Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John T. Trowbridge to Walt Whitman, 30 December 1863

Date: December 30, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: med.00321

Source: Location of original letter manuscript is unknown. The transcription presented here is derived from Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Sculley Bradley (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:290-91. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Tim Jackson, and Vanessa Steinroetter

Somerville, Mass.,
Dec. 30, 1863.

My dear Walt.

I1 found I could get nothing but promises from the booksellers for the present, so I sent you today a package of such books as I could pick from my own shelves, together with some newspapers—a variety in which I hope you will find a few things to suit your purpose. (Per Adams Ex., prepaid.)

I can send you more newspapers—and perhaps more books—in a few days, if you wish for another bundle. I have no copy of Jackwood, and could not get one here, or I would have sent it. A new edition will be out soon, when I will see that you get a copy. You will find in the package two copies of the Drummer Boy, one of which I wish you would leave at Mr. Chase's.

I got your letter yesterday. The day before I went to see your friend, Babbitt, whom I found apparently much improved, certainly brighter—perhaps he was getting better acquainted with me, and perhaps because his descriptive list had come, and he was expecting to be taken away yesterday by his friends; or it may be he is really better. He felt that the list came through your influence, and appeared very grateful to you for it.

The word you sent I have forwarded to Shillaber.2

Good-bye, my dear friend, and may the good angels help you in your good work.

J. T. Trowbridge.


1. John Townsend Trowbridge was a novelist, poet, author of juvenile stories, and antislavery reformer. Though Trowbridge became familiar with Whitman's poetry in 1855, he did not meet Whitman until 1860 when the poet was in Boston overseeing the Thayer and Eldridge edition of Leaves of Grass. He again met Whitman in Washington in 1863, when Trowbridge stayed with Secretary Chase in order to gather material for his biography, The Ferry Boy and the Financier (Boston: Walker and Wise, 1864); he described their meetings in My Own Story, with recollections of noted persons (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1903), 360–401. On December 11, Trowbridge had presented to Chase Emerson's letter recommending Whitman; see the January 10, 1863. Though Trowbridge was not an idolator of Whitman, he wrote to O'Connor in 1867: "Every year confirms my earliest impression, that no book has approached the power and greatness of this book, since the Lear and Hamlet of Shakespeare" (Rufus A. Coleman, "Trowbridge and O'Connor," American Literature, 23 [1951–52], 327). For Whitman's high opinion of Trowbridge, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961], 3:506. See also Coleman, "Trowbridge and Whitman," Publications of the Modern Language Association of America [PMLA], 63 (1948): 262–273. For several weeks in 1863, Trowbridge stayed with Whitman in Washington, D.C., along with John Burroughs and William D. O'Connor. [back]

2. Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber (1814–1890) was a celebrated humorist and newspaperman. While he was with the Boston Post, he invented the American version of Mrs. Malaprop, and The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington (New York: J.C. Derby, 1854) was a best-seller. John Townsend Trowbridge was associated with Shillaber in the short-lived comic journal Carpet Bag, in which appeared the first writings of Artemus Ward and Mark Twain. Shillaber wrote to Whitman about Babbitt on December 14, 1863 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961], 2:96–97). See Trowbridge, My Own Story, with recollections of noted persons (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903), 179–182; and Cyril Clemens, "Benjamin Shillaber and His 'Carpet Bag,' " New England Quarterly, 14 (1941): 519–537. [back]


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