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Walt Whitman to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 29 December 1862

 har.00050.001.jpg Dear friend,

Breaking up a few weeks since, and for good, my New York stagnation—wandering since through camp and battle scenes—I fetch up here in harsh and superb plight—wretchedly poor, excellent well, (my only torment, family matters,)—realizing at last that it is necessary for me to fall for the time in the wise old way, to push my fortune, to be brazen, and get employment, and have an income—determined to do it, (at any rate until I get out of horrible sloughs) I write you, asking you as follows:

I design to apply personally direct at headquarters, for some place. I would apply on literary grounds, not political.


I wish you would write for me something like the enclosed form of letter, that I can present, opening my interview with the great man. I wish you to write two copies—put the one in an envelope directed to Mr. Seward, Secretary of State—and the other in an envelope directed to Mr. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury—and enclose both envelopes in the one I send herewith so that I can use either one or the other. I wish you also to send me a note of introduction to Charles Sumner.2

It is pretty certain that, armed in that way, I shall conquer my object. Answer me by next mail, for I am waiting here like ship waiting for the welcome breath of the wind.

Indeed yours, &c

Walt Whitman  har.00050.003.jpg  har.00050.004.jpg


  • 1. Endorsed (by Walt Whitman): "R. W. Emerson. | W Whitman | 1863." [back]
  • 2. William Henry Seward (1801–1872) was secretary of state from 1861 to 1869 under Presidents Lincoln and Johnson; Salmon Portland Chase (1808–1873) was Secretary of the Treasury from 1861 to 1864; Charles Sumner (1811–1874) served as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States Senate from 1861 to 1871. Emerson wrote to Seward and Chase on January 10, 1863, and to Whitman on January 12, 1863. [back]
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