Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Donald Nicholson to Walt Whitman, 29 May 1879

Date: May 29, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07445

Source: The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, 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.

Related item: This letter has been crossed out and repurposed. Whitman wrote a series of notes on the back, seemingly brainstorming titles for an unspecified work or the poem clusters that would appear in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert and Nicole Gray

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The Tribune Office,
New York, May 29 1879

To Walt Whitman Esq.
1309 Fifth Ave
near 86th St.
Dear Sir—,

Mr. Reid directs me to enclose your cheque on our Cashier, for $45 for the three letters referred to in your note of the 28th.2

I am,
D. Nicholson

Donald Nicholson (1834–1915) served as the managing editor of the New York Tribune. Born in England, Nicholson graduated with honors from Christ College, Cambridge before moving to New York in 1868. In New York, Nicholson and Albert D. Richardson wrote a popular biography of Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. Through Richardson, an editorial staff member at the Tribune, Nicholson met then managing editor Whitelaw Reid, who worked under editor Horace Greeley. Nicholson began work at the Tribune as Reid's secretary, eventually becoming managing editor under Reid when Reid succeeded Greeley as editor in 1872. Nicholson came into contact with Whitman during Whitman's attempts to publish in the Tribune.


1. Whitelaw Reid (1837–1912) was the editor of the New York Tribune from 1872 to 1905 and also American ambassador to France (1889–1892) and England (1905–1912). He met Whitman in the hospitals during the Civil War. Of his relations with the poet, Reid later observed: "No one could fail then [during the War] to admire his zeal and devotion, and I am afraid that at first my regard was for his character rather than his poetry. It was not till long after 'The Leaves of Grass' period that his great verses on the death of Lincoln conquered me completely." See Charles N. Elliot, Walt Whitman as Man, Poet and Friend (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1915), 213, and Edwin Haviland Miller, "Walt Whitman's Correspondence with Whitelaw Reid, Editor of the New York Tribune," Studies in Bibliography 8 (1956): 242–249. [back]

2. No note from Whitman to Whitelaw Reid or the Tribune dated May 28 has been found. "Broadway Revisited," which appeared in the Tribune on May 10, was the first of three "chatty" letters Whitman submitted that May (The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 3:153 n39). The others were "Real Summer Openings," published May 17, and "These May Afternoons," published May 24. See the letters from Whitman to Whitelaw Reid of May 8, 1879, and May 12, 1879[back]


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