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Folger McKinsey to Walt Whitman, 10 June 1884

 loc.00226.002_large.jpg Mr. Whitman, Dear Sir:—

I called on you this evening but did not get to see you and take the liberty to trouble you with the reading of this little note. I have read "As a strong bird on pinions free" and can hardly express my admiration for your poetry. To me it is grand and beautiful and I am anxious to see you and talk with you about it. If you can spare the time, and as you told me you would only be at home Monday and Tuesday in the evening, will you write a few lines telling me when it will suit you to have me come over again. I am so much afraid of intruding upon you that a little note of assurance will I think make me feel freer to come. I left the volume of Burns' letters for you, the book you loaned me, and the one you gave me. The latter I thought I could treasure more closely if you would be kind enough to put your autograph in it and I hope you will not think it immodest in my asking you to do so. I have been more deeply impressed with your poems than you will believe; I think the dirge on Lincoln is as fine and beautiful a thing in that way that I have ever read. I must read all your writings over and over again. I pray you forgive me for having detained you so long with this boyish note and believe me—

Sincerely Yours Folger McKinsey. #1716 Nine St. Phila.1  loc.00226.001_large.jpg

Folger McKinsey (1866–1950) was a railroad clerk in Philadelphia who began to call on Whitman in 1884, as indicated by this letter and the reference to his occasional visits in Whitman's Commonplace Book on June 17 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). In 1885 McKinsey became the editor of the Elkton (Maryland) Cecil Democrat, in which he printed an interview with the poet on December 12. In 1886, he invited Whitman to deliver his "Death of Abraham Lincoln" lecture at a banquet of the "Pythian Club," for which Whitman received $30 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). On March 12, the Cecil Democrat termed Whitman's Lincoln lecture "a failure." See Rollo G. Silver, N & Q, 170 (1936), 190–191, and Ernest J. Moyne, "Walt Whitman and Folger McKinsey," Delaware Notes, 29 (1956), 103–117. Later McKinsey became the editor of the Baltimore Sun.


  • 1. Whitman crossed out this letter and wrote a draft of "Of that blithe throat of thine" on the back. [back]
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