Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Franklin B. Sanborn to Walt Whitman, 25 December 1888

Date: December 25, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03709

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Dec 27 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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American Social Science Association.1
Concord, Mass.,2
Dec. 25 1888

Dear Friend;

I received your noble volume of Works,3 just in time to make it a Christmas present from you,—and none could have been more highly valued. I hope it may not be the final Edition but that you may live to add more prose and verse to the monument which will preserve your name in the Future, for which you write, and to which you truly belong. But in the Present and the Past also you have done your work, and thus have gained a claim on the Future, which will not be denied you.

I cherish two copies of the first edition of your Leaves of Grass—one given me by Emerson4 in the year it was published, and one left to me by Sophia Thoreau—her brother Henry's5 copy. I shall place these and your full-grown volume together, and hand them down to my children

I enclose the report of an essay I lately read in New York. The ommitted passage is one about Emerson which did not properly belong there, and was not read by me,— but the reporter found it among the sheets which I handed him to use, not to print entire.

yours with friendly regard
F. B. Sanborn

Walt Whitman
Camden, N. J.

Franklin B. Sanborn (1831–1917) was an abolitionist and a friend of John Brown. In 1860, when he was tried in Boston because of his refusal to testify before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Whitman was in the courtroom (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 242). He reviewed Drum-Taps in the Boston Commonwealth on February 24, 1866. He was editor of the Springfield Republican from 1868 to 1872, and was the author of books dealing with his friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. "A Visit to the Good Gray Poet" appeared without Sanborn's name in the Springfield Republican on April 19, 1876. For more on Sanborn, see Linda K. Walker, "Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin (Frank) (1831–1917)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. The names of the officers of the American Social Science Association are printed on the verso of this letter. [back]

2. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden, N.J. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, December 27, 1888[back]

3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by the poet himself—in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

4. 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]

5. Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an American author, poet, and abolitionist best known for writing Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) and Civil Disobedience (1849). He was a contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. [back]


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