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Charles McIlvaine to Walt Whitman, [1890?]

Dear Old Walt,

The above is the original. The copy has gone to "Puck."1 Puck will print it.

Yours lovingly, admiringly Charles McIlvaine Haddonfield, N. Jersey2

Ho! Help God! The Quaker Theater to the rescue

Oh God! Thou who made this World, (And worlds wider) And all the little people in it, Forgive the littlest of the lot When thy run up to take thy part. Thou needst deference,—Thou must be cared for. Such men as Ingersoll3 and Whitman Thy masters are:— So think the Little ones.— Forgive them, God, for thinking Thou a Pygmy.

Charles McIlvaine (1840–1909) served in the American Civil War, achieving the rank of Captain before being wounded and resigning from military service. McIlvaine went on to become an author, as well as a mycologist. He published the book Toadstools, Mushrooms, Fungi Edible and Poisonous: One Thousand American Fungi (1900), a standard work on mycology in his time and later regarded as a classic work in the field. McIlvaine published literature for young people, contributed fiction and poems to numerous publications, and often used the pseudonym "Tobe Hodge" for these publications.


  • 1. The Austrian cartoonist Joseph Keppler (1838–1894) founded Puck, a magazine that takes its title from the mischievous forest sprite of the same name in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck was first issued as a German-language magazine, and, a decade later, in 1877, the first English edition of the magazine was published. It soon became a successful humor magazine in the United States. [back]
  • 2. According to the 1890 Veteran Schedules of the U.S. Federal Census, McIlvaine was living in Haddonfield, New Jersey, the city that he writes after his signature on this letter. This suggests that the letter may date to 1890. McIlvaine continued to live in Haddonfield until 1895. [back]
  • 3. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]
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