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Eliza Seaman Leggett to Walt Whitman, 18 June 1880

 man_ej.00088_large.jpg My Dear Friend—

I am greatly obliged for your Book and have been exceedingly interested—also I rec'd​ the Paper—

The hospitals during the War, were in my mind and heart so much I could but feel the distress of the homesickness of the poor fellows—when the news came to me, that my Boy was wounded, I said "Oh tell me that he is dead. I can stand  man_ej.00202_large.jpgthat—for it would be my own suffering, but I cant endure to think of Percy2 as wounded in the Hospital and homesick—it was at night the news came to us that he was wounded, perhaps fatally and all the night I lay in such distress—but the next morning—when I was hurrying them off to Pontiac my son in law came to me (I saw that no horse was hot out of the Stable)—and he laid his head on my shoulder and said, "Mother you said you could bear to hear that Percy was dead—but not that he was wounded and living"—"Yes" I said, "I could"—then he said, "he is dead"  man_ej.00201_large.jpgand I felt a sort of thankfulness to know that it was my sorrow not his—

I hope that you recd​ my story of "Leaves of Grass"—I and my family had hoped to have seen you before this—and now—we are unexpectedly call'd away—for some weeks—& we shall still hope to see you—when we can—I will let you know, for I want to welcome you to our home—before you leave Canada3

With thanks I am yours truly Eliza S Leggett—  man_ej.00090_large.jpg  man_ej.00091_large.jpg  man_ej.00092_large.jpg

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 letter is addressed: Mr Walt Whitman | London Ontario | Canada—. It is postmarked: DETROIT | JUN 18 | 4 PM | 80 | MICH. LONDON-ONT[] | AM | JU 21 | []. [back]
  • 2. Percy Ives, grandson of Elisa Leggett, was an aspiring artist who made several pencil sketches of Whitman on December 21, 1881. They resulted in the oil painting now in the Feinberg Collection (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). On August 11, 1885, Whitman wrote to Percy in answer to a letter now lost. See Charles E. Feinberg, "Percy Ives, Detroit and Walt Whitman," Detroit Historical Society Bulletin 16 (February 1960), 5–8. [back]
  • 3. During the summer of 1880, Whitman and his friend Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke traveled throughout Canada after spending a month relaxing at the Asylum for the Insane in London, Ontario, where Bucke was the superintendent. They visited Toronto, Lake of the Thousand Islands, and the St. Lawrence River, among other places. On the return journey, Bucke traveled with Whitman as far as Niagara, at which point the poet returned to New Jersey on his own. [back]
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