Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James M. Scovel to Walt Whitman, 7 April 1885

Date: April 7, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03744

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: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Camden NJ
4th 7th 85.
12 midnight

Walt Whitman
My Dear Walt

Your letter did not reach me: till tonight, when I was getting ready to go to New York: else I wd have hastened to your "Den" & drank to our noble selves in the promised sour mash.

I have been a little-worried lately over things in general & in some sense, at beginning life over again, else I wd not have jumped so quick at your ill-treatment of me.1

God knows & Walt knows that I am as slow as the wrath of God—to take offense especially at what my friends do or say. Life in the main, has taught me as Bailey2 says

"That all religion can inspire is—Hope—:
And all mortality can teach is—Bear"!

(2) To start right again I think you had better send me my MSS—and let me do as I d—m please with it . . I will send it to the World

Will see you as soon as I get back from N.Y. . .

Remember that the friend most solicitous of your welfare at the "Scovel House" has always been the undersigned—

James Matlack Scovel—

I shall never allude to the "old son" again!

James Matlack Scovel (1833–1904) began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War, he was in the New Jersey legislature and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s, Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886).


1. Scovel was apparently annoyed by the lack of enthusiasm that Whitman showed for his upcoming essay on the poet. After numerous delays and frequent pleas to Whitman to supply material for the essay, "Walt Whitman" finally appeared in the Springfield Republican on June 16, 1885. See also Scovel's letter to Whitman of May 12, 1885[back]

2. Philip James Bailey (1816–1902) was an English poet and well-known for his book of verse titled Festus (1839), from which Scovel is quoting here. [back]


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