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Annie Nathan Meyer to Walt Whitman, 12 January 1891

 loc_tb.00067.jpg Walt Whitman Esq.; Dear Sir:

An entertainment, to be known as "St. Valentine's Night," will be given in this city on February 14. 1891, for the benefit of the Aguilar Free Library, a brief account of which is inclosed herewith. I am getting up an Author's Valentine, which will be sold for the benefit of the Library, to consist of literary excerpts in the handwriting of the authors and subscribed by them. In the hope that the Library's good work in disseminating the best literature among the poor of this city, will appeal to your sympathies, I beg to ask for a literary contribution from yourself, for such would greatly increase the value of the "Valentine."

Among those who have contributed thus far are Messrs. George William Curtis,1 Richard Watson Gilder,2 "Mark Twain,"3 Brander Matthews,4 E.C. Stedman,5 H.H. Boyesen,6 Edward Bellamy,7 Mrs. Helen Campbell,8 and Mrs. Helen Gray Cone.9

Kindly return paper with pasteboard.

Yours respectfully (Mrs.) Annie Nathan Meyer. for Com. for H.N.

Annie Nathan Meyer (1867–1950) was born in New York City; she was descended from one of the oldest and most prominent families of Sephardic Jews in the United States. A lover of writing and music, she published music criticism and was a proponent of higher education for women. She founded Barnard College in New York and served on the board of trustees for the institution. Just days before her death, she finished writing her autobiography, a work entitled It's been Fun: An Autobiography (1951).


  • 1. George William Curtis (1824–1892), author and editor of Harper's Magazine, was a New England writer and orator who had been a neighbor of Ralph Waldo Emerson for some time in the 1840s. [back]
  • 2. Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the assistant editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 to 1881 and editor of its successor, The Century, from 1881 until his death. Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482). Whitman attended a reception and tea given by Gilder after William Cullen Bryant's funeral on June 14; see "A Poet's Recreation" in the New York Tribune, July 4, 1878. Whitman considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888). For more about Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Richard Watson (1844–1909)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910), better know by his pen name, Mark Twain, was an American humorist, novelist, lecturer, and publisher. Twain is best known for authoring such novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894). Twain attended Whitman's New York lecture on the death of Lincoln in April 1887. He also contributed to Thomas Donaldson's fund for the purchase of a horse and buggy for Whitman (see Whitman's September 22, 1885, letter to Herbert Gilcrist), as well as to the fund to build Whitman a private cottage (see Whitman's October 7, 1887, letter to Sylvester Baxter). Twain was reported in the Boston Herald of May 24, 1887 to have said: "What we want to do is to make the splendid old soul comfortable" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs: Comrades [New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 268). [back]
  • 4. Brander Matthews (1852–1929) was a prolific American writer and critic who wrote novels, plays, short stories, biographies, an autobiography, and literary criticism. He was a professor of literature at Columbia University from 1892 to 1924 and a friend of many well-known writers, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells. [back]
  • 5. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848–1895) was a Norwegian author who immigrated to the United States in 1869. Boyesen's article, entitled "Björnstjerne Björnson as a Dramatist," was published in the January 1873 edition of the North American Review, no. 238, 109–138. [back]
  • 7. Edward Bellamy (1850–1898) was an American author, best known for his utopian science fiction novel, Looking Backward, 2000–1887. For more on Bellamy, see Arthur E. Morgan, Edward Bellamy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944). [back]
  • 8. Helen Campbell Stuart (1839–1918) was an author, economist, and industrial and social reformer. Under the pen name Helen Weeks, she published works for children; later, under the name Helen Campbell, she published both fiction and nonfiction about wage disparities and social inequities, especially for women in poverty. [back]
  • 9. Helen Gray Cone (1859–1934) was a writer and a professor of English at Hunter College. She satirized the 1882 meeting of Whitman and Oscar Wilde in "Narcissus in Camden," The Century Magazine, 25 (November 1882), 157–159. [back]
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