Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Robert G. Ingersoll to Walt Whitman, 25 March 1880

Date: March 25, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: man.00026

Source: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. 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: Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Alicia Meyer, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Mch 25 1880

Walt Whitman Esq
My Dear Sir:

For years I have been your debtor from you I have received thousands of noble and splendid thoughts.1 You have been true. You have expressed your honest thought. You have nobly defended the human body and the sacred passions of man from the infamous slanders of the theologian. For this I thank you.

I have taken the liberty to send you three small volumes of my own2

You may not agree with me. That will make no difference I am battling for the right of people to disagree.

Thanking you again & again for all your noble words and wishing you many happy years

I remain
Your friend
R. G. Ingersoll


1. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

2. Apparently Whitman gave Harry Stafford one of the books which Ingersoll sent (see the letter from Whitman to Harry Stafford of January 2, 1881). Whitman responded to Ingersoll on April 2, 1880[back]


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