Skip to main content

Charles F. Wingate to Walt Whitman, 19 May 1867

 loc.02001.001.jpg Dear Sir,

You will excuse the liberty of an entire stranger's addressing you which is only pardonable under the present circumstances.

I desire to ask your advice to a young man who has selected the field of literature as that in which he shall labor as to what are the true principles on which a conscientious writer for the present American public should  loc.02001.002.jpg act. What do you conceive to be the true need of the American people as regards literature and in what way should the young writer seek to prepare himself for supplying them.—

Should he recur to the Past, and seek in the master's​ of Antiquity those grand ideas which though used by generations are not yet exhausted; should he study history and endeavor to gather from experience what the tendency  loc.02001.003.jpg & need of the world is of the present; shall he study the thinkers of the present, the Mills', Buckles', Spencers', Tennysons' etc and see what they have gathered as the results of past & present experiences or finally shall he abandon books altogether and plunging into the vortex of human life, strive by actual contact with the people to find what they desire, and how to supply their want

I know no one who is so competent to advise upon this point  loc.02001.004.jpg as yourself, and trust you will favor me with a reply.—I am yet young but have had more experience for my age than many Desiring to thoroughly understand the work I have undertaken I make these inquiries—My dearest wish is like Burns'— "That I for poor Columbia's sake Some usfu' plan or book might make Or sing a song at least"—

I am Sir Very truly Yours Chas F. Wingate 17 Wall Street W. Whitman Washington DC  loc.02001.005.jpg  loc.02001.006.jpg

Charles Frederick Wingate (1848–1909) would soon being serving as a New York correspondent for the Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts. In the 1880s and 90s, he became Sanitary Engineer in New York City, delivering lectures and writing newspaper columns about the city's sanitation practices and problems.

Back to top