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Eliza Seaman Leggett to Walt Whitman, [8 June 1880]

I have listen'd1 to his preaching so often when a child,2 and sat with my mother at social gatherings where he was the centre, and every one so pleas'd and stirr'd by his conversation. I hear that you contemplate writing or speaking about him, and I wonder'd whether you had a picture of him. As I am the owner of two, I send you one.

Eliza Seaman Leggett (1815–1900) was a suffragist and abolitionist who later founded the Detroit Women's Club. She married Augustus Wright Leggett (1836–1855), and the couple's home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Leggett, who was also the grandmother of the artist Percy Ives, corresponded sporadically with Whitman from 1880 until his death. A number of her letters to him are reprinted in Thomas Donaldson's Walt Whitman: The Man (New York: Francis P. Harper, 1896), 239–48. For more information on Leggett, see Joann P. Krieg, "Walt Whitman's Long Island Friend: Eliza Seaman Leggett," Long Island Historical Journal 9 (Spring 1997), 223–33.


  • 1. This abbreviation of "ed," adopted by Whitman throughout Specimen Days, probably did not appear in Leggett's original letter. [back]
  • 2. Leggett is referring to Elias Hicks (1748–1830), a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings. This letter excerpt begins Whitman's "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks" in Specimen Days, where Whitman writes that accompanying Leggett's letter was "a rare old engraved head of Elias Hicks, (from a portrait in oil by Henry Inman, painted for J. V. S., must have been 60 years or more ago, in New York)." For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]
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