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Hamlin Garland to Walt Whitman, 19 April 1888

 loc.02129.001_large.jpg Walt Whitman:

Dear Sir: It is probable that my friend Kennedy1 has told you something of me and the work I am trying to do for you and for American literature. I have not written to you for the reason that you are sufficiently plagued with letters but now I feel that I have reached the point where I can presume on your interest.

Mr. Kennedy I know writes to you in a depressed mood many times, saying that he finds  loc.02129.002_large.jpg  loc.02129.003_large.jpg a "solid line of enemies" (I think those were his words) This is not true of my experience. I am often astonished at finding so many friends and sympathizers in your work and cause. In my teaching and lecturing I find no difficulty in getting Converts to the new doctrine and find your poems nearly irresistible in effect. True they do not always agree that they are "poems" though acknowledging their power and beauty. I do not care what they call them (I say to them) and receive their allegiance just the same.

I hope to do much in the way of reading and lecturing to bring your work before  loc.02129.004_large.jpg  loc.02129.005_large.jpg the people and it would give me pleasure to know you consider my work valuable.

I am just now delivering a course of lectures in the city on "The Literature of Democracy" concerning which I enclose a couple of slips.

In these I am trying to analyze certain tendencies of American Life somewhat in accordance with the principles you have taught. How successful I may be remains to be seen.—I have not seen Mr. Kennedy for some months, he is so busy these days, but I had a characteristic letter from him a few days ago. I have the greatest hope of seeing you some day and  loc.02129.006_large.jpg  loc.02129.007_large.jpg to talk with you upon these matters face to face. Let me assure you again that there is everywhere a growing respect and love for you and a growing appreciation of your poems. The papers no longer ridicule or even condemn unreservedly. An acquantaince among the younger literary editors of the city warrants me in saying that there is much more sympathy and appreciation among them than our friend Kennedy realizes. There is great gain.

It would give me great pleasure to hear from you if you are able to write.

With greatest love and esteem. Hamlin Garland.  loc.02129.008_large.jpg Send to Dr Bucke

Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) was an American novelist and autobiographer, known especially for his works about the hardships of farm life in the American Midwest. For his relationship to Whitman, see Thomas K. Dean, "Garland, Hamlin," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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