Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Lizzie Westgate to Walt Whitman, 28 November 1880

Date: November 28, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04367

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, "Lizzie Westgate? Send to Dr Bucke," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Courtney Rebecca Lawton, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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2123 Larkin St.
San Francisco,
Nov. 28, 1880

Most Revered Sir;—

I hope a few words from a young but none the less hearty admirer of your wonderful poetry will not annoy you.

It was six years ago, in a school in a quiet New England town, that I first heard your vivid measure. Our Teacher, a lady of unusually broad education, and also an enthusiastic lover of your writings, read aloud to us the touching lines—"Come up from the Fields, Father." We, boys & girls were young, and merry, but we all felt the fresh country air, and later the deep pathos, and our teacher's voice thrilled with it. It was as if a fresh, piney breeze had wafted in at the windows of that warm, busy room. I do not think any of us moved for a moment after the poem was ended; and then such a spontaneous, unpremeditated burst of applause, rose from girlish & boyish hearts, and surprised our teacher. It was the outburst of admiration from honest hearts, for something that we all felt very keenly. It was not for our teacher, nor for Walt Whitman, but for the thrilling verses we had heard.

I think never since that hour can I read my well-worn "Leaves of Grass," without that vague imagined scent of a piney breeze. And among all the daily increasing homage which follows you, there is none, I am sure more sincere than mine.

I cannot imagine you responding to so commonplace a request as that for an autograph; but if there is one thing I would prize, it is your name, in your (by me) well-known hand. I intend getting a copy of the original photograph from which the Scribner portrait was taken, if I find it possible. And if in all your daily making you can find time to notice this humble request, I shall have the name of the man whose writings I most admire, in his own hand, and it will be my greatest treasure.

Lizzie Westgate


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