Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Anna M. Wilkinson to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1884

Date: July 21, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04622

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.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Nicole Gray, and Ed Folsom

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12 Bootham Terrace
July 21st 1884

Dear Sir

I received the book quite safely this morning,1 & thank you very much for sending it, it was a very good thought of Edward Carpenter2 to ask you to send it to me, & just like him to know how pleased I should be to receive it from your own hands. I do indeed feel proud to have it direct from the Author, & to have my name written in it by himself. I should like to take this opportunity if you will allow me, of thanking you for all the help I have [illegible] & do get, from your books. You do not know me, I have never spoken one word to you til to-day, but I know you. You have spoken to me many words of help, & encouragement & reproof, & direction, & of all kinds & I feel very grateful to you for them, & for all the pleasure I have had in reading your books, & I shall always be grateful to Mr Carpenter also, for introducing them to me. They contain messages for all times & people, & for all sorts & conditions of men, but it seems to me they are especially good & most glad tidings to common place, ordinary plain people, with few gifts & no graces like myself. Also most truly a message of love & tenderness & sympathy to the despised & downtrodden of the earth. I so often think of these words of yours, "Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the well off just as much as you Each has his or her place in the procession." I shall never forget how struck I was with the truth & beauty of verses 16 17 & 18 on page 105 in Leaves of Grass the first time I read them, it so often [came?] to me as I [go?] about amongst the sick & poor, especially the poor in the Workhouse Hospital. That for many people there seems no place at all no one wants them everyone seems glad when they drop out of the procession, & yet most of those men & women in the hospital, have worked hard much too hard as their bent backs declare, all their lives. There is something very very wrong somewhere & we shall have to answer for it in one way or another, but I will not trouble you with more words of mine. Forgive me writing so much. I did not intend when I began. I should like to send the money for the book & the postage, but I do not know the price of the book. Will you kindly send me the price on a post card. Again thanking you I am

Yours very Gratefully & Respectfully
Anna M. Wilkinson

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. In his notebook, Whitman records on July 10 1884: "sent Specimen Days to Anna M Wilkinson, 12 Bootham Terrace, York, England . . . for Edward Carpenter" (Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White, 2:337). [back]

2. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart . . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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