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Charles Woodbury to Walt Whitman, 27 June 1891

 loc_vm.01550_large.jpg Walt Whitman, Camden, N.J.

I write to inform you that I have expunged from the forthcoming Edition of my "Talks with Emerson" a pargraph referring to yourself, which I have learned was offensive to you.2 It should not have been printed. Time was, perhaps, when the publication of an eccentricity could not have injured you. Perhaps, indeed the effect would have been to the contrary. Such was my feeling I remember in regard to the effect of the incident when I mentioned it. I have learned with regret that it has caused you pain.

Your utterance was a noble help to me in days when I sorely needed it, and I would not bring one shadow across your brow.

Yours with high respect, Charles J Woodbury

I am only here temporarily; my permanent address is,—

#123, California St., San Francisco, California.


 loc_vm.01551_large.jpg  loc_vm.01548_large.jpg See notes July 6 1891 also see note July 11 1891  loc_vm.01549_large.jpg

Charles Johnson Woodbury (1844–1927) was a senior at Williams College in 1865 when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the campus. Woodbury, who later worked as an editor and oil company executive, published his memories of conversations with Emerson in Talks with Emerson (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1890). Whitman objected to the book's characterization of his relationship with Emerson; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August 11, 1890, and Tuesday, August 12, 1890; Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999), 471.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Seattle | Jun | 29 | 8 PM | 1891 | Wash.; Camden, N.J. | Jul | 6 | 6 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. Woodbury has written his return address on the left side of the front of the envelope as follows: "from Charles J Woodbury 123 Cal. St. San Francisco Cal." A series of mathematical sums have been written on the verso of the envelope. [back]
  • 2. Woodbury, who met Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1865, spread the story that Emerson told him that he once met Whitman for dinner at the Astor House in New York, and that the poet showed up without a coat, as if to "dine in his shirtsleeves." Whitman denied the rumor. For one of Whitman's responses to the shirtsleeves story, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August, 11, 1890. [back]
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