Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Eli Shore to Walt Whitman, 2 May 1891

Date: May 2, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03729

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

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229 N. 22nd. St
Phila .Pa.
May 2—91

Dear Comrade

It is after much hesitation that I venture at last to write these few words. Indeed for mine own sake I would not trouble you at all, but "The love of comrades" prompts me to do it cheerfully and willingly.

Being a humble though ardent lover of the "Good Grey Poet" I was of course present to hear Mr Ingersoll's1 lecture in the Horticultural Hall, Philada.2 Writing to a fellow admirer of Leaves of Grass, in England I described as best I could the visit and the lecture, the gaining of an object which we had both long wished for—a sight of the Hero whom we jointly worshipped.

Sometime after this when the lecture was printed my friend saw a copy and read it himself with much pleasure. The words, "Wreath the living brows," which act as a sort of keynote to the whole, gave the inspiration for the few well-wrought stanzas enclosed herewith. These he forwarded to me, asking if I would send them to him for whom they were written. And so I send them fully believing in their deep sincerity. In my humble opinion they would serve excellently as a heading to Mr Ingersoll's lecture:—


Bring laurels for the living brow,
While temples flush to feel their touch;
No pride the bloodless veins avow
That we should twine the wreath for such.

Press fervently the living lips,
While they respond with grateful kiss;
Once touched by Death's chill finger-tips,
For evermore their warmth we miss.

Speak praise into the living ears,
While higher peaks may yet be won;
In vain to say in after years,
"He did great things, and might have done."

The living, striving, yearning heart,
Cries out for love, and praise, and fame!
To find, perchance, some smallest part,
Seen dimly by life's dying flame.


What shall I add for mine own part? Is it possible for me to say anything worth saying. When the heart is full language is poor to express. I am but young yet seem to feel the pulse-beat of sympathy with life in all its grand, mysterious, myriad phases changing ever and ever surging onward all about me. The soul within me goes out to mingle with yours disclosed in your enraptured songs. I welcome your message to the world gladly enthusiastically.

"For a' that and a that
It's comin' yet for a' that
That man to man the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that!"3

and a potent factor in hastening forward that time will be,

"Leaves of Grass."

In case you should wish to honor my friend by a slight acknowledgment of his tribute I enclose addressed envelope, but I do not venture to ask such a great favor. It will be a pleasure indeed to him to think that his humble praise & homage has reached you

Believe me
Yours very sincerely
Eli Shore

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

2. Shore is referring to the lecture in Whitman's honor that took place on October 21, 1890, at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall. The New York jeweler John H. Johnston and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke planned the event, and the orator and agnostic Robert Ingersoll delivered the lecture: "Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman." See Ingersoll's October 12, 1890 and October 20, 1890, letters to Whitman. [back]

3. Shore is referring to the poem "A Man's A Man For A' That," by Robert Burns. [back]


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