Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Minnie Vincent to Walt Whitman, 11 December 1873

Date: December 11, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04348

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.

Related item: Whitman crossed this letter out and used the back to draft lines for his poem "Out from Behind this Mask."

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Eder Jaramillo, Ashley Lawson, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Cristin Noonan, Marie Ernster, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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City of Utica N. York
Dec. 11, 1873

Mr W. Whitman
Dear Sir

I have poems by Thos Moore,1 letters and poems by Bryant,2 Longfellow,3 Whittier,4 Sir W. Scott,5 Thackeray,6 Campbell,7 Montgomery,8 Bulwer Lytton,9 Kotzebue,10 Beranger,11 Lamartine12 and many, many more written and signed by their own hands, but I have nothing in the autograph of that author whose name is written Walt Whitman—Is it asking too much, if you are sufficiently recovered from illness,13 to request a few lines with your signature to be placed in such good company?

With respects Truly
Minnie Vincent
Care of M.M. Jones

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. Thomas Moore (1779–1852) was an Irish poet, satirist, composer, and political propagandist. The son of a Roman Catholic wine merchant, Moore graduated from Trinity College in 1799 and then studied law in London. At Trinity, he was introduced to members of the United Irish Society. Moore authored many long poems and volumes of poetry and prose, including Irish Melodies (1807–1834) and a biography of Lord Byron. [back]

2. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was famous both as a poet and as the editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post from 1828 to 1878. [back]

3. In his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was both a highly popular and highly respected American poet. His The Song of Hiawatha, published the same year as Leaves of Grass, enjoyed sales never reached by Whitman's poetry. When Whitman met Longfellow in June 1876, he was unimpressed: "His manners were stately, conventional—all right but all careful . . . he did not branch out or attract" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 10, 1888, 130). [back]

4. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) earned fame as a staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. As a poet, he employed traditional forms and meters, and, not surprisingly, he was not an admirer of Whitman's unconventional prosody. For Whitman's view of Whittier, see the poet's numerous comments throughout the nine volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers: 1906–1996) and Whitman's "My Tribute to Four Poets," in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882–'83), 180–181. [back]

5. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish statesman, historical novelist, playwright, and poet, best known for Ivanhoe (1820), The Lady of the Lake (1810), and Waverly (1814). For Whitman's view of Scott, see Vickie L. Taft, "Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) was an English novelist most celebrated for his novels, Vanity Fair (1847–1848), a novel of the Napoleonic period in England, and The History of Henry Esmond (1852), which was set in the early 18th century. His father, Richard, was an administrator in the East India Company, and passed away when William was a young boy. [back]

7. William Wilfred Campbell (1860–1918) was a Canadian poet and a clergyman, who served as rector for several parishes in New Brunswick. He published numerous books of poetry and was considered an unofficial poet laureate of Canada by the end of the nineteenth century. [back]

8. Widely known as a writer of hymns, James Montgomery (1771–1854), of Ayrshire, Scotland, was a poet and editor. He later moved to Sheffield, England, where he worked as the assistant to the publisher of the Sheffield Register. He went on to edit the paper for more than thirty years, after changing its name to the Sheffield Iris[back]

9. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873) was an English writer and politician, who served as the Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1858 to 1859. He wrote poetry and historical fiction, and he coined the phrase "The pen is mightier than the sword" in his play Richelieu (1839). [back]

10. August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue (1761–1819) was a German author who wrote sentimental plays and a diplomat, who served as a consul in both Russia and Germany. [back]

11. Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857) was a French lyric poet, as well as a prolific and influential songwriter. [back]

12. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869) was a French Romantic poet and statesman. He is best known for his book of poetry titled Méditations poétiques (1820) and for his role in the Revolution of 1848, when he briefly served as the leader of the Second Republic following the revolts that ended the rule of King Louis-Philippe of France. [back]

13. Whitman suffered a stroke in 1873 that left him partially paralyzed and recovering for several years. [back]


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