Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Jahu DeWitt Miller to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1891

Date: January 13, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03146

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: Ryan Furlong, Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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13 Jan '91

Dear Sir:

I wrote you some weeks since1 saying that I had a copy of the first edition of your poems upon a flyleaf of which I was very anxious you should write a line or two and your name.—

I further said that I would be delighted to offer you $10 not so much as compensation for the service rendered—as an expression of my appreciation of your great kindness.

Not having heard from you in any way I fear lest my letter may have gone astray.

My friend Col. Ingersoll2 writes me that he is going to send me a copy of his tribute to you in Horticultural Hall3—a tribute I was fortunate enough to hear—one worthy of its subject—and that's great praise!

If needful I could I think get a note of introduction to you from my friend John Burroughs4

With great respect:
Jahu DeWitt Miller

Walt Whitman.

Jahu Dewitt Miller (1857–1911) was a Methodist minister, educator, lecturer, and collector of rare books. In 1901, a special facility to house his large collection was built at National Park Seminary, a girl's school in Forest Glen, Maryland. The Miller Library was later auctioned off when the school closed, and the United States Army converted the campus into a medical facility. Syracuse University currently houses the Dewitt Miller Correspondence, a collection of thirty letters written between 1881 and 1907. For more information, see Leon H. Vincent, Dewitt Miller, A Biographical Sketch (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Riverside Press, 1912).


1. See Miller's letter to Whitman of October 22, 1890[back]

2. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

3. On October 21, 1890, at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace Book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience," and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]

4. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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