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Charles W. Eldridge to Walt Whitman, 8 October 1889

 loc.02029.001_large.jpg Dear Walt,

Your postal card was duly received.—I got all your papers and very glad of them. Especially the Boston Transcripts, Critics, Liberty &c—I am glad to see the notices of William2 that appear occasionally, but they give a very faint idea of the man to those who knew him best—If I had power of literary expression I would try to write something—If you had your health and strength I know you could give just the right touches which would preserve the portrait of an uncommonly gifted mind—John Burroughs3 might do it but he lacks sympathy I think with certain fiery and vivid types of which Wm. was a bright exemplar.—But perhaps it is just as well. "The silent organ loudest chants the masters requiem"4

I am going up and down this fair land and watching the vintage "from which streams of brandy do flow. By which I only mean that they are gathering and pressing  loc.02029.002_large.jpggrapes in all the vineyards—1000 acre vineyards not uncommon with five tons of grapes to the acre—and from the new wine brandy is largely distilled, we are in the height of brandy making season with which the internal revenue department is largely concerned—

Saw your interview with Edwin Arnold5 and much touched by it.—The applause of other nations, if not your own, begins to be heard in your declining years. May every comfort and blessing gather around you as your steps grow slow brother beloved.—I hope to see you next year.

Yours affectionately Charles W. Eldridge.  M_1257730u.jpg  M_1257729u.jpg

Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903) was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who issued the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster, Major Lyman Hapgood. Eldridge helped Whitman gain employment in Hapgood's office. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see David Breckenridge Donlon, "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: San Francisco, Cal | Oct 8 | 11 AM | 89; Camden, NJ | Oct | 14 | 6[illegible] | 1889 | [illegible]. [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. 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]
  • 4. Here Eldridge is quoting "Dirge" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. [back]
  • 5. Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) was a British poet and journalist best known for his long narrative poem, The Light of Asia (1879), which tells the life story and philosophy of Gautama Buddha and was largely responsible for introducing Buddhism to Western audiences. Arnold visited Whitman in Camden in 1889. For an account of Arnold's visit, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, September 13, 1889 and Saturday, September 14, 1889: "My main objection to him, if objection at all, would be, that he is too eulogistic—too flattering," Whitman concluded. Arnold published his own version of the interview in Seas and Lands (1891), in which he averred that the two read from Leaves of Grass, surrounded by Mrs. Davis, knitting, a handsome young man (Ned Wilkins), and "a big setter." There are at least two additional accounts of Arnold's visit with Whitman; "Arnold and Whitman" was published anonymously in The Times (Philadelphia, PA) on September 15, 1889, and a different article, also titled "Arnold and Whitman" was published anonymously in The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) on September 26, 1889. [back]
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