Skip to main content

Henry M. Alden to Walt Whitman, 28 August 1889

 loc_js.00002.jpg My dear Whitman,

I send enclosed a proof of an engraving by Closson1 from Innes's beautiful painting—"The Shadow of Death."2 I send it on the chance that it may meet some spontaneous current of poetic movement in you. If it does will you let the movement have its course & let us have  loc_js.00003.jpg the result in the shape of a poem which we may print in our magazine?3 We intend using the illustration as a frontispiece. If you find no motif in the picture, please return the proof to us.

Yours Sincerely H.M. Alden Edr Harper's Maga

Henry Mills Alden (1836–1919) was managing editor of Harper's Weekly from 1863 to 1869 and editor of Harper's Monthly Magazine from 1869 until his death.


  • 1. William Closson (1848–1926) was an American artist from Vermont. He later moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was apprenticed to a wood engraver and studied drawing at the Lowell Institute before going on to work for Harper's Magazine and other Boston publishing houses. [back]
  • 2. George Inness (1825–1894) was an influential American landscape painter. "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" was one of three paintings that were collectively titled "The Triumph of the Cross," and it is the only one of the three that survives intact. [back]
  • 3. Whitman responded to Alden's invitation on August 29, 1889. He sent "Death's Valley," and was paid $25 on September 1, 1889 (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). The poem accompanied an engraving of George Inness' "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" (1867); see LeRoy Ireland, The Works of George Inness (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 98–99. When the poem appeared in April 1892, the frontispiece of the magazine was a photograph of J. W. Alexander's portrait of Whitman, and above the poem appeared a more recent sketch of the poet by the same artist. A partial facsimile of this manuscript appears in Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 30, 1889. See also "Death's Valley" (loc.00189) in the Integrated Catalog of Walt Whitman's Literary manuscripts. [back]
Back to top