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Eugene Benson to Walt Whitman, 1 January 1877

 loc_jp.00173.jpg To Walt Whitman. Dear and great Poet,

Let me greet you. Happy New Year to you. Your poems have come to me anew1—here in Rome—and have revived and deepened my consciousness of great things, of beautiful things, of everything that lives. In writing to you at this late time (for I knew your poems many years back) I do what I have often wished to do.—Thank you.  loc_jp.00174.jpg Christmas Day brought me a present of all your writings—original editions—and hence this movement of admiration and love towards you.

It is fine to have your words, your brave sweet words, here where old Rome crumbles and new Rome grows; it is fine to have your visions of the States, of men and women in our land, while I am close to the Coliseum, not far from the Pantheon and the Appian Way. I shall write. Your poems are an Appian Way for the triumphal  loc_jp.00175.jpg thoughts of the American, and you celebrate a theatre of action greater than Rome's Coliseum in celebrating our wide land. I shall hope for the chance to say publically what I now write to you. I have been several years in Rome. I have my studies here—for I am a painter. I trust that the time may come when, before this year has gone—I may have the pleasure of seeing you.

Faithfully yours Eugene Benson.

Eugene Benson (1839–1908) was an artist and cultural critic who published several articles in the Galaxy about Whitman in the 1860s. In the 1870s, he moved to Italy, where he studied painting and dedicated himself to finding forgotten Italian artworks; he chronicled his quest in a series of letters in the New York Post and later published the collected letters as Art and Nature in Italy (1882). For more on Whitman's relationship with Benson, see Robert J. Scholnick, "'Culture' or Democracy: Whitman, Eugene Benson, and The Galaxy," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 13.4 (1996), 189–198.


  • 1. Benson had recieved original editions of all of Whitman's writings for Christmas in 1876, prompting this letter. [back]
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