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Walt Whitman to William J. Linton, 22 March [1872]

My dear Linton,1

Your kind letter came duly to hand. I have been delaying to write you about the portrait2 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, which, I am fully aware, would not be your due engagement.

I return to Washington in ten or twelve days. Is there any chance of your coming on there?


  • 1. 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 his picture. 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." [back]
  • 2. Linton's engraving appeared in the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass and in Complete Poems & Prose (1888–1889); it inspired the poem "Out from Behind This Mask." See Harold W. Blodgett, "Whitman and the Linton Portrait," Walt Whitman Newsletter, 4 (September 1958), 90–92. [back]
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