Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Henry Clapp, Jr., 12 June 1860

Date: June 12, 1860

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00343

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:55. 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, Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alyssa Olson, and Nicole Gray

Tuesday afternoon, June 12.

Dear friend,

Fearful that, by insufficient examination you may not do justice to the articles from Mr. Leland,1 but give them the go-by, I write to make a special request that, if convenient, you print them in next S[aturday] P[ress]—the poem leading first col. first page, the prose following immediately after. Those articles, (I feel it thoroughly,) have certain little grains of salt that I wish to see put in a way of "leavening" the lump of ——2 you know what.


Did you see what Mrs. Heenan3 says about me in last "Sunday Mercury"—first page?

Henry Clapp, Jr.(1814–1875), was a journalist, editor and reformer. Whitman and Clapp most likely met in Charles Pfaff's beer cellar, located in lower Manhattan. Clapp, who founded the literary weekly the Saturday Press in 1858, was instrumental in promoting Whitman's poetry and celebrity: over twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded (for the first time) in 1860. Of Clapp Whitman told Horace Traubel, "You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me." For more about Whitman's thoughts on Clapp, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, (1906–1996), 9 vols., 1:214.


1. In the next issue of the New-York Saturday Press, on June 16, Clapp printed, in the columns suggested by Whitman, two contributions of Henry P. Leland, which had appeared earlier in the Philadelphia City Item: a poem entitled "Enfans de Soixante-Seize" and a swashbuckling tribute to "Walt Whitman." Leland (1828-68) was the author of Grey-Bay Mare, and Other Humorous American Sketches (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1856) and co-author with his brother Charles of Ye Book of Copperheads (Philadelphia: Frederick Leypoldt, 1863). Whitman spoke many years later to Charles of Henry's support "in the darkest years of his life"; see Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Charles Godfrey Leland (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1906), 2: 111, and note Whitman's letter from October 27, 1866[back]

2. Whitman seems to be reacting to the hostile review by Juliette H. Beach's husband which appeared in the New-York Saturday Press on June 2; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 260–261. [back]

3. The Sunday Mercury printed an extravagant eulogy of Whitman on June 3 which was written by the actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken, who at the time was married to the prize fighter John Heenan; see Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 262; and Allen Lesser, Enchanting Rebel (New York: The Beechhurst Press, 1947), 61–65. [back]


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