Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Harrison Riley, [18 March 1879]

Date: March 18, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04038

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Anthony Dreesen, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Kirsten Clawson

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431 Stevens Street
Camden New Jersey U S America1

My dear Wm Harrison Riley

Your letter has reach'd me here & I thank you for your affectionate warmth & appreciation.

I have long wanted to do myself the pleasure of sending a book of mine to Mr Ruskin, & I have sent one—also a couple of photographs—directed to him, to your care, by the same mail with this—same address—

Please send me word soon as they reach you & are delivered to Mr R—

Walt Whitman


1. The date is established by an entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book. Riley was an ardent young Englishman who addressed Whitman as "My dear Friend and Master" on March 5. Twelve years earlier he had found a copy of Leaves of Grass "and saw a Revelation. . . . In all my troubles and successes I have been strengthened by your divine teachings." Riley wanted a copy of Leaves of Grass for Ruskin, who, upon reading a few extracts from Whitman's poems, pronounced them "glorious": "He is a stern critic, and as honest as God or a tree." On April 2 Riley noted receipt of the book and photographs, and on April 4 he quoted from a note sent to him by Ruskin: "I am glad to know that I can give some pleasure to such a man." Although Ruskin did not write to the poet, Whitman informed the New York Sun on April 15 that "he did not feel at liberty to divulge the exact contents of the letter." See also the Camden Daily Post of May 12 and the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of February 21, 1880 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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