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James Redpath to Walt Whitman, 5 May 1863

Friend Walter: I1 did not answer your last letter because I could not reply to the questions it put. I have heard since that Emerson tried to have something done about you, but failed. Believing that he would write to you, I didn't.

There is a prejudice agst you here among the "fine" ladies & gentlemen of the transcendental School. It is believed that you are not ashamed of your reproductive organs, and, somehow, it wd seem to be the result of their logic—that eunuchs only are fit for nurses. If you are ready to qualify yourself for their sympathy & support, that you may not unnecessarily suffer thereform, is the sincere wish of your friend,

James Redpath

Did you see the paragraph I wrote in The Commomwealth about you ?2 If not, I'll send another copy.


  • 1. 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]
  • 2. Redpath's article appeared in the April 10, 1863, edition of Boston's Commonwealth (2). The complete text reads:  
      "One of the most beloved and tender hearted of the visitors at the hospitals in Washington, is Walt. Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass. However his "barbaric yawp" may sound over other roofs, it sends sweet music into the sick wards of the Capital. A gentleman who accompanied him on several of his visits, relates that his coming was greeted by the soldiers with unvarying pleasure, and that he soothed the homesick boys so often seen there, with a tenderness that no woman could excel. His friends say that he cured one or two young soldiers who were dying of homesickness, by his sympathy and loving-kindness. Dying of homesickness is no figure of speech, but a reality of weekly occurrence in our army. To such invalids the religious tract, or the mechanical consolations of theology, give no relief; not musty manna from the church wilderness, but living waters of sympathy from the warm heart of man who loves them is what they need to save them. And this they get from the rough singer of Brooklyn. Walt. like other poets, is not excessively rich, and therefore may not stay in Washington much longer; but as long as he can afford to remain he means to keep at his self-elected and unpaid post, doing good to the sick and wounded. What a pity that when so many thousands of dollars are spent to but little purpose for this work that a hundred or two could not be devoted to retain this efficient volunteer."
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