Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles Woodbury to Walt Whitman, 27 June 1891

Date: June 27, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04503

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 notes: The annotations, "See notes July 6 1891," and "also see note July 11 1891," are in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Stephanie Blalock, and Alex Ashland

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

Seattle, Washington,1
June 27th, 1891.

Walt Whitman,
Camden, N.J.

I write to inform you that I have expunged from the forthcoming Edition of my "Talks with Emerson" a pargraph referring to yourself, which I have learned was offensive to you.2 It should not have been printed. Time was, perhaps, when the publication of an eccentricity could not have injured you. Perhaps, indeed the effect would have been to the contrary. Such was my feeling I remember in regard to the effect of the incident when I mentioned it. I have learned with regret that it has caused you pain.

Your utterance was a noble help to me in days when I sorely needed it, and I would not bring one shadow across your brow.

Yours with high respect,
Charles J Woodbury

I am only here temporarily; my permanent address is,—

#123, California St., San Francisco, California.


Charles Johnson Woodbury (1844–1927) was a senior at Williams College in 1865 when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the campus. Woodbury, who later worked as an editor and oil company executive, published his memories of conversations with Emerson in Talks with Emerson (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1890). Whitman objected to the book's characterization of his relationship with Emerson; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August 11, 1890, and Tuesday, August 12, 1890; Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999), 471.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Seattle | Jun | 29 | 8 PM | 1891 | Wash.; Camden, N.J. | Jul | 6 | 6 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. Woodbury has written his return address on the left side of the front of the envelope as follows: "from Charles J Woodbury 123 Cal. St. San Francisco Cal." A series of mathematical sums have been written on the verso of the envelope. [back]

2. Woodbury, who met Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1865, spread the story that Emerson told him that he once met Whitman for dinner at the Astor House in New York, and that the poet showed up without a coat, as if to "dine in his shirtsleeves." Whitman denied the rumor. For one of Whitman's responses to the shirtsleeves story, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August, 11, 1890[back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.