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John Swinton to Walt Whitman, 26 May 1890

 loc_zs.00348.jpg My Dear Walt—

I am here from Rome, and I see in the papers here your lines of American salutation to Queen Victoria.2 They are genuine lines of the original Walt, whom I knew years ago.—I congratulate you.—We are staying here with a cousin of mine, who is one of the warmest admirers of yours that can be found any where. Mrs. Swinton3 sends compliments.

Ever yours John Swinton

Care J.S. Morgan & Co,4 22 Old Broad St London, E. C., England


Scottish-born John Swinton (1829–1901), a journalist and friend of Karl Marx, became acquainted with Whitman during the Civil War. Swinton, managing editor of the New York Times, frequented Pfaff's beer cellar, where he probably met Whitman. Whitman's correspondence with Swinton began on February 23, 1863. Swinton's enthusiasm for Whitman was unbounded. On September 25, 1868, Swinton wrote: "I am profoundly impressed with the great humanity, or genius, that expresses itself through you. I read this afternoon in the book. I read its first division which I never before read. I could convey no idea to you of how it affects my soul. It is more to me than all other books and poetry." On June 23, 1874, Swinton wrote what the poet termed "almost like a love letter": "It was perhaps the very day of the publication of the first edition of the 'Leaves of Grass' that I saw a copy of it at a newspaper stand in Fulton street, Brooklyn. I got it, looked into it with wonder, and felt that here was something that touched on depths of my humanity. Since then you have grown before me, grown around me, and grown into me" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, April 10, 1888). He praised Whitman in the New York Herald on April 1, 1876 (reprinted in Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883], 36–37). Swinton was in 1874 a candidate of the Industrial Political Party for the mayoralty of New York. From 1875 to 1883, he was with the New York Sun, and for the next four years edited the weekly labor journal, John Swinton's Paper. When this publication folded, he returned to the Sun. See Robert Waters, Career and Conversation of John Swinton (Chicago: C.H. Kerr, 1902), and Meyer Berger, The History of The New York Times, 1851–1951 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951), 250–251. For more on Swinton, see also Donald Yannella, "Swinton, John (1829–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | United States of America. It is postmarked: Stoke Newington S O. | 7 | My 27 | 90 | N.; Paid | G | All; New York | Jun 4 | [illegible]; Camden N.J. | Jun [illegible] | 6 A M | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. "For Queen Victoria's Birthday" first appeared in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on May 24, 1890. It was reprinted in four London periodicals. [back]
  • 3. In Robert Waters' Career and Conversation of John Swinton (1902), Swinton's wife is described this way: "His wife, whom he used to call his angel, had been everything to him, hands, eyes, feet—she ministered to him in all his work and ways, went with him everywhere, and supported him in all his trials and troubles. . . . Mrs. Swinton is the daughter of the famous phrenologist Fowler, of the well-known firm of Fowler & Wells" (78). [back]
  • 4. "J.S. Morgan & Co,": American banker and financier Junius Spencer Morgan (1813–1890), the father of John Pierpont Morgan, became a partner in George Peabody and Company, merchants, in 1854, when the firm moved to 22 Old Broad Street in London. When Peabody retired in 1864, the merchant banking firm became J. S. Morgan and Company. [back]
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