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Henry Clapp, Jr., to Walt Whitman, 3 October 1867

 loc.01294.001_large.jpg My dear Walt,

I have this moment clipped the enclosed paragraphs about Garibaldi2 from the Paris correspondence of this morning's N Y Times. What a fine photo.h of a splendid man! I wonder why it made me think of you! It did, though, and so I send it to you with the regards of

Yours truly H. Clapp Jr.  loc.01294.002_large.jpg

The last I have heard of GARIBALDI'S movements was that he was at the villa of his friend, the Marquis DE PALLAVICINI,3 in the neighborhood of Milan. This was on the 16th, the day on which it was so confidently announced by his partisans in Florence that he had crossed the Papal frontier. In the last number of the Figaro, I find the following "physiology" of this remarkable man, by M. VILLEMOT,4 which, though bordering on the caricature, is so correct in many points that I think it will interest as well as amuse your readers:

"'Liberator' or 'heroical bungler' GARIBALDI is a figure. Had I any disposition to believe in the supernatural he would have converted me. Against all reason and human wisdom, and to the profound humiliation of vulgar calculations, he has accomplished things which are to be classed among miracles and legends. He is not a great captain; as a tactician he is no better than JEANNE D'ARC,5 but like her he has a familiar demon; he hears voices and takes the field. When he captures a throne he seats himself upon it, eats a bunch of grapes and inquires after his goats. He has not got a sou, and if he is a Chevalier of St. Maurice and Lazare, he is profoundly ignorant of the fact.

Educated people say: 'You now see that he is nothing but a rowdy; he may have a palace, receive diplomatic corps, and eat carp a la chambord, but he loves best to live on a crust of bread rubbed with garlic.' But GARIBALDI likes to be judged from the point of view of his temperament, and on this side of the Alps he cannot be very well understood. He is reproached with not dressing himself like M. ROUHER,6 and with wearing a boatman's shirt, a slouched hat and a Scotch plaid. They accuse him, moreover, of those turgidities of style which wound ears accustomed to the small flute of the Academies. They forget that he is operating in the land of TASSO7 and ARIOSTO,8 and if our genius induces us to the search after symplicity that of Italy accommodates itself to a lyricism which with us is not in fashion except in the minor drama.

GARIBALDI is the expression of the land and the age that gave him birth. You cannot get him to attire himself; you cannot get him to express himself otherwise than is in hts​ nature. In his general physiognomy there is a mixture of the prophet and the child. Of our civilization, of our manners, of our vices and our crosses he knows nothing. He marches ahead without seeing. He lives in an ideal worlp​ , and knows no more of the men of his time than a contemporary hero of the Iliad rising from his dust.

His innocence exceeds all belief. The following is an example of it. A few years ago he said to a friend, 'You are aware that I gave notes to M. ALEXANDER DUMAS9 to write my memoirs from. Would you believe that he has added to them a number of things of his own invention?'

BRAVE GARIBALDI! Write not your memoirs and get no one to write them. Let the people whom you have fanatacised​ compose your legend, and you will take your place among the great Sphinxes of history."

 loc.01294.005_large.jpg see notes June 5 1888 Henry Clapp (Garibaldi) quite good—read again  loc.01294.006_large.jpg

Henry Clapp, Jr. (1814–1875), was one of Walt Whitman's intimates from the Pfaffian days. Restless and adventurous, Clapp roamed to Paris, returned in the 1840s to Lynn, Massachusetts, to edit the Essex County Washington (later the Pioneer), and eventually went to New York, where he became "king of the Bohemians." As editor of the short-lived Saturday Press (1858–1860), he printed Whitman's "A Child's Reminiscence" ("Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"), and, in 1860, praised Leaves of Grass when others condemned it. (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955, 242–244, 260–261). All told, more than twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded in 1860. "Henry Clapp," Walt Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "stepped out from the crowd of hooters—was my friend: a much needed ally at that time (having a paper of his own) when almost the whole press of America when it mentioned me at all treated me with derision or worse. If you ever write anything about me in which it may be properly alluded to I hope you will say good things about Henry Clapp" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden "Wednesday, May 30, 1888," 236). Whitman also told Traubel, "You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 27, 1888). For more information on Clapp, see Christine Stansell, "Clapp, Henry (1814–1875)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Atty General's Office | Washington, | D.C. It is postmarked: NEW YORK | Oct | 3; CARRIER | OCT | 4 | 1867 [back]
  • 2. Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882) was one of the heroes of Italian unification, who formed the red-shirted Italian Legion in 1843. When Traubel in 1888 asked how Walt Whitman reacted to the newspaper article Clapp enclosed in this letter, Whitman replied: "I can see some of the features—yes. . .As to being any way associated with Garibaldi—that is the crowning tribute. Garibaldi belongs to the divine eleven!" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Tuesday, June 5, 1888," 270). [back]
  • 3. The Marquis Emilio Pallavicini di Priola (1823–1901) was an Italian general and politician. He had a long career in the Italian Royal Army and is most well known for stopping Garibaldi at the Battle of Aspromonte on August 29, 1862. [back]
  • 4. Auguste Villemot (1811–1870) was a French journalist. [back]
  • 5. Jeanne D'Arc: Joan of Arc. [back]
  • 6. Eugène Rouher (1814–1884) was a statesman of the Second French Empire. [back]
  • 7. Torquato Tasso (1544–1595) was an Italian poet known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). First published in 1581, the poem depicts the Christian forces of the First Crusade (1096–1099) in a hard-won triumph against the Muslims at Jerusalem. [back]
  • 8. The Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533) authored Orlando Furiorso, which appeared in its earliest version in 1516. [back]
  • 9. Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) was a French author known best for his works The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. [back]
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