Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to William J. Linton (?), 9 June [1875?]

Dear friend2,

Yours of 5th has reach'd me. Though mainly the same as for a tedious long while, I have fluctuated (& am fluctuating) through a series of bad spells—brain & other organs—these current times. My general strength, however, from fair to middling. Dont feel to leave my anchorage here, just now—but hope yet to take advantage of your affectionate & hospitable offers.

Walt Whitman

The engraving holds its own—satisfies me more & more—Joaquin Miller3 has visited me here—very pleasant—


  • 1. The account of Whitman's ailments makes 1875 a plausible date. On May 27, 1875, Joaquin Miller promised a visit shortly. As for the recipient, the reference to the engraving indicates Linton. Furthermore, according to Linton's letter of May 19, 1875, he was to be in New York on June 5, 1875, at which time he probably renewed the invitation to visit New Haven that he had made in his earlier letter. [back]
  • 2. William James Linton (1812–1897), a British-born wood engraver, came to the U. S. in 1867 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), which included eight of Whitman's poems and the poet's picture. Linton's engraving of Whitman appeared in the 1876 version of Leaves of Grass, in Complete Poems & Prose (1888–1889), and in The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), 10 vols., 2:156; it also inspired the poem "Out from Behind This Mask." See Harold Blodgett, "Whitman and the Linton Portrait," Walt Whitman Newsletter, 4 (1958), 90–92. According to his Threescore and Ten Years, 1820 to 1890—Recollections (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 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. Linton wrote of Whitman: "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." Linton's obituary in the New York Times of January 8, 1898, called Linton "the greatest wood engraver of his time, an artist in other senses, and a poet of no mean ability." [back]
  • 3. Nothing further is known about this meeting with Miller. On August 19, 1875, Whitman spent an evening with Miller in Philadelphia (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
Back to top