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James M. Scovel to Walt Whitman, [1890?]

 loc.03758.001_large.jpg My Dear Walt

If it were not so hot I w'd come down this morning. I send you "Tobe Hodge" (McIlvains)1 letter.2 He is a very bright fellow: one of us "true fellows of the upper Rhine."3

We must go see him at his little country box and "inspect" his decanter!

I send the "Power Temperance" sketch & the letter. You will like the story. Don't lose them

Yr Friend: James M Scovel4 To W.W. Esq.  loc.03758.002_large.jpg Scovel

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. Charles McIlvaine (1840–1909) was a Civil War veteran who became an author and mycologist. He wrote under the pseudonym "Tobe Hodge" for many of his periodical works. He is best known for his book One Thousand American Fungi. [back]
  • 2. It is not certain which letter Scovel is referring to; however, McIlvaine wrote a letter addressed to Whitman that may date to 1890. 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 his letter to Whitman. This suggests that the letter may date to 1890, and it may be the letter Scovel enclosed with his own. McIlvaine continued to live in Haddonfield until 1895. [back]
  • 3. Scovel is quoting a line from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Autobiography of Goethe, in which Goethe notes that "as true fellows of the Upper Rhine, we had no bounds, either to our liking or disliking" (John Oxenford, Esq., trans. Autobiography of Goethe. Truth and Fiction: Relating to my Life [New York: John D. Williams, 1882], 1:219). [back]
  • 4. A diagonal line has been drawn through this letter. [back]
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