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Cassius M. Clay to Walt Whitman, 6 January 1891

 loc.01298.003_large.jpg Dear Sir,

I have just received your "Leaves of Grass &c." 1890—for which accept my thanks.

I have not found time but to glance over it—& cannot return a criticism—even if such a thing was a consequence.

I am very independent in such matters—and think with Burns2 "Cruing to a body's sel Does weel enough"3 & let the world read or not, as it likes.4

—Wishing you long years yet of health and happiness. I remain yours truly Cassius Marcellus Clay Walt Whitman Esq.  loc.01298.004_large.jpg  loc.01298.005_large.jpg  loc.01298.006_large.jpg  loc.01298.001_large.jpg see | notes | April 1st | 1891 White Hall Ky | 1—8—91 328 | Mickle St Camden N.J.  loc.01298.002_large.jpg

Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810–1903), often referred to as "Lion of the White Hall," was an abolitionist and a politician from Kentucky. In the early 1860s, he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to serve as the United States minister to Russia.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman Esq. | Care of Ferguson Bros. & Co. | Esqrs. | Philadelphia ; | Pennsylvania. It is postmarked: Philadelp[illegible] | Jan10 | 11AM | 91; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 10 | [illegible]M | [illegible]D; Received [illegible] | Jan | 3 | [illegible]PM | [illegible] | Phila. On the lower left Clay has written: "White Hall: | ky. | C. [illegible] Clay." [back]
  • 2. Robert Burns (1759–1796) was widely regarded as Scotland's national poet. An early Romantic poet who wrote in both Scots and English (often though not exclusively inflected by Scottish dialect), Burns is perhaps best known for his poems "Auld Lang Syne," "Tam o' Shanter" and "To a Mouse" (from which the title of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is derived). Of Burns, Whitman wrote in November Boughs: "Though so much is to be said in the way of fault-finding, drawing black marks, and doubtless severe literary criticism . . . after full retrospect of his works and life, the aforesaid 'odd-kind chiel' remains to my heart and brain as almost the tenderest, manliest, and (even if contradictory) dearest flesh-and-blood figure in all the streams and clusters of by-gone poets." For Whitman's full opinion of Burns as it appeared in November Boughs, see "Robert Burns as Poet and Person," November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888), 57–64. [back]
  • 3. The lines are from Robert Burns's "Epistle to J. Lapraik": "Yet crooning to a body's sel / Does weel eneugh." [back]
  • 4. Whitman found Clay's note "pugnacious" and told Horace Traubel, after reading it, that "I am the target for missiles good and bad—numberless missiles, from friends and enemies" (With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, April 1, 1891). [back]
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