suppose will continue off & on all the current month (or more)—so you might tell Miss Wheeler4—Also give my best respects & remembrance to Miss W. & say I continue in the mind & promise of last summer (when it suits)—

Walt Whitman

Robert Underwood Johnson (1853–1937) was on the staff of The Century Magazine from 1873 to 1913, and was U. S. ambassador to Italy in 1920 and 1921. Whitman included in this letter a news release based on an interview printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 17, in which he criticized William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (reprinted in American Literature, 14 [1942–1943], 144–147). See also Robert Underwood Johnson, Remembered Yesterdays (Boston: Little, Brown, 1923), 336, and Specimen Days, ed. Floyd Stovall (New York: New York University Press, 1963), 167.


1. This letter is addressed: R U Johnson | Century Office | Union Square | New York City. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 19 | 4 30 [illegible] | 87; [illegible] | 11–23– [illegible] | [illegible] | N.J. The recto of the envelope contains the following printed return address: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Robert Underwood Johnson of October 29, 1879[back]

3. Thomas Eakins (1844–1919) was an American painter. His relationship with Whitman was characterized by deep mutual respect, and he soon became a close friend of the poet. For more on Eakins, see Philip W. Leon, "Eakins, Thomas (1844–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Undoubtedly Dora Wheeler (1856–1940), who in the 1880s painted portraits of numerous American authors, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, as well as Whitman. [back]


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