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George E. Sears to Walt Whitman, 1 February 1890

 loc.03764.003_large.jpg My dear Sir.

There lies before me, as I write, a copy of "Brother Johnathan" Vol 1. January 29th, 1842. No 5. The first article is a piece of poetry:

Written for the Brother Jonathan—


By Walter Whitman.

One day, an obscure youth, a wanderer, Known but to few, lay musing with himself About the chances of his future life. etc: etc:2

I would be very glad to hear from loc.03764.004_large.jpg you, as to whether this was one of your early poems. & if you have it in rememberance.

I have been a rambler in these old periodicals, magazines: etc: of 50 or 60 years ago, & found very many interesing pieces by our American Poets: notably some of Longfellow3 (1826), O.Wendell Holmes,4 (1829) etc:—

I was much pleased to read the account in a late "New York Times" & very glad to hear you "rest a good deal, try to worry about nothing, and don't think too much."5 good. good. good—

What an interesting fact came loc.03764.005_large.jpg to light the other day, that the only Sister of Keats,6 passed over to the other side last December,.

She was living at Madrid: & died aged about 86, leaving children and grandchildren.

A friend of mine, Mr. W. J. Linton,7 is I think an old acquaintence of yours—I have heard him talk of you often:—he has been in England the last two years, preparing a great work on Engraving.—& purposes I believe, very soon to return to America.—

Permit me to wish you the best things, and anyway "The storms of Life & Wintry Time8 will quickly pass, and one unbounded Spring Encircle all."

 loc.03764.006_large.jpg Cordially Yours Geo. E. Sears. Walt Whitman: Camden.  loc.03764.001_large.jpg  loc.03764.002_large.jpg

George Edward Sears (1838–1916) was an American expatriate and book collector. Sears's father, Robert Sears Sr. (1810–1892), was co-founder of the New York printing-house of Sears and Cole, publishers of newspapers and illustrated books. George Sears collected books and pamphlets for over twenty years while living in New York City, and in 1893, sold his collection of works "technically and historically illustrative of the printing industry" to William Evarts Benjamin (1859–1940) for $25,000 (The American Bookmaker [June, 1893], 230). According to the report in The American Bookmaker, Sears had housed his "curious and instructive literary gleanings in one large apartment of a well-ventilated mansion, without any gas-light or artificial heat." Sears privately printed several catalogues from his collection, including A Collection of The Emblem Books of Andrea Alciati (1888) and A Collection of Works Illustrative of The Dance of Death (1889). In the 1890s, Sears relocated to Toronto, Ontario, and he is buried with his family in Kingston's Cataraqui Cemetery.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman— | 328 Mickle St. | Camden: | N. Jersey. | U. S. It is postmarked: TORONTO | FEB 1 | 4 PM | 90; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB | 2 | 6AM | 1890 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's poem Ambition, which was published in the January 29, 1842, issue of Brother Jonathan. [back]
  • 3. In his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was both a highly popular and highly respected American poet. His The Song of Hiawatha, published the same year as Leaves of Grass, enjoyed sales never reached by Whitman's poetry. When Whitman met Longfellow in June 1876, he was unimpressed: "His manners were stately, conventional—all right but all careful . . . he did not branch out or attract" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 10, 1888, 130). [back]
  • 4. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–1894) was a Bostonian author, physician, and lecturer. One of the Fireside Poets, he was a good friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as John Burroughs. Holmes remained ambivalent about Whitman's poetry. He married Amelia Lee Jackson in 1840 and they had three children, including the later Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. For more information, see Julie A. Rechel-White, "Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809–1894)," (Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, eds. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 280). [back]
  • 5. Sears is referring to "Walt Whitman Cheerful," which was published in The New York Times on January 26, 1890. [back]
  • 6. Sears is referring to Francis Mary "Fanny" Keats (1803–1889), later Mrs. Llanos. [back]
  • 7. William J. Linton (1812–1897), a British-born wood engraver, came to the United States in 1866 and settled near New Haven, Connecticut. He illustrated the works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, and others, wrote the "indispensable" History of Wood-Engraving in America (1882), and edited Poetry of America, 1776–1876 (London, 1878), in which appeared eight of Whitman's poems as well as a frontispiece engraving of the poet. According to his Threescore and Ten Years, 1820 to 1890—Recollections (1894), 216–217, Linton met with Whitman in Washington and later visited him in Camden (which Whitman reported in his November 9, 1873, letter to Peter Doyle): "I liked the man much, a fine-natured, good-hearted, big fellow, . . . a true poet who could not write poetry, much of wilfulness accounting for his neglect of form." [back]
  • 8. Sears is paraphrasing a passage from the "Winter" section of James Thompson's "The Seasons" (1730): "The storms of Wintry Time will quickly pass, / And one unbounded Spring encircle all." [back]
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