Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Philip Hale to Walt Whitman, 7 October 1875

Date: October 7, 1875

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03534

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: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Eder Jaramillo, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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9. South College
New Haven Ct
Oct 7th 1875

Dear Sir:—

I send you a copy of the Yale Lit for Nov 74 containing an article "W. W." You will see at a glance that it is simply a condensed rehash of Mr. Burroughs'1 "Notes"2—a Westminster Review Article and your Democratic Vistas.3

I have not sent it to you before—because somehow or other I have not had the courage. I feared lest what you have said in "Calamus"4—your cautions to would be pupils of yours—might be true.

I hope that you will not be offended at the imperfect way in which I have tried to express my faith in you. I first became acquainted with your books some four or five years ago and from them I have not only learned faith & courage but have become desirous of seeing you yourself. This last pleasure has been denied me; but one of the pleasantest memories of my life is the recollection of an hour passed with your mother5 in the summer of '72.

The passage marked } is disjointed—for the false delicacy of the Eds' of Lit kept out some remarks upon the physical degeneracy of our women.

Very Respectfully
Philip Hale

Walt Whitman
N. J.

Philip Hale (1854–1934), a music critic and program annotator for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, wrote to Walt Whitman for the first time on September 14, 1871. In his Commonplace Book, Whitman noted that he sent Two Rivulets to Hale on September 3, 1876 (39).


1. 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]

2. John Burroughs's Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person was first published in New York in 1867. The text was extensively revised and rewritten by Whitman. [back]

3. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. "Calamus" was first published in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. The poem cluster is known for its homoeroticism and celebration of "the manly love of comrades." See also John Addington Symonds's letter to Whitman of August 3, 1890, in which he asks Whitman for clarification of the poems, and Whitman's drafted response of August 19, 1890, in which he is cagey and tries to distance himself from homoerotic meanings in the poems.  [back]

5. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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