Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William J. Linton, 11 December 1876

Date: December 11, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02852

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: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Alex Kinnaman, Amanda J. Axley, Erel Michaelis, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dec 11 '76

My dear Linton

I have been for some weeks down in the country—half moping like—yet feeling rather better these days, upon the whole—Your note of some weeks since1 ought to have been answered before. I have been waiting for the chance to get from the bindery, or from my stack, (as I unwrap the books) a copy of Two Rivulets2 with the dark brown label you want—I have it in mind, & shall get it so, & send it you— Meantime, let this remorseful note be my apology—

—My address here is still the same—

Walt Whitman

New Jersey

William James Linton (1812–1897), a British-born wood engraver, came to the U. S. in 1867 and settled near New Haven, Connecticut. He illustrated the works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, and others, wrote the "indispensable" History of Wood-Engraving in America (1882), and edited Poetry of America, 1776–1876 (London, 1878), which included eight of Whitman's poems and the poet's picture. Linton's engraving of Whitman appeared in the 1876 version of Leaves of Grass, in Complete Poems & Prose (1888–1889), and in The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), 10 vols., 2:156; it also inspired the poem "Out from Behind This Mask." See Harold Blodgett, "Whitman and the Linton Portrait," Walt Whitman Newsletter, 4 (1958), 90–92. According to his Threescore and Ten Years, 1820 to 1890—Recollections (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894), 216–217, Linton met with Whitman in Washington and later visited him in Camden, which Whitman reported in his November 9, 1873, letter to Peter Doyle. Linton wrote of Whitman: "I liked the man much, a fine-natured, good-hearted, big fellow, . . . a true poet who could not write poetry, much of wilfulness accounting for his neglect of form." Linton's obituary in the New York Times of January 8, 1898, called Linton "the greatest wood engraver of his time, an artist in other senses, and a poet of no mean ability."


1. This letter has not been located. [back]

2. Published as a "companion volume" to the 1876 Author's edition of Leaves of Grass, Two Rivulets consisted of an "intertwining of the author's characteristic verse, alternated throughout with prose," as one critic from the The New York Daily Tribune wrote on February 19, 1876 (4). For more information on Two Rivulets, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, "Two Rivulets, Author's Edition [1876]" and "Preface to Two Rivulets [1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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