Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Unidentified Correspondent to Walt Whitman, 3 July 1890

Date: July 3, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04938

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

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305 E. 17th St.
New York.
July 3rd, 1890

Dear "Walt Whitman":

I am living for a time with some good friends of mine who are also good friends of yours—the Johnstons.1

A few evenings since Bertha Johnston2 came to me saying, "You think so much as Uncle Walt does, you ought to know him" and she placed in my hands an open copy of your "Leave of Grass." I read them, and I have reread many times since, the vital words that record the history of my own soul. I have not gained one new thought from you, but you have restored upon me something better yet:

Hail to the man who has seen the gods whom I have seen. Hail to the man whose natural life has honored his own godhood. He entices the majestic caress of the universe.

If I could, I would go to Camden to meet you face to face. It is not possible now. I know you, Walt Whitman. Over the space which intervenes I, thirty six, extend in greeting to you, seventy two, a hand which thrills with the quick response to every word of yours that I have read,

"A girl of the States."

July 8th 1890. P.S. Since writing the above you have had me by the throat, and you would not let me go until I blessed you.

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. John H. (J.H.) Johnston (1837–1919) was a New York jeweler who became a close friend of Whitman's. Whitman visited Johnston's home frequently, and Johnston assisted with raising funds for the aging poet. Alma Calder Johnston was an author and John's second wife. Her family owned a home and property in Equinunk, Pennsylvania. For more on the Johnstons, see Susan L. Roberson, "Johnston, John H. (1837–1919) and Alma Calder" (Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Bertha Johnston (1872–1953) was the daughter of Whitman's friend John H. Johnston and his first wife Amelia. Like her father, Bertha Johnston was passionate about literature. She was also involved with the suffrage movement and was a member of the Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture. [back]


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