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Walt Whitman to Edwin Booth, 21 August 1884

My dear Sir

First begging your pardon & hoping "I dont intrude" (yet knowing I do)—I am writing for the magazine market—or rather have written—a reminiscence of the actors & plays & "the old Bowery" of my youthful days—the chief figure in it being your father—by far the greatest histrion I have ever seen in my life (& I have always been a theatre goer)—

What I write to you now for, I want a good characteristic portrait of your father either in citizen's costume, or, (if very good) in one of his dramatic characters, to wood-engrave an illustration from—say to make a picture to fill ab't​ the size of one of the Harper's Magazine pages. Can you help me to it?1

I am disabled coop'd​ up here, & can't get about to get things for myself—or I wouldn't trouble you—

Won't you allow me to send you an autograph copy of my "Leaves of Grass" as a nibble at recompense?

Walt Whitman

Edwin Thomas Booth (1833–1893) was an American actor, famous for performing Shakespeare in the U.S. and Europe, the son of actor Junius Brutus Booth (1796–1852), and the brother of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth (1838–1865), also an actor. He was the owner of Booth's Theatre in New York.


  • 1. Booth wrote to Whitman on August 24 and August 28 and sent a copy of Asia Booth Clarke's The Elder and the Younger Booth (1882), "containing," in Booth's words, "poor copies of the good portraits that are in some secure, forgotten place among my 'traps.'" Whitman's article, entitled "Booth and 'The Bowery,'" appeared in the New York Tribune on August 16, 1885 (see the letter from Whitman to James Redpath of August 12, 1885). [back]
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