Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William H. Riley to Walt Whitman, 28 February 1891

Date: February 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07899

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, Breanna Himschoot, Ian Faith, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock

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Townsend Centre, Mass

Dear Poet: The above lines I dedicate to you—my guide. Did I not hope for more beautiful "worlds" to live in—for less gross organism to occupy—I should be anxious to die now;—for, indeed, the old bodies become burdensome, and as ill-fitting as outgrown crab shells.

Write to me, if you can. You may not remember me, but I am one of your oldest allies—and faithfulest.

Wm Harrison Riley.

A Chant of Love.1

I sing of Love, that redeems all souls.
Love is immortal. Whatsoever is devoid of Love must die.
The true lovers have many disappointments. They have a long and difficult road to travel.
Onward we go, forever advancing. We stumble and halt on the way, but each must fulfil his mission.
We shall arrive at what now seems infinite, and find the infinite ever beyond us. We shall look back on myriads of ages and solar systems, and regard them but as a hint of the future.
Onwards—leaving gross matter, and dwelling anon and anon in more etherial worlds.
Onwards—until Life and Love are identical;—until all that is not needed for Love is left behind.

Townsend Centre, Mass.
Wm Harrison Riley

William Harrison Riley (1835–1907) of Manchester was a British socialist. He published Yankee Letters to British Workmen in 1871, and in 1872 began editing the British journal, the International Herald. He addressed Whitman as "My dear Friend and Master" in a letter on March 5, 1879. Twelve years earlier he had found a copy of Leaves of Grass "and saw a Revelation. . . . In all my troubles and successes I have been strengthened by your divine teachings."


1. Riley encloses a poem that he wrote at the top of this letter. The transcription of the poem appears following the letter. [back]


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