Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Edmund Clarence Stedman, 31 March 1889

Thanks, my dear E C S, for the box of noble books with the endless mines in them—& double thanks for the loving cheering (I fear flattering) long letter, wh' has done me good, & I have read twice—My friendly & liberal presentation 7th Vol. is thoroughly appreciated by me—& the picture is certainly printed at its best—The whole presentation indeed is by far the best of that sort I ever received. I wish to convey my best regards to the printers, proof-readers & print-plate presser &c2

I have been specially laid up for nearly a year almost entirely disabled—imprison'd in sick room—last fall & during winter sometimes low, serious, but just now easier, comparatively free from pain—getting along better than you might suppose.

Our dear friend O'Connor3 is very ill at Washington (lower legs paralyzed, & lately attacks of epilepsy)—Burroughs4 is pretty well—is at his place West Park Ulster Co: with his wife5 & boy6 (with a book in press, I believe)—Best regards & love to you & yours—Have put off this letter of thanks & good wishes waiting for a day I sh'd feel pretty well to write it in, but such day lagging I delay no longer—

Walt Whitman

Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Edmund C Stedman | 3 east Fourteenth Street | (C E Webster Publisher's) | New York City. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Mar 31 | 5 PM | 89. [back]
  • 2. Stedman, who termed himself on March 27–28, 1889, "one of your most faithful lovers," gushed about the Complete Poems & Prose: "There is no book just like this, & there never will be." Whitman received more space in A Library of American Literature than any other poet. Stedman printed William Linton's wood engraving of the poet. See Whitman's November 10–16, 1880, letter to Anne Gilchrist for his earlier reaction to Stedman's criticism. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Ursula North Burroughs (1836–1917) was John Burroughs's wife. Ursula and John were married on September 12, 1857. The couple maintained a small farm overlooking the Hudson River in West Park, Ulster County. They adopted a son, Julian, at two months of age. It was only later revealed that John himself was the biological father of Julian. [back]
  • 6. Julian Burroughs (1878–1954), the only son of John and Ursula Burroughs, later became a landscape painter, writer, and photographer. [back]
Back to top