Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to [Thomas B. Harned], 3 February 1888

Date: February 3, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03180

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.

Related item: Whitman reuses an envelope in which he received a letter from the sculptor Sidney Morse when he sends his own letter to Harned. He also copies part of Morse's original letter and includes it as an enclosure, which he pastes onto his message to Harned. Whitman appears to have written this enclosure on the back of another letter he had previously received, but not enough of the letter is visible to allow for identification of the correspondent.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Feb. 3 '881

—The little head in oil, with hat (of Elias Hicks2) sent me from Richmond Indiana painted by Sidney Morse3—As I understand it is from a photo, or daguerreotype of Elias, from life, taken about 1828 or '29 there.4

Morse's letter

Richmond Indiana
January 31, 1888

..."a little sketch in oil (on a box cover) from an old photo of a steel engraving brought me by a Mr. Harris5 who heard Elias preach when he was 10 years old. He says my copy [this picture] is quite as good as the original. I don't think so myself; but it approximates."6

Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972).


1. The address on this letter was crossed out with a diagonal line. Above it Whitman wrote: "send to T B Harned." The letter was originally addressed by Sidney H. Morse: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle st. | Camden.| New Jersey. It is postmarked: Richmond [illegible] | Feb 23 | 6 [illegible] AM | [illegible]88; Camden, N.J. | Feb | 24 | 7 AM | 88 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a traveling Quaker preacher and anti-slavery activist from Long Island, New York. Whitman's essay on Hicks, "Notes (such as they are) founded on Elias Hicks," appeared in November Boughs (1888). For more on Hicks, see Henry Watson Wilbur, The Life and Labors of Elias Hicks (Philadelphia: Friends' General Conference Advancement Committee, 1910). [back]

3. Sidney H. Morse was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an early bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 57–84. [back]

4. Whitman's transcription of Morse's letter has been pasted onto the letter bearing the preceding text. [back]

5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

6. The verso of Whitman's transcribed Morse letter contains an inscription, partially obscured: Camden | N.J. This inscription is likely part of a letter that Whitman had previously received from an unknown correspondent. [back]


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