Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: George Peyton, Charles E. Burd, and James B. Young to Walt Whitman, 1 August 1871

Date: August 1, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02858

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, "see notes June 14 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

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

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American Institute
New York, Aug 1, 1871.

Walt. Whitman Esq.
Dear Sir,

Aware of the kindly and generous interest you take in the welfare and progress of the American Institute, the Board of Managers of the 40th National Industrial Exhibition1 have instructed us to solicit of you the honor of a poem on the occasion of its opening, Sept. 7, 1871—with the privilege of furnishing proofs of the same to the Metropolitan Press for publication with the other proceedings.

With profound respect,
George Peyton
Chas. E. Burd
James B. Young

Com. on Invitations

We shall be most happy, of course, to pay traveling expenses & entertain you hospitably, and pay $100 in addition, if agreeable to you, so as in some sort to make amends for your trouble.

George Payton, along with Charles Burd and James B. Young, were members of the Board of Managers for the 40th Annual Exhibition of the American Institute that was held on September 7, 1871.


1. Whitman accepted this invitation on August 5, 1871, and read what he called his "American Institute piece" (in his September 17,1871 letter to the Roberts Brothers) before the American Institute on September 7, 1871. The poem was published as "After All, Not to Create Only," and was retitled "Song of the Exposition" for its publication in Two Rivulets (1876). The newspaper coverage of Walt Whitman's appearance at the American Institute was extensive: the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle published the poet's account on September 7, 1871; the New York Evening Post reprinted the poem, and called Walt Whitman "a good elocutionist." He was also praised in the New York Sun and the Brooklyn Standard; the New York Tribune printed excerpts from the poem on September 8, 1871, and later a devastating parody by Bayard Taylor (reprinted in his Echo Club [2nd ed., 1876], 169–170); the Springfield Republican published the poem on September 9, 1871. In reply to the criticisms of the poem, Walt Whitman prepared the following for submission to an unidentified newspaper: "The N. Y. World's frantic, feeble, fuddled articles on it are curiosities. The Telegram dryly calls it the longest conundrum ever yet given to the public" (Yale). See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Thursday, June 14, 1888," 328–329; Emory Holloway, Whitman–An Interpretation in Narrative (1926), American Mercury, 18 (1929), 485–486; and Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (1955), 433–435. [back]


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