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Frank G. Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 17 April 1890

 loc.01206.001_large.jpg Mr. Walt Whitman, My dear Sir:

I am preparing a series of letters for the above newspapers on How to Reach Three Score and Ten Years of Age and I hope to have information on this subject from Hon. W.E. Gladstone,2 Hon. Ferdinand de Lesseps,3 Hon. George Bancroft,4 Hon. Hamilton Fish,5 Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes,6 Hon. John G. Whittier7 and other distinguished octogenarians. Will you please let me know:

As to what you attribute your good health through life.

As to your daily habits of work and exercise, sleep and diet.


Also what advice would you give to the young men of the day who wish to follow in your footsteps.

I would be glad to hear whether you are still working and also whether you believe in the use of spirituous liquors, tobacco, tea or coffee.

Also do you believe that marriage conduces to long life, and anything else you may wish to add of advice to a young man who wishes to reach three score and ten and pack the whole of his years with good work as you have done.

During what years did you do your best work and how long in your opinion should be the working life of man.

I am Very respectfully yours, Frank G Carpenter.

I inclose​ stamped envelope for reply.

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Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was a journalist, travel writer, and photographer. He worked as a journalist for the Cleveland Leader before moving to Washington, D.C., and later becoming a correspondent for the American Press Association. He authored geography textbooks and, with his daughter Frances, spent more than a decade taking photographs in Alaska; their images are now part of holdings of the Library of Congress.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Mr. Walt Whitman | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Washington, D.C. | Apr 17 | 730 PM | 90; Camden, N.J. | Apr | 18 | 6 [illegible]M | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. William Ewert Gladstone (1809–1898) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1868 to 1894. [back]
  • 3. Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805–1894) was a French diplomat and participated in the development of the Suez Canal. [back]
  • 4. George Bancroft (1800–1891), American diplomat in Europe and historian. [back]
  • 5. Hamilton Fish (1808–1893), Governor of New York, Senator, and Secretary of State under Ulysses S. Grant. [back]
  • 6. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–1894) was a Bostonian author, physician, and lecturer. One of the Fireside Poets, he was a good friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as John Burroughs. Holmes remained ambivalent about Whitman's poetry. He married Amelia Lee Jackson in 1840 and they had three children, including the later Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. For more information, see Julie A. Rechel-White, "Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809–1894)," (Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, eds. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 280). [back]
  • 7. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) earned fame as a staunch advocate for the abolition of slavery. As a poet, he employed traditional forms and meters, and, not surprisingly, he was not an admirer of Whitman's unconventional prosody. For Whitman's view of Whittier, see the poet's numerous comments throughout the nine volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers: 1906–1996) and Whitman's "My Tribute to Four Poets," in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882–'83), 180–181. [back]
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