Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Talcott Williams to Walt Whitman, 4 April 1891

Date: April 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04883

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 note April 5 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Ethan Heusser, Andrew David King, Marie Ernster, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

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April 4. 91
1833 Spruce Street

My dear Mr. Whitman:

Can you see for a few moments this afternoon at 3 PM or a day next week Miss Belghannie,1 a devoted English admirer of yours who feels she owes encouragement, inspiration and direction from "Democratic Vistas"2—You will confer much if you grant an interview—Miss Graeff3 of this city will go over with Miss Belghannie.

As ever devotedly yours
Talcott Williams

Please send answer in this envelope.

Talcott Williams (1849–1928), a journalist, worked for the New York Sun and World, and became an editorial writer on the Springfield Republican in 1879. He joined the staff of the Philadelphia Press in 1881. In 1912 he became director of the School of Journalism at Columbia University. See also Elizabeth Dunbar's Talcott Williams: Gentleman of the Fourth Estate (1936).


1. This letter of introduction for Miss Belghannie, describing her as a devoted English admirer of Whitman's, preceded her Thursday, May 14, 1891, visit to Whitman's home on Mickle Street. According to Horace Traubel's account, Miss Belghannie was familiar with several of Whitman's friends in England, including the family of political activist Mary Whitall Costelloe Smith, the feminist writer Isabella Ford and her sister Elizabeth, and Edward Carpenter, a writer and Whitman disciple. Whitman "asked [Miss Belghannie] what she was to speak about down at the church? And she told him—the forming of wage-women in union. He did not appear to be greatly struck with the idea, yet would say, 'It is well to go fishing—to fish—to see if anything is to be caught.' This led to some considerable talk—she of 'the good time coming' and admonishing him not to go back on 'Leaves of Grass'—and he saying or asking, 'Don't you think all this inevitable?—that it is because it must be—that in the swinging orbital movement of planets, all that is becomes the right and the just,' etc." (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 14, 1891). [back]

2. Whitman's prose work Democratic Vistas was published in an eighty-four-page pamphlet in 1871. It is comprised of three essays Whitman had planned to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Two of these essays appeared in the Galaxy: "Democracy" was published in the December 1867 issue and "Personalism" in the May 1868 issue. Whitman submitted the third essay, "Orbic Literature," to the Galaxy, but it was not published in the magazine. For more information on this work, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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