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Walt Whitman to Sylvester Baxter, 8 December 1886

Dear friend

Your kind letter of Dec. 6, rec'd—& much welcomed1

I thank you deeply & Mr Lovering also2—but do not consent to being an applicant for a pension, as spoken of—I do not deserve it—Send word to Mr Lovering, or show him this—I thank him deeply—

I am living here in my shanty, in good spirits, but sadly disabled physically—(have a hard job to get from one room to the next)—Am occupied in getting ready the copy of a little book—my last—to be called "November Boughs"—the pieces in prose and verse I have thrown out the last four years—

Best love to you & to all my Boston friends—

Walt Whitman

Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Baxter had outlined the pension plan in his letter from December 6, at the conclusion of which Whitman wrote: "Answer'd & sent on at once peremptorily declining, & forbidding the pension application W W." William Sloane Kennedy had mentioned the possibility of a pension to Whitman as early as January 7, 1885: "If this humbug government were worth a copper spangle it wd have settled a handsome pension on you, an honorary life salary—as a recognition of your unparalleled services during the war. But it wd probably be odious to you to even have the subject whispered of?" In his letter Baxter also referred to a "Whitman Society" that he was forming with John Boyle O'Reilly, Truman Howe Bartlett, and Mrs. Charles Fairchild, and to his article, written with W. Q. Judge, "Poetical Occultism: Some Rough Studies of the Occult Leanings of the Poets," The Path 1 (December 1886), 270–274, a discussion of Whitman's mysticism. [back]
  • 2. Henry B. Lovering (1841–1911) was a U.S. Representative from Baxter's Massachusetts district and a member of the Congressional committee on pensions for Civil War invalids. [back]
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