Life & Letters


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Title: Joseph B. Marvin to Walt Whitman, 16 February 1887

Date: February 16, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00013

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. 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.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "from JB Marvin Feb '87," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes June 24 1889," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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1121 I St.
Washington D.C.
Feb. 16th '87

My Dear Walt.

This morning I had occasion to call at the house of a Mr. William Brough, who lives in a costly residence on Farragut Square and is a very pleasant, educated man—evidently of wealth. I saw there on the wall of his parlor a fine, large cut of yourself in a handsome frame. I found that he admired Drum-Taps very much. I mentioned the proposed pension for you, and he said that if you were in need of assistance he thought there would be no trouble in raising a purse and that he would be glad to take hold of the matter if it was thought advisable. If the pension is not authorized I will see him again about the subscription.

Eldridge1 and O'Connor2 have gone to California to the place where Dr. Channing3 resides, and have arrived safely. I saw them off two weeks ago. O'Connor, I fear cannot hold out long, but his place is kept open for him here. His trouble is induration of the spinal marrow.

I have been dropped out of the Govt. Service to make room for a Democrat and am looking about here for something to do. I am thinking of starting a Bureau of General Information. Literary, Scientific and Political, at the Capital of the Nation. The only question is whether I can subsist till the Bureau becomes a paying institution.

I enclose a paragraph I cut out of the Richmond Va. Times. Let me hear from you. Wishing you health and happiness and long life I am,

Yours sincerely
Jos. B. Marvin

Joseph B. Marvin, a friend and an admirer of Whitman's poetry, was from 1866 to 1867 the co-editor of the Radical. He was then appointed as a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, on behalf of which he took a trip to London in the late fall of 1875. On October 19, 1875, Whitman wrote a letter to William Michael Rossetti to announce a visit from Marvin. Rossetti gave a dinner for Marvin, which was attended by the following "good Whitmanites": Anne Gilchrist; Joseph Knight, editor of the London Sunday Times; Justin McCarthy, a novelist and writer for the London Daily News; Edmund Gosse; and Rossetti's father-in-law, Ford Madox Brown.


1. Charles W. Eldridge was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who put out the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Walt Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster and eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)." [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William F. Channing (1820–1901), son of William Ellery Channing, and also Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Applications of Electricity (Boston: Daniel Davis, Jr., and Joseph M. Wightman, 1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitman stayed at his home in October, 1868. [back]


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