Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 11 March [1878]

Date: March 11, 1878

Whitman Archive ID: med.00670

Source: The location of the original manuscript is unknown. Miller's text is based on a transcript that appears in Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), 172–173. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:110–111. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Kevin McMullen, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray

March 11

Yours of 7th from N.Y. rec'd last night. I will scratch off some suggestions:

In composing the letter, let it be brief, and don't mention the subject—or, if you do, just say indefinitely that it is about Abraham Lincoln (which you may do, if you think proper)—

I would like Gilder's1 name on the letter—

The suggestion (Gilder's) about 8 or 10 names onlygood ones only—should be carried out. About the Hall I leave to your selection (not the very biggest ones, however, would seem to me best)—

I would like Whitelaw Reid's2 name to cap the list—Couldn't the World man, Schuyler3 (if he is there yet?) come next?

Elliott F. Shepard the lawyer,4 might be a good name.

Take [J. H.] Johnston into your councils, in any business and pecuniary arrangements—he is very 'cute and I consider him a true friend of mine.

I am particular about the names. Let [Joel] Benton5 have my letters, take as much as possible my point of view, and he might write to me here.

Walt Whitman


I care little—or rather nothing at all—about Bayard Taylor's6 or G. W. Curtis's7 names on the letter. Don't want them. If they get on, let them be, of course—but don't you make any point about getting them. I suppose you understand me.

Of course the letters I write you are for perusal by all my friends—Gilder, Swinton, Benton, &c.—but if I write private, it is for you alone.


1. Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the assistant editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 to 1881 and editor of its successor, The Century, from 1881 until his death. During his lifetime, Gilder also published several collections of poetry. Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482). He attended a reception and tea given by Gilder after William Cullen Bryant's funeral on June 14; see "A Poet's Recreation" in the New York Tribune, July 4, 1878. Whitman considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 9 vols., 2:93). [back]

2. The editor of the New York Tribune[back]

3. Montgomery Schuyler (1843–1914) was associated with the New York World from 1865 to 1883 and with the New York Times from 1883 until his retirement in 1907. He was also managing editor of Harper's Weekly from 1885 to 1887. [back]

4. Shepard, a colonel in George Washington Whitman's regiment during the Civil War, was now a New York attorney (see the letter from Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of May 25, 1865, and Wilson's Business Directory of New York City for 1878–1879). [back]

5. Joel Benton (1832–1911) was a poet and a friend of Burroughs (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 18,174). [back]

6. See the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of April 13, 1876, and the letter from Whitman to Bayard Taylor of November 18, 1866[back]

7. George William Curtis (1824–1892), the editor of Harper's Monthly, was disliked by Whitman's friends. Burroughs termed Curtis "an orator that fairly leaned and languished on the bosom of the graces" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 173). Speaking of Curtis's criticisms of Whitman in Harper's "Easy Chair" in June 1876, William Douglas O'Connor observed in a letter to Burroughs, "The artificial mountain in Brooklyn park has labored and produced a toy mouse!" (Barrus, 131, 141–142). [back]


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