Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James M. Scovel to Walt Whitman, 21 June 1880

Date: June 21, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: man.00039

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Meyer, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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6th 21th 1880

My Dear Walt:

I send you my political letter from the Post1

Tell me how you like it

Johnson2 called here Sunday with your letter to his Boy.3

Now take a little advice from me. You are wise I know. I am otherwise. But it is Mrs Johnson who seems most hurt—& she has been very kind to you—

Now if I was Walt Whitman I wd write to her & say all the pleasant things I cd of the past—say I was sorry there was any misunderstanding—you know what to say—

I think they are poor—& feel very very [badly?] over it indeed—such a letter wd stop Johnsons blathering—for it don't matter much what he says

As ever yours
J M Scovel

PS We are all glad you are having so nice a time & send [illegible] regards—


1. James Matlack Scovel (1833–1904) began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War, he was in the New Jersey legislature and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s, Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886). [back]

2. Among early friends at Camden was John R. Johnston (1826–1895), "the jolliest man I ever met, an artist, a great talker," Whitman wrote in a November 9, 1873, letter to Peter Doyle. Johnston was a colonel in the Civil War, and Whitman often referred to him in letters by his rank. He was a portrait and landscape painter who for years maintained a studio in Philadelphia and lived at 434 Penn Street in Camden. See The New-York Historical Society Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564–1860 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957). Whitman was fond of Johnston's children, Ida and Jack (John Jr.). [back]

3. The letter is not extant and the circumstances surrounding the alleged insult to Johnston's son are unknown. See Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 3:177 n21. [back]


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