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Henry B. Binns to Walt Whitman, 5 February 1891

 loc.01097.001_large.jpg To Walt Whitman, My dear Master,

I plead no other excuse in writing to you but my great wish to thank for making yourself known to me in your books and in your portraits.—There is no other link between us—between you who are near the end of the race, already being crowned, & I, who am but now beginning,—than the world-circling bond of universal brotherhood, by which I claim the privilege of doing the nearest thing to shaking you by the hand, telling you how much I desire to do so.

No other link unless I may count that of sympathy—the reverent sympathy of one of who would learn of you & enter into your brave spirit.

For, as it has doubtless been with many before me, in your books I  loc.01097.002_large.jpg have found myself freshly defined—I have found, through them, new latent possibilities and affinities, new tendencies, new hopes, new faith.—You have been "The Answerer"1 to many inarticulate questionings—

And so, further, I want to thank you for being an honest modern man,—true to your own inmost self,—true to your age, & to the eternity of progress,—gothic,—stalwart,—one with men & one with nature; for being the prophet & the voice of Americanism, as progress & comradeship, and, withal, a true poet.

For you have proved to me, lovingly, as few others have done, that a poet—(my own far-off but cherished ideal) may be a true man untainted by weak sentimentalism, wholesome & strong in body, and firm in faith, not the mere weathercock of every breeze of passion, no idle dreamer, nor merely impersonal artist (impersonal, I mean, in the surface-recording, historical, sense)

An original, deep-thinking, religious, working, man, with faith in present as well as future.


We thank you for your love of nature that has made you a part of nature—the poet of Nature,—& more for your love of men, for your great, fatherly, love for your people, for all peoples, for us—

The peoples of the world will arise some day & acknowledge you as their pioneer,—their leader, their spokesman, even in their own front rank, their poet, expressing for them in song, free & simple, their unknown, blind longings—Not only of America, but here in England, in Europe, in the whole world.

As you stand even now on the shore of the Unknown Ocean, I long to send to you a message of love & of greeting across our little sea to cheer you, maybe, upon your journey, though I know that you are ever of good cheer. Before the greatness of eternity & space untravelled, the little distances of Earth vanish away and it seems almost that I can reach your hand across the Atlantic drawing me on amid other influences to higher & still higher things.

With you loc.01097.004_large.jpg I believe that the after-ages will enshrine your memory & your words—your life—as their prophet-poet, that the future is for you when men (even "the great masters") will come to learn of you—or rather that you are for the future.

Then you will stand in the time honoured democracy of the greatest poets. In your poetry I have found what I had been looking for unwittingly, free unbound Song,—the old Prometheus.

The world owes you a debt never to be repaid by it, perhaps not realized as yet. As a poet you will be ours forever: and as a man may the Father of our universal Brotherhood see it fit to spare your strong presence to be with us yet a little longer, and when the hour of separation comes we can trust you best in His Hand, whom we believe to be the clue and reason of creation, the Shaper of the Lives of men, & that mysterious power of universal cohesion we call Love.

Hoping my letter may not weary you or the reading of it try your eyes

Believe me Your very grateful admirer Henry Binns.

Henry Bryan Binns (1873–1923), a poet and biographer, wrote and published A Life of Walt Whitman (1905), the earliest major biographical work about Whitman following the poet's death. Binns was also the author of Walt Whitman and His Poetry (1915) and a biography of Abraham Lincoln (1907). For more information on Binns, see Katherine Reagan, "Binns, Henry Bryan (1873–1923)," J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


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