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Walt Whitman to Alfred Wise, 21 July 1868

 mid.00002.001_large.jpg Dear Al Wise:

I should have answered your welcome note1 before—but better late than never.

I remember you very well, dear boy—and though you must now be indeed quite different from the little child I used to lift up in my arms & kiss, as I passed along the street. I hope we may yet call each other friends.

In response to your letter I send—not my whole volume of Leaves of Grass—but Drum-Taps,2 a part of it, consisting of pieces created out of the war—several of them written in camp, hospital, or on the field.3


The other little volume has been published by John Burroughs,4 who, being a great friend of mine, views every thing relating to me & my works from an extremely partial point of view.

I send the books by same mail with this—directed same address.

—I send you my love, & I wish you to give my friendliest remembrances to your parents.

Walt Whitman.

Alfred Wise (1850–1924) was born in Brooklyn; he was the son of William Wise (1814–1903) and Amanda Wise (1818–1891). Alfred's father William was a jeweler for more than seventy years; the Wise's firm was the pioneer jewelry house in Brooklyn when it was founded in 1834 ("Alfred F. Wise, Well Known Jeweler Dies," The Brooklyn Daily Times, July 12, 1924, 2). Alfred became a partner in his father's jewelry business in the 1850s, at which time the business was renamed William Wise & Son. William and Alfred Wise are listed in the Brooklyn Directory for 1866–1867 as living at 233 Fulton St., Brooklyn (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 2:837). According to United States census records, Alfred worked first as a dealer in watches and, later, was listed as a retail jeweler and merchant. He was married to Mabel Alden Bunker (1862–1956); the couple did not have any children.


  • 1. This letter has not been located. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's Drum-Taps, a volume that consisted of fifty-three Civil War poems, was published in 1865. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln occurred while Drum-Taps was being printed, and Whitman promptly added the short poem "Hush'd be the Camps To-day," with a note about Lincoln's death to the final signature of the book. Whitman then decided to stop the printing and add a sequel to the book that would more fully take into account Lincoln's death. Copies of the volume were withdrawn so that the sequel could be added. Whitman hastily composed several poems, adding eighteen new poems to those that appeared in Drum-Taps, and all of these poems were published in a second edition Sequel to Drum-Taps (1865–1866). Later, these poems were folded into Leaves of Grass, and by the time the final arrangement of Leaves of Grass was printed in 1881, the "Drum-Taps" cluster that Whitman included in that volume contained forty-three poems. For more information on the printing of Drum-Taps (1865), see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, University of Iowa, 2005). For more on the poems of Drum-Taps and their arrangement in Leaves of Grass, see Huck Gutman, "Drum-Taps," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Whitman arrived in Washington, D.C., in late December 1862 after searching for his brother, George W. Whitman (1829–1901), a Union soldier in the American Civil War, who had been wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg. Walt Whitman would remain in Washington, D.C. for a decade, volunteering in the Civil War Hospitals and, later, performing clerical tasks for several government offices. For more information on Whitman's time in Washington, see Martin G. Murray, "Washington, D.C. (1863–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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