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John T. Trowbridge to Walt Whitman, 6 January 1865

 loc_vm.00657.jpg My Dear Friend,

I1 have been thinking much of you lately & wondering where you were (for I heard some time since that you had left Washington), when the N.Y. Times came, with your long & interesting communication. I do not yet, from reading that, understand very well where you are, & I send this at a venture. If this reaches you, please let me  loc_vm.00658.jpg know your address, & I will try to send you something to help along your good work. I sent you, some time last summer, by private hands, a copy of "Great Expectations" & two dollars in money, but could never learn that they reached you: did they? How are you now?

A great change has taken place in my life since I saw you. My dearest friend has left me, leaving in her place a little boy, now  loc_vm.00659.jpg eleven months old.—A superb little fellow (although I say it); & in him I have great comfort.

I went three times to find Dr. LeBarren​ Russell, with your note in my hand, but failing each time, I gave him up2.

I am not trying to withdraw from the arena of popular literature; only the necessity of coining a livelihood has kept me in it so long. I feel that, if I live frugally ' sincerely, and do not use up my  loc_vm.00660.jpg mental energies in rapid writing I may be able to do something excellent. I am about getting out a volume of poems,—or, as you would say, prettinesses.

Sincerely your friend J. T. Trowbridge Walt Whitman


  • 1. John Townsend Trowbridge was a novelist, poet, author of juvenile stories, and antislavery reformer. Though Trowbridge became familiar with Whitman's poetry in 1855, he did not meet Whitman until 1860 when the poet was in Boston overseeing the Thayer and Eldridge edition of Leaves of Grass. He again met Whitman in Washington in 1863, when Trowbridge stayed with Secretary Chase in order to gather material for his biography, The Ferry Boy and the Financier (Boston: Walker and Wise, 1864); he described their meetings in My Own Story, with recollections of noted persons (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1903), 360–401. On December 11, Trowbridge had presented to Chase Emerson's letter recommending Whitman; see the January 10, 1863. Though Trowbridge was not an idolator of Whitman, he wrote to O'Connor in 1867: "Every year confirms my earliest impression, that no book has approached the power and greatness of this book, since the Lear and Hamlet of Shakespeare" (Rufus A. Coleman, "Trowbridge and O'Connor," American Literature, 23 [1951–52], 327). For Whitman's high opinion of Trowbridge, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961], 3:506. See also Coleman, "Trowbridge and Whitman," Publications of the Modern Language Association of America [PMLA], 63 (1948): 262–273. For several weeks in 1863, Trowbridge stayed with Whitman in Washington, D.C., along with John Burroughs and William D. O'Connor. [back]
  • 2. Dr. Le Baron Russell (1814–1819) was a Boston physician who was well acquainted with Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Redpath. Along with other philanthropically minded citizens, Russell sent Whitman money to be used in easing the suffering of the Civil War wounded languishing in the Washington, D.C., area. [back]
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