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James Redpath to Walt Whitman, 10 March 1863

Walter Whitman, Esq., Washington.

Dear Evangelist: The inclosed note1 may interest you, and therefore I2 send it. I wrote to Mr. Emerson to get him to interest some of his friends (he has several rich ones who give away large sums to various good causes) in your Christian Commission Agency. I trust that the result will be what I hoped.

Yours Very Truly, James Redpath.

Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. O'C.3 and Mr. Eldredge.4


  • 1. The enclosed note by Emerson reads: 
      Concord, 23d February, 1863. My Dear Sir : On my return, a few days since, from a long Western journey, I found your note respecting Mr. Whitman. The bad feature of the affair to me is that it requires prompt action, which I cannot use. I go to-day to Montreal to be gone a week, and I have found quite tyrannical necessities at home for my attention. Not to do nothing I have just written a note to Mr. F. N. Knapp at Washington, who, I am told, ought to know what you tell me, and may know how to employ Mr. Whitman's beneficial agency in some official way in the hospitals. 
      As soon as I return home, I shall make some trial whether I can find any direct friends and abettors for him and his beneficiaries, the soldiers. I hear gladly all that you say of him. Respectfully, Mr. Redpath. 
      R. W. Emerson.
  • 2. James Redpath (1833–1891) was the author of The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860), a correspondent for the New York Tribune during the war, the originator of the "Lyceum" lectures, and editor of the North American Review in 1886. He met Whitman in Boston in 1860 (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #90) and remained an enthusiastic admirer; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Sculley Bradley (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914), 3:459–461. He concluded his first letter to Whitman on June 25, 1860: "I love you, Walt! A conquering Brigade will ere long march to the music of your barbaric jawp." See also Charles F. Horner, The Life of James Redpath and the Development of the Modern Lyceum (New York: Barse & Hopkins, 1926). [back]
  • 3. For a time Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. O'Connor, who, with Charles W. Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William D. O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of Harrington, an abolition novel published by Thayer & Eldridge in 1860. He had been an assistant editor of the Saturday Evening Post before he went to Washington. O'Connor was an intelligent man who deserved something better than the various governmental clerical posts he was to hold until his death. The humdrum of clerkship, however, was relieved by the presence of Whitman whom he was to love and venerate—and defend with a single-minded fanaticism and an outpouring of vituperation and eulogy that have seldom been equaled, most notably in his pamphlet, "The Good Gray Poet." He was the first, and in many ways the most important, of the adulators who divided people arbitrarily into two categories: those who were for and those who were against Walt Whitman. The poet praised O'Connor in the preface to a posthumous collection of his tales: "He was a born sample here in the 19th century of the flower and symbol of olden time first-class knighthood. Thrice blessed be his memory!" (Complete Prose Works [New York, D. Appleton, 1910] pp. 513). For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors see O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]. Of the O'Connors, Thomas Jefferson Whitman wrote on June 13, 1863: "I am real glad, my dear Walt, that you are among such good people. I hope it will be in the power of some of our family to return their kindness some day. I'm sure twould be done with a heartfelt gratitude. Tis pleasant, too, to think, that there are still people of that kind left." [back]
  • 4. Charles W. Eldridge was one of the owners of Thayer and Eldridge, a Boston publishing firm responsible for the third edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903). [back]
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