Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Henry Latchford to Walt Whitman, 28 May 1889

Date: May 28, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03220

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 derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock



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May 28, 1889.
Office of Evening Journal,
Chicago.

My dear Comrade,

Will you permit me to add by anticipation my warm congratulations to those of your many other friends, in this country and elsewhere, on the seventieth anniversary of your birthday.

I am only a wayfarer in Chicago, and I am not sufficiently acquainted with newspaper men or other citizens to seek their cooperations in a "Round Robin" to you upon this occasion. There are five morning newspapers here, ("all conducted with signal enterprise and ability,") but I know very few of the men engaged upon them, and, as a stranger, I feel timid about taking the initiative in any testimonial, although I am convinced that a better-known person than myself would find no difficulty in procuring the names of your many friends and admirers. I only mention this lest you should think that you have not many friends here.

Would you be horrified to know that, among others, there is a genuine Waltwhitmaniac on the Chicago Board of Trade? From all accounts he is by no means a "Chump" at board-of-trading. He is known to the world—polite and impolite—as "Old Hutch," (short I believe for Hutchinson1), though I am inclined to think that competing traders would consider "Old Nick" a more appropriate term of endearment. When he makes "any kind of a decent deal" at all he just plays with millions—the other fellows witnessing considerable of the "play" but somewhat less of the millions. He is a regular old pagan, so far as I can hear; an elaborate machine for transforming margins in fictitious wheat and pork into very real, genuine current coin. I was a little surprised the other day to hear that he had once said to his son: "Charley, you should read Walt Whitman. He seems to have something to say for himself!"

This was told me by a city editor who had known "Hutch" for years, and he laughed till I thought he'd expire. "'There's visions about,' sure," he said," when old Beelzebub takes to dropping into Walt Whitman."

Now, my dear friend, you will doubtless hear many more agreeable things than the foregoing said about you next Friday, but I doubt if you will hear anything that patriotic Chicagoans would think more like oriental adulations than this nod of recognition from a literary critic like "Old Hutch" who is usually so undemonstrative.

It is about six years since I had the pleasure of meeting you at your home in Camden, and I can scarcely express now my obligations for the sanity that your book and your example have introduced into a life which had been much vexed by the combined though conflicting interests of Calvinism, metaphysics, ethics, whiskey, and other absurdities.

I hope that before the 31st you shall hear good tidings from our transatlatic partners, Dowden,2 Standish O'Grady,3 Tyrrell,4 and the rest of the Trinity College men.

The enclosed scraps are taken from the Chicago paper which is known here as The Evening Journal, but which Europe, Asia, and Africa only know as The Old Reliable. A reporter is fined heavily for any expansion of "the simple fact," which, in the eyes of the managing editor, should seem like a deviation from George Washington's standard of truth. The man who wilfully makes the last exaggeration is rusticated; i. e., he is sent to St. Louis. The moral character of residents in the state of Illinois is accuratley gauged by the number of years their subscriptions have been fully paid up for the Evening Journal. So you see that in our almost sacred column you do not appear with sinners, sabbath-breakers, or any others of the hideously ungodly class.

My good friend and fellow-laborer on the Journal, James Chisholm5—An American citizen born and reared in Awberdeen—joins me in sending you greeting and high esteem.

What can you wish for that you do not possess? You do not want for such palliatives of old age as "Honor, love, obedience, troops of friends." But your comrades here, known and unknown to you, do hope that mother Nature may continue to deal very tenderly with you, and may fondly nourish and protect your great and special treasure—"The boy's heart within the man's."

You remember, perhaps, having read some verses of Arthur Hugh Clough6 called "Songs In Absence."7 May I quote a few lines!—

"Beyond the clouds, beyond the waves that roar
There may indeed, or may not, be a shore
Where fields as green, and hands and hearts as true
The old forgotten semblance may renew,
And often exiles driven o'er the salt sea foam,
Another Home."

Whatever remains for us in "The great labor-house vast of being"8 let it be a comfort to you, my dear comrade, that you have built unto yourself in the hearts and lives of some of us a home more beautiful and permanent than any made with hands.

Let me then wish you a merry birthday anniversary, and as many of them as may be good for you. Hoping you will not forget absent friends, I remain, with all the ardor of a regular—or irregular—dyed-in-the-wool, born Irishman,

Your attached friend,
Henry Latchford.

Au Revoir!


Correspondent:
Henry C. Latchford attended Trinity College Dublin and was a member of the Undergraduate Philosophical Society alongside his friend and classmate Bram Stoker, who began corresponding with Walt Whitman in 1876 and later visited the poet at his Camden home (See Gay Wilson Allen The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1995], 515–516). In With Walt Whitman in Camden, Horace Traubel describes Latchford's letter as written "in a wittily-facetious vein, which I could well understand would not appeal to [Whitman]" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, May 31, 1889). Latchford was the author of one book, The Wit and Wisdom of Parliament (London: Cassell, Peter, Galpin & Co., 1881), and several articles, including "A Meeting with Victor Hugo in 1878" (Time: A Monthly Miscellany of Interesting and Amusing Literature, 2 [December 1880], 292–299) and ("A Social Reformer" The Arena 10.54 [October 1894], 575–589).

Notes:

1. Charles Lawrence Hutchinson (1854��1924) was a well-known business figure in Chicago and a generous patron of the arts. He founded Chicago Packing & Provision Co., a leading meat processor, and later founded the Corn Exchange Bank and was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. He was knowns as "Old Hutch" and "The Wheat King." He was a philanthropist and major art collector, and he was instrumental is the founding of the University of Chicago, for which he served as trustee and treasurer, and the Art Institute of Chicago, for which he served as president and to which he left much of his fortune and numerous paintings from his private collection. [back]

2. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888 Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Standish James O'Grady (1846–1928), a lawyer and later a celebrated Irish poet, published (under the pseudonym Arthur Clive) "Walt Whitman: the Poet of Joy," the Gentleman's Magazine, 15 (1875), 704–716, in which he concluded that Walt Whitman "is the noblest literary product of modern times, and his influence is invigorating and refining beyond expression." See Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (1934), 180–182, and Hugh Art O'Grady, Standish James O'Grady—The Man & the Writer (1929). See also Joann P. Krieg, Walt Whitman and the Irish, "Dublin" (ch. 8). [back]

4. Robert Yelverton Tyrrell (alternately Tyrell) (1844–1914), a fellow of Trinity College and "an excellent Greek scholar," delivered a public lecture on Walt Whitman's poetry in 1871; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 10, 1888 and Monday, May 28, 1888[back]

5. James Chisholm (1838–1903) was a Chicago newspaper reporter born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chisholm immigrated to the U.S. in 1864 and worked at several papers throughout his career, including the Chicago Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Inter-Ocean (see Chisholm's obituary, Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1903, 5). Chisholm traveled throughout the United States, and his journal documenting a trip through Wyoming was published in 1960 as South Pass, 1868: James Chisholm's Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush, edited by Lola M. Homsher (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press). Roughly six month prior to Latchford's letter to Whitman, The Inter-Ocean reported that Chisholm had been "suddenly struck with a slight attack of paralysis" while walking with Latchford, who took him to a nearby drug store to wait for a doctor (The Inter-Ocean [October 21, 1888], 10). [back]

6. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861) was an English poet, perhaps best known as a secretarial assistant to Florence Nightingale and the subject of Matthew Arnold's elegiac poem, "Thyrsis." After graduating from Oxford University, Clough taught at Oriel College but resigned in 1848 when he grew dissatisfied with the Church of England and was unwilling to teach its doctrines. He later worked as an examiner in the British Education Office and Nightingale's assistant, to whom he was related by marriage. Clough's social circle included many literary figures, such as Matthew Arnold, Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlysle, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Clough died in Italy after contracting malaria and is buried in Florence's English Cemetery. The poem Latchford quotes in this letter appears in a posthumous collection of Clough's work and was written in 1852 when he was lecturing in Concord, Massachusetts, on invitation from Emerson (Poems [Cambridge: Macmillan & Co., 1862], 66). For more information, see Anthony Kenny, Arthur Hugh Clough: A Poet's Life (London: Continuum, 2005). [back]

7. For "Songs in Absence," see The Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough edited by his wife, Volume 2: Poems (London: Macmillan and Co., 1869), 445–457. [back]

8. See Matthew Arnold's "Rugby Chapel: November, 1857": "Somewhere, surely afar, / In the sounding labour-house vast / Of being, is practiced that strength, / Zealous, beneficent, firm!" [back]


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