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Elizabeth Ford to Walt Whitman, 16 February 1875

 loc.02090.001_large.jpg Dear Sir—

I do not know how to excuse myself to you for taking the liberty of writing to you—but I cannot help it. I must do it. A little while ago I read your Democratic Vistas,2 it was like a great help coming from a long way off. & it came into my mind that I must  loc.02090.002_large.jpg speak to you. Do not be angry with me—I should be frightened at myself, only I believe in what you say in your book so much that I can hardly feel fear. I want you to tell me that your trust in what you say is unshaken, that it grows as you grow?

it must be so different in your country from what it is here—it is hard sometimes to go on believing that the good will come—& it seems to me that you forget  loc.02090.003_large.jpg that it must come for us here as well as for you. we need it so! & if a good only comes to part of the world of people, it is not great enough—Do your people really in their souls care about such things? or is it only one or two? is it a dear belief to any of them that they hold steadfastly? we do some of us here believe in a true democratic spirit coming—but one hopes so in America & wants to trust in her. Therefore I am bold & write to you for a word of hope. Your words that you have written are such a strength, it is  loc.02090.004_large.jpg so wonderful to find said, things that hover in one. I mean, to read things that one's heart cries out in answer to. This is what makes me so that I cannot help writing to you.

Your's​ sincerely Elizabeth Ford—  loc.02090.005_large.jpg from Elizabeth Ford, Adel, Leeds, England, Feb. '75  loc.02090.006_large.jpg

Elizabeth (Bessie) Helen Ford (1848–1919) was a violinist and the sister of Isabella Ormston Ford (1855–1924), an English social reformer, suffragist, and writer. The sisters lived together in Leeds; they were friends of Edward Carpenter, an English writer and Whitman disciple. After being introduced to Whitman's writings by Carpenter, Bessie and her sister quickly became admirers of the poet.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 431 Stevens St. (cor. West), | Camden | N.J. It is postmarked: NEW YORK | MAR | 5 | 6 PM. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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