Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William S. Walsh to Walt Whitman, 17 March 1889

Date: March 17, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: med.00866

Source: The location of this letter is currently unknown. The transcription presented here is derived from With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Horace Traubel (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:372. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

New York,
March 17, 1889.

Dear Sir:

Would you care to give us one hundred words or so on subject discussed1 on enclosed slip?2

Yours respectfully,
James Gordon Bennett3
W. S. Walsh.

Best wishes and kindest regards from your friend

W. S. Walsh.

William S. Walsh (1854–1919) was an American historian, poet, critic, and editor.


1. Traubel records the contents and aims of the letter: "The slip was about five inches solid of Herald print. The True Need of Fiction was the subject. Asked in effect: 'Shall we sound the alarm or ring the jubilee' over the prevailing tendencies of fiction?" See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, March 18, 1889[back]

2. See also the letter from Frank H. Williams to Whitman on March 18, 1889. Apparently, Walsh's request for the poet's assessment of the "prevailing tendencies" in current fiction, co-signed with James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, prompted a discussion with Williams about the distinction between mere sensationalism and progressive attitudes toward sex in literature. Traubel records Whitman saying: "No one would more rigidly keep in mind the difference between the simply erotic, the merely lascivious, and what is frank, free, modern, in sexual behaviour, than I would" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 20, 1889). [back]

3. James Gordon Bennett Jr. (1841–1918) was the publisher of the New York Herald, which had been founded by his father in 1835. For more on the paper and the many poems by Whitman that were published in it, see Susan Belasco, "The New York Herald." [back]


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