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Walt Whitman to Abraham Paul Leech, 4 May 184[1?]

 loc_gk.01457_large.jpg Old Friend1

I received your welcome epistle some weeks since,2 and was pleased to find you had not forgotten me.—

I am still in this whereabouts, and here I shall probably remain for some time to come.—You may imagine how fortunate this decision of mine is for the people here. Of course as long as these diggins are irradiated by the presence of your humble servant, a double amount of splendor in things spiritual, moral, and intellectual, is bestowed upon the residents thereof.—

I see by the papers that Overacre3 has opened a "Children's Retreat," for the practice of "Home Education."—If he succeeds probably the "coruscations of the lambent flame" will set your South Bay in flames.4 Sincerely, however, I think there is much more in that man's system and in his brain too, than is appreciated by the people of your mamon​ -and-aristocracy-worshipping village.—Tell him so for me.—

God bless you W Whitman  loc_gk.01458_large.jpg A P Leech | May 4 184[illegible]

Abraham Paul Leech (1815–1886) was the son of Obadiah Paul Leech (1792–1881), an auctioneer, and his wife, Susan Holland Leech. One of three children, Leech would go on to become a bookkeeper and friend of Walt Whitman. Leech also served as secretary pro tem of The Jamaica Lyceum in the 1840s in Jamaica, New York. He and his wife, Phebe Kissam Duryea Leech (1823–1885) had two children: Abraham Duryea Leech (1851–1876) and John Leech (1860–?).


  • 1. A note on the verso of this letter, in Whitman's hand, indicates that the letter was written to "A. P. Leech on May 4, 184[illegible]." [back]
  • 2. This letter has not been located. [back]
  • 3. Jacob Overacre lived in Jamaica, Long Island, New York in 1840, and he started "The Children's Retreat" for Home Education. An advertisement for Overacre's educational program appeared in the April 13, 1841, issue of The New York Tribune, and indicated that Overacre would receive a limited number of boys under twelve years of age into his family, to "effect a thorough training of the faculties; a seasonable and harmonious development of the moral, physical, and intellectual powers." The ad also indicated that Overacre's "mode of discipline [was] strictly parental," and that the Bible would be the primary source of "religious principle and moral duty" ("Home Education," The New York Tribune [April 13, 1841], 3). Given that Overacre's "Children's Retreat" is advertised in mid-April 1841 and Whitman mentions having seen papers that printed news about the school, this letter almost certainly dates to May 4, 1841. Later, Jacob Overacre is listed as a teacher at the Mechanics' Institute School in the 1851 Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York and, according to the state census, still resided in Brooklyn as a schoolteacher in 1865. [back]
  • 4. Whitman may be making a reference to the Bible; see Acts, Chapter 2, verse 3, in which the Holy Spirit's presence is felt at Pentecost, and followers of Jesus see tongues of fire, symbols of the various langauges in which they were to preach the Gospel. [back]
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