Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to William J. Linton, 14 March [1872]

My dear Mr. Linton,

I think of wanting this1 engraved (exactly this size, and general design) for a frontispiece for my next edition of "Leaves of Grass." Do you think it would make a good picture?—Would it suit you to do it for me? If yes what would be the price?2 I shall be here for some two weeks yet—then to return to Washington—

—Send me word by mail, & if convenient appoint an hour, day, & place in New York, where we could meet & talk it over—Bring this picture with you. I will be there as you appoint.

Walt Whitman

William J. Linton (1812–1897), a British-born wood engraver, came to the United States in 1866 and settled near New Haven, Connecticut. He illustrated the works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, and others, wrote the "indispensable" History of Wood-Engraving in America (1882), and edited Poetry of America, 1776–1876 (London, 1878), in which appeared eight of Whitman's poems as well as a frontispiece engraving of the poet. According to his Threescore and Ten Years, 1820 to 1890—Recollections (1894), 216–217, Linton met with Whitman in Washington and later visited him in Camden (which Whitman reported in his November 9, 1873, letter to Peter Doyle): "I liked the man much, a fine-natured, good-hearted, big fellow, . . . a true poet who could not write poetry, much of wilfulness accounting for his neglect of form."


  • 1. Though the copy Whitman enclosed is now lost, this was no doubt a copy of the portrait Whitman later identified as "Photograph'd from life, Washington, 1871, by G. C. Potter, and drawn on wood by W. J. Linton" (Leaves of Grass, 1876, vi). [back]
  • 2. Linton's response is missing, but apparently he asked for a large sum of money to do the engraving, because on March 22, 1872, Whitman replied: "I have been delaying to write you about the portrait in answer—wanting you to do it—& wanting, if I could arrange it, to give you the full price—I will not have the job done by any second-rater, & have concluded to give it up for the present—unless it could be done by you for $50." Linton agreed to the price. [back]
Back to top