Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Gabriel Sarrazin to Walt Whitman, 18 December 1890

Date: December 18, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03740

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 note Jan. 20 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Ethan Heusser, Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock

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December 18, 1890.

Dear Walt,

Your kind letter of September 5 duly received.2 I received also the newspaper you sent, namely the Camden Post, February 13, and The Times, October 22, 1890. This last one I read with special interest, as it contained Col. Ingersoll's3 very eloquent speech about your achievements.4 This lecture (I mean the résumé of it I read) I found at once brilliant and true, full of precision and width.

I was very glad to hear you are always in pretty good health et could enjoy the last sunny days of the present year. As to me, I was exceedingly ill for several months (an iliac phlegmon)5 and like to die. I hasten to add that this dangerous crisis went away as soon as a chirurgical operation took place; and I recovered entirely. These two months I am up and as strong as ever.

I am now quite used to my new situation, and my opinion, too, is that such a change of base will be something of a gain. I was poor, unfit for journalistic work and, nevertheless, wanted to free my intellectual life from pecuniary difficulties; I had an opportunity to be appointed here as a magistrate. In this way I secured my "bread and butter," and, now, can set to my intellectual task; I can read, write, and think, without being constantly stopped by pecuniary difficulties.

I wish you, dear Walt, a bright and happy new year; be assured of all my love

Gabriel Sarrazin

Gabriel Sarrazin (1853–1935) was a translator and poet from France who commented positively not only on Whitman's work but also on Poe's. Whitman later corresponded with Sarrazin and apparently liked the critic's work on Leaves of Grass—Whitman even had Sarrazin's chapter on his book translated twice. For more on Sarrazin, see Carmine Sarracino, "Sarrazin, Gabriel (1853–1935)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Etats-Unis d'Amérique | Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey | U. S. A. It is postmarked: NOUVELLE-CALEDONIE | [illegible] 22 | DEC | 90; NOUVELLE-CALEDONIE | [illegible] 22 | DEC | 90; SA [illegible] | FE [illegible] 15 | PAID ALL; CAMDEN [illegible] [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Sarrazin of September 5, 1890. [back]

3. 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]

4. On October 21, 1890, at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace Book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience," and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]

5. Sarrazin is referring to an abodominal infection or inflammation. His condition required him to have surgery. [back]


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