Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Sylvester Baxter to Walt Whitman, 25 December 1888

Date: December 25, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07104

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: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Ledgewood Terrace,
Murray Street, Malden.
Dec. 25, 1888.

My dear Friend:

I received your beautiful gift yesterday afternoon just in time for Xmas, and I cannot express how much it pleases me. Kennedy1 brought it in to the Herald office for me and I was very sorry to be out at the time, for I have not seen him for some months, having been in Europe most of the Autumn. The book is a noble one2—a form worthy of its contents, and to me, as to many, it will be an inestimable treasure. I think the friendly touches your hands have given it bestow an influence, real though impalpable, which may make itself felt more strongly than might be imagined by most men.

It is interesting and instructive to me to watch the development of our dear country on the prophetic lines that your "Democratic Vistas" indicate. Evolutionary processes are rapid at certain stages, and bit by bit one may detect, if his eyes be clear, the realization and the budding promises of realization—and in this sense even the black clouds are welcome for the sake of the clearer skies that follow.

If you do any reading now a days you will find Edward Bellamy's 3 "Looking Backward" a noble work, and delightful as well. It has made a profound impression and will do much towards realizing a grander future for our land.

I enclose a photograph of myself with wishes that the New Year may be kind to you.

Faithfully yours
Sylvester Baxter

Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Whitman received the first bound copies of his Complete Poems and Prose in November of 1888 and sent copies to friends. [back]

3. Edward Bellamy (1850–1898) was an American author, best known for his utopian science fiction novel, Looking Backward, 2000–1887. For more on Bellamy, see Arthur E. Morgan, Edward Bellamy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944). [back]


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