Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Amos Bronson Alcott to Walt Whitman, 28 April 1868

Date: April 28, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02854

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: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Ashley Lawson, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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April 28th, 1868.1

My Dear Sir,

Your friendly note of the 26th2 has just come to hand, and yesterday came your noble paper on Personalism3—for both of which attentions you have my thanks. I shall look for your views of the aboriginal literature, fully believing that your thought is on the track of Empire and sees the route to Personal Power for the nation, as for the individual. And never a people needed more the Cosmic thought to inspire and guide its action.

Yet think of the progress out of the twilight since your star dawned upon our hazy horizon!

Some friend has sent me from time to time appreciative notices of yourself, knowing by some supreme instinct my hope in whatsoever promises expansion for our hemisphere. You, too, kindly inform me of particulars about your personal position and prosperity. I am interested in all you choose to communicate.

Emerson4 is just home from your city of steeples and tracks, but I have not spoken with him yet. I know how fully he shares in my appreciation of yourself and works.

Please accept the little sketch5 accompanying this, and oblige

A. Bronson Alcott.

Walt Whitman.

Amos Bronson Alcott (1799–1888) was an American educator and abolitionist and the father of Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), whose 1868 novel Little Women (loosely based on the Alcott home) secured the financial stability that her father had been unable to achieve through his own work as a teacher and transcendentalist. See Odell Shepard, ed., The Journals of Bronson Alcott (Boston: Little, Brown, 1938), 286–90.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Washington City | D.C. It Is postmarked: CONCORD | APR | [28] | MASS.; [CARRIER] | APR | 3[30?] | [1868]. [back]

2. Alcott is referring to Whitman's letter of April 26, 1868[back]

3. Whitman had forwarded to Alcott a copy of "Personalism" (Galaxy [May 1868], 540–547). Whitman had informed his mother of Alcott's appreciation for the essay in his letter to her of April 28–May 4, 1868. The enthusiastic response to Whitman by Ralph Waldo Emerson following the publication of Leaves of Grass led Alcott and Henry David Thoreau to visit the Whitman home in Brooklyn on November 9, 1856. Whitman was not home at thetime. In his journal, Alcott described Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, as "a stately sensible matron believing in Walter absolutely and telling us how good he was and wise as a boy" (Odell Shepard, ed., The Journals of Bronson Alcott [Boston: Little, Brown, 1938], 289). [back]

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. This enclosure has not been located. [back]


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