Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Gertrude Van Dusen to Walt Whitman, 5 July 1886

Date: July 5, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04350

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, "[Wilkie?] Jas," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Ithaca, N.Y.
July 5, 1886.

Dear Mr. Whitman:

Have you perhaps still any copies left of John Burroughs'1 book "Notes on Whitman"? If so, will you send me one? I enclose $1, and postage. A fellow-worker of mine in the Cornell University Library, Mr. E. H. Woodruff,2 visited you in the early spring, and brought back a copy of the book I have been interested in for some months. I am glad to say that my interest is not confined to the books written about you. I wish I could tell you, without seeming to manufacture phrases, what a revelation your two volumes, the prose collection and the poems, have been to me. My love for them is growing constantly, and my gratitude to the friend who first made you known to me, is very great.

Mr. Woodruff is away now, but I think he said the price of the little "Notes" was $1. If this is not right, I will send the rest at once.

Very truly yours,
Gertrude Van Dusen.
Univ. Library.

Gertrude Van Dusen was a cataloguer at the Cornell University Library, as well as a musician and student of the classics (see Glen W. Herrick, "The Proposed Research Library," Cornell Daily Sun [April 29, 1959], 4; and "Library Notes," Library Bulletin of Cornell University 3 [November 1892], 1).


1. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Edwin H. Woodruff (1863–1941), then a member of the staff of the Cornell University Library, was introduced to the poet by Hiram Corson in a letter of March 26, 1886. Two days later he was in Camden (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Earlier, on June 4, 1882, Woodruff had sent Whitman a poem written under his influence and printed in the Cornell Era. Later Woodruff became a professor of law and was dean of the Cornell Law School from 1916 to 1921. See Cornell University, Faculty. Necrology of the Faculty, 1941–1942, 5–7. [back]


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