Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: John Swinton to Walt Whitman, 16 January 1890

Date: January 16, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04766

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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Nice, France,1
Jan. 16, 1890

My Dear Walt—

I am still here an invalid—nervous prostration.— To you, far longer an invalid, I send affectionate memories. The latest thing of yours I have seen is a noble piece—"Welcome to Brazil,"2 printed in the Paris N.Y. Herald.3 I congratulate you on being able to do such work

Ever yours
John Swinton



Care J.S. Cook & Co
22 Old Broad St
London, England.4


Correspondent:
Scottish-born John Swinton (1829–1901), a journalist and friend of Karl Marx, became acquainted with Whitman during the Civil War. Swinton, managing editor of the New York Times, frequented Pfaff's beer cellar, where he probably met Whitman. Whitman's correspondence with Swinton began on February 23, 1863. Swinton's enthusiasm for Whitman was unbounded. On September 25, 1868, Swinton wrote: "I am profoundly impressed with the great humanity, or genius, that expresses itself through you. I read this afternoon in the book. I read its first division which I never before read. I could convey no idea to you of how it affects my soul. It is more to me than all other books and poetry." On January 23, 1874, Swinton wrote what the poet termed "almost like a love letter": "It was perhaps the very day of the publication of the first edition of the 'Leaves of Grass' that I saw a copy of it at a newspaper stand in Fulton street, Brooklyn. I got it, looked into it with wonder, and felt that here was something that touched on depths of my humanity. Since then you have grown before me, grown around me, and grown into me" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, April 10, 1888). He praised Whitman in the New York Herald on April 1, 1876 (reprinted in Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883], 36–37). Swinton was in 1874 a candidate of the Industrial Political Party for the mayoralty of New York. From 1875 to 1883, he was with the New York Sun, and for the next four years edited the weekly labor journal, John Swinton's Paper. When this publication folded, he returned to the Sun. See Robert Waters, Career and Conversation of John Swinton (Chicago: C.H. Kerr, 1902), and Meyer Berger, The History of The New York Times, 1851–1951 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951), 250–251. See also Donald Yannella, "Swinton, John (1829–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | United States of America. It is postmarked: Nice | 8e | 16 | Janv. | 90 | Alpes Maritimes; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 28 | 9 A M | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Swinton is referring to the poem titled "A Christmas Greeting: From a Northern Star-Group to a Southern, 1889–'90." Swinton has replaced Whitman's title with his paraphrasing of the first line, "Welcome, Brazilian brother—thy ample place is ready." Whitman included the poem in his late collection Good-Bye My Fancy, 1891–1892; the poems in that book became the second annex of the 1891–92 "Deathbed" edition of Leaves of Grass[back]

3. The Paris Herald was founded in 1887 in Paris, France, as the European edition of the New York Herald; it eventually became the Paris Herald Tribune, serving as the global edition of the New York Herald, and then, in 1967, the International Herald Tribune, affiliated with the Washington Post and New York Times, and in 2013 was taken over by the New York Times. No record of Whitman's poem having been published in the Paris Herald has been found. [back]

4. This postal card is the first of three that Swinton wrote to Whitman while traveling through Europe to cure his "nervous prostration." [back]


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