Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Harrison S. Morris to Walt Whitman, [After 31 May] 1891

Date: [After May 31], 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03155

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley



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Dear Mr. Whitman:1

The above note appeared in the last number of the Boston Literary World.2 I am only responsible for the words I have marked,3 as I sent them alone to Mr. Gilman4 the day I was over to see you. The rest has been taken from floating paragraphs.

I do sincerely hope you are very well and enjoying this fine June weather. I have read the copy of "Good-Bye, My Fancy"5 you gave me, and I am amazed and delighted with the great quality of its poetry. It is equal, much of it, to the best you have ever written.

Truly Yours
Harrison S. Morris.

—The seventy-second6 birthday of Walt Whitman was celebrated at his home in Camden, N.J., on the evening of May 31. About forty friends and admirers sat down to a dinner, the poet occupying the seat of honor at the head. He was in good health and spirits, and entertained his guests with selections from his own works and comments on literary affairs. His opening words were characteristic: "I feel to say a word of grateful memory for the big fellows just passed away—for Bryant7 and Emerson8 and Longfellow;9 and for those we still have with us—Whittier,10 and the boss of us all, Tennyson."11 Letters were read from Lord Tennyson, Richard Waterson Gilder,12 Edmund Stedman,13 and others. Mr. Whitman has about ready what he considers his last book, entitled Good-bye, my Fancy, and a sub-title, "Second Annex to 'Leaves of Grass.'" It comprises sixty-six pages of prose and verse. He says that many of his pieces were submitted to publishers and magazine editors, and "were peremptorily rejected by them." "To the Sunset Breeze"14 was rejected by Harper's15 as being an "improvisation" only, and "On Ye Jocund Twain" was returned by the Century16 as "personal merely."17


Correspondent:
Harrison Smith Morris (1856–1948) was a businessman and man of letters. Horace Traubel published Morris's translation of French critic Gabriel Sarrazin's essay "Walt Whitman" in the tribute collection In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned [Philadelphia: McKay, 1893], 159–194. Morris also wrote a biography of the poet, Walt Whitman: A Brief Biography with Reminiscences (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: To Walt Whitman | Thro. Horace L. Traubels | Kindness [back]

2. Whitman's relationship with the The Literary World changed over the years. In 1888, the poet recalled: "The Literary World started out years ago with being friendly—almost fulsome, eulogistic: its head man was Abbot: I had several letters from Abbot, written in a friendly temper: displaying a friendly feeling for me. The other man, the money man, on The World, was Hines [...] At that time [1880] they wanted me to send them something for an Emerson number of The World [...] I sent them the piece— [...] But this friendly disposition came to an end. There was a time when the question of W. W. came up—Abbot must have been overborne: yet, whatever the policy of the paper, more recent letters from Abbot—personal letters—have in substance repeated his original judgment" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, December 10, 1888[back]

3. Morris drew parallel vertical lines on both sides of the newspaper clipping near the quotation from Whitman beginning "I feel to say a word of grateful memory..." and ending near the close of the quotation. [back]

4. Nicholas Paine Gilman (1849–1912), a Unitarian minister and professor of sociology at Antioch College, became the editor of the Boston Literary World in 1888. He was a prolific author of early sociology texts and edited several journals. [back]

5. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Morris enclosed this newspaper article for Whitman to read. He pasted it at the top of the first page of his letter. [back]

7. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was a famous poet and journalist who also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Evening Post from 1828 to 1878. [back]

8. 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]

9. In his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was both a highly popular and highly respected American poet. His The Song of Hiawatha, published the same year as Leaves of Grass, enjoyed sales never reached by Whitman's poetry. When Whitman met Longfellow in June 1876, he was unimpressed: "His manners were stately, conventional—all right but all careful . . . he did not branch out or attract" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 10, 1888[back]

10. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) earned fame as a staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. As a poet, he employed traditional forms and meters, and, not surprisingly, he was not an admirer of Whitman's unconventional prosody. For Whitman's view of Whittier, see the poet's numerous comments throughout the nine volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers: 1906–1996) and Whitman's "My Tribute to Four Poets," in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882–'83), 180–181. [back]

11. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Tennyson began a correspondence with Whitman on July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

12. Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the assistant editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 to 1881 and editor of its successor, The Century, from 1881 until his death. Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482). Whitman attended a reception and tea given by Gilder after William Cullen Bryant's funeral on June 14; see "A Poet's Recreation" in the New York Tribune, July 4, 1878. Whitman considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888). For more about Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Richard Watson (1844–1909)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

13. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America , 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time , 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). [back]

14. Joseph M. Stoddart (1845–1921) came to see Whitman on April 21, "inviting me to write for Lippincott's magazine" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Whitman sent "Old Age Echoes" "(4 pieces, 'sounds of winter,' 'the unexpress'd,' 'to the sunset-breeze' and 'after the argument')." On April 28 he agreed to Stoddart's request that the poems be printed separately (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), and on the following day, April 29, the editor paid Whitman $60. "Old-Age Echoes" was published in March, 1891; "To the Sun-Set Breeze" was in the December, 1890 issue; apparently "After the Argument" was not printed. [back]

15. Harper's Monthly Magazine (sometimes Harper's New Monthly Magazine or simply Harper's) was established in 1850 by Henry J. Raymond and Fletcher Harper. The magazine published several of Walt Whitman's poems, including "Song of the Redwood-Tree" and "Prayer of Columbus." In 1857, Fletcher Harper founded Harper's Weekly (subtitled "A Journal of Civilization"), which gained its fame for its coverage of the Civil War and its publication of cartoonist Thomas Nast's (1840–1902) work. For Whitman's relationship with these two publications, see Susan Belasco's "Harper's Monthly Magazine" and "Harper's Weekly Magazine." [back]

16. The editor of The Century at this time was Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909). Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482), and considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888). For more about Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Richard Watson (1844–1909)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

17. Bucke is referring to "On, On the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!" Whitman told Bucke that he was submitting the poem to Century in his letter of May 12, 1890. Century rejected the poem. See Richard W. Gilder's May 14, 1890, rejection letter to Whitman. The poet expressed his "botheration" about the rejection in his June 5 and June 23 letters to Bucke. The poem was eventually published in Once a Week on June 9, 1891. [back]


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