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James M. Scovel to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1885

 loc.03721.001_large.jpg Walt Whitman Esq Dear Walt:

I fear you do not fully appreciate my relations to the Springfield Repub-people anent the W. W article.2

There has been a good deal of writing about it, between them & me—and about two weeks ago I sent on  loc.03721.002_large.jpg a red-hot interview of my own with H W Beecher.3 Well: they didn't "bite" at the HWB-MSS—it was a trifle too warm & cut both ways Blaine-&anti-Blaine4 but the managing editor quietly says "We are still waiting for that long-promised article on Walt Whitman"—

I thereupon promised it again within a week, & now  loc.03721.003_large.jpg they (the Spr. Repub folks) have a right to think I am a d—d, colossal & continental liar5 (which, en passant, I am not.)

Now to the point—I feel bound to get up that article PDQ.

And I want you to go at it or let me have my MSS. so I can get it off by next Saturday night. This is fair—& I don't want to keep bothering you about it.

I am hard at work at the Law— loc.03721.004_large.jpgWe all enjoyed your Sunday visit—

I wd​ feel much encouraged if I cd​ hear your gray goose quill was pointing toward Massachussetts

Thine as ever— James M Scovel  loc.03721.005_large.jpg  loc.03721.006_large.jpg

James Matlack Scovel (1833–1904) began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War, he was in the New Jersey legislature and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s, Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | # 328# Mickle St | Camden. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | M[illegible] | 12 | 10[illegible] AM | 1885 | N.J. [back]
  • 2. James Matlack Scovel's "Walt Whitman" finally appeared in the Springfield Republican on June 16, 1885—partially authored by Whitman himself and after months of negotiating between Scovel and the poet. [back]
  • 3. Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887), Congregational clergyman and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, accepted the pastorate of the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, in 1847. Whitman described him briefly in the Brooklyn Daily Advertiser of May 25, 1850, reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols., ed. Emory Holloway (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1921), 1:234–235. See also Walt Whitman, Emory Holloway, and Vernolian Schwarz, I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 84–85, and Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, May 11, 1888. Henry Beecher's father, Lyman Beecher (1775–1863), was also a clergyman, who upon his retirement lived with his son in Brooklyn. [back]
  • 4. In the 1884 U.S. presidential election, Henry Ward Beecher campaigned for Democrat Grover Cleveland and spoke out harshly against Cleveland's opponent, Republican James G. Blaine, calling him "the prince of liars." [back]
  • 5. Scovel is alluding here to the best known campaign rallying cry against Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine: "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, continental liar from the state of Maine!" [back]
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