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Wallace Wood to Walt Whitman, 15 March 1891

 loc_jm.00425.jpg Dear Sir:

May we still hope you will join the Herald's Symposium of a select number of authorities in all parts of the world on the anthropological and ethical subject of the "Coming Man," by answering within the space of a hundred or two hundred words any of the enclosed questions.1

Copies of this letter are sent to men of eminence in every civilized country. The results will be published in the Herald and collected in a volume.

Please write in any language convenient to yourself.

Very sincerely yours,Wallace Wood

We should be glad of your portrait for publication. One million copies of the Symposium will be printed.


What are the attributes of perfect manhood?2

What is your ideal?

What are the best types?

What is the best ideal of culture?

What qualities of mind, heart, energy or character should be cultivated or what repressed for the higher development of man?

What organs, systems or parts of the body, features of the face, or convolutions of the brain ought to be increased, and what reduced to render man more god-like and less brute-like.

What are the cardinal points to be insisted upon for the all-around development of the coming man?.

What points are to be urged for the awakening of the higher intelligence of the Young American?

What is the best counsel for the young man of to-day?

What is the finest quality in human nature?


Wallace Wood (1858–1916) was a scholar and scientific writer, who was the Samuel F. Morse chair of art at New York University. Wood was the author of several books, including Twenty Styles of Architecture (1881) and A New Method in Brain Study (1899). In 1892, he edited Ideals of Life. Human Perfection. How to Attain It., an "anthropological and ethical symposium," that collected pieces by prominent artists, scientists, and celebrities. Wood's introduction to the symposium claims that many of the contributions have "appeared in the New York Herald" (page 6), and he solicited the poet's participation in this symposium. Whitman's response, "The Civilized World Working Toward the Answer: The Democratic Poet," appeared in Ideals of Life, 389–390, followed by a biographical sketch, excerpts of his poetry, and excerpts of interviews with the poet (391–394). For more information, see Wood's obituary in the New York Herald (December 17, 1916), 8, and see also his introduction to Ideals of Life (New York: E. B. Treat, 1892), 5–10.


  • 1. Whitman had already received a letter from Wood regarding "the Herald's Symposium on the anthropological and ethical question of the 'Perfect Man.'" See Wood's letter to Whitman of February 2, 1891. Whitman had responded to Wood in a letter dated March 3, 1891. [back]
  • 2. Along with his letter, Wood enclosed a series of questions for Whitman to answer. [back]
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