Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Gleeson White to Walt Whitman, 4 March 1889

Date: March 4, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04852

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, "see notes Nov. 2 1890," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Kara Wentworth, Breanna Himschoot, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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Christchurch. Hants
Mar 4. 18891

My dear Sir.

The editor of the Girl's own Paper a magazine, circulating about a quarter of a million copies, has asked me to supplement, a series of articles on "Some Poets Oversea, by a chapter on Walt Whitman. This paper goes to the homes and hearts of the outside public, and I wondered if I dared to ask you which of all your noble messages, you would like specially brought to their notice.

In a late work on the lighter forms, known as Ballades, Rondeaus &c, the Athenaeum, in a review by mr Theo. Watts,2 after many columns of kindly notice advised me to turn to your works as antidote—not dreaming perhaps—that in years of study of the petty pretty trifling of the debonair school. Your poems with Omar Khayyaim were the strong tonic's that kept energy for the enervating work. Yes I who now am asked to speak of you have only Love to guide me, for in very truth, no more incapable mouse ever fretted at the meshes of a lion's net, than I. Yet fresh from new perusal of Leaves of Grass I felt emboldened—to ask this of you—in hope that thereby. I might undertake the immense responsibility with a certainty of at least one correct representation of your gospel.

This, & this alone must be my excuse for adding another needless letter to your overburdened table.

But, we who love you over here, & the band is growing and earnest are especially keen of late, that no word should reach you, but of estimation & reverence.

Faith fully yours
Gleeson White

Joseph William Gleeson White (1851–1898) was an English critic and editor. He wrote extensively on the subjects of design, illustration, and book-binding. He also founded the periodical The Studio. He wrote English Illustration: The 1860s (1897), a study of Victorian book art, and he contributed to numerous periodicals and designed several book covers.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | United States. It is postmarked: CHRISTCHURCH | C | MR | 5 | 89; NEW YORK | MAR | 15 | A | PAID | K | ALL | 89 | Camden NJ | Mar | 16 | 3pm | Rec'd. [back]

2. Theodore Watts–Dunton (1832–1914) was a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the principal critic of poetry for the Athenaeum from 1875–1898. Whitman told Horace Traubel that he considered Watts a "cool, malignant enemy" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 14, 1891). [back]


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