Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William J. Linton, 11 April [1872]

Date: April 11, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: med.00697

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004), 7:34. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elizabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray

Thursday forenoon
April 11

My dear Linton,

I have just been spending an hour looking over "The Future"—and the "Ireland"1 you sent me—& stopping at certain pieces here & there, & reading them quite carefully, & dwelling upon them. They touch me deeply—indeed more than anything of the kind had previously done—the undertone of anguish and despair—the Laocoön struggles, (apparently useless) under the tightening grip[p]ing folds of the serpent—the cries & complaints & remonstrances & calls for help—somehow, in your verses, brought the fearful condition of the laboring millions not only of Ireland, Italy, Poland &c—but all Europe—more vividly than ever yet, before me.

And it is well for me to get such reminding's—

But my own vein is full of hope, promise, faith, certainty—I see how an American—I for instance—cannot perhaps realize the peoples desperate condition over the major part of the world—

—This point you have to-day brought up sharply before me.

Walt Whitman

I return to Washington Saturday.

William J. Linton (1812–1897), a British-born wood engraver, came to the United States in 1866 and settled near New Haven, Connecticut. He illustrated the works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, and others, wrote the "indispensable" History of Wood-Engraving in America (1882), and edited Poetry of America, 1776–1876 (London, 1878), in which appeared eight of Whitman's poems as well as a frontispiece engraving of the poet. According to his Threescore and Ten Years, 1820 to 1890—Recollections (1894), 216–217, Linton met with Whitman in Washington and later visited him in Camden (which Whitman reported in his November 9, 1873, letter to Peter Doyle): "I liked the man much, a fine-natured, good-hearted, big fellow, . . . a true poet who could not write poetry, much of wilfulness accounting for his neglect of form."


1. In addition to being a major wood engraver and editor, William J. Linton was a poet of minor reputation. He appears to have taken advantage of his new contact with Whitman by sending him a pair of poems for his perusal. [back]


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