Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman: Has Reached the Age of 63—Discourses of Hugo, Tennyson and Himself

Creator: Anonymous

Date: June 5, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: med.00521

Source: The World 5 June 1885. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a clipping in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the interviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nic Swiercek, and Shea Montgomerey

image 1



Has Reached the Age of 63—Discourses of Hugo, Tennyson and Himself.

Walt Whitman was 63 years old on Sunday. The picturesque old poet, good and gray, had no formal celebration of the anniversary beyond the congratulations of his friends, personal and literary, because, as he himself expresses it, he is something of a Quaker and does not celebrate. He says he is in that same state of health as he has been in for the past seven years. He is partially paralyzed and very weak, though his face retains its old-time ruddiness. Nevertheless he declares his condition in such as to leave him always in a happy, contented mood and enjoying himself thoroughly.

To a reporter who called on him, at home in Camden, he said:

"A moment ago I was thinking of Victor Hugo. I, like all who are worthy of being called poets, look up to him as the small, stunted trees look upon the grand, gigantic oaks in the center of the forest. His love of comradeship, freedom and human brotherhood made him a poet per se. He seems to me to take the lead in our times. In fact, I believe all poets, however conservative they may be, tend to the same democratic humanitarianism as our great Americans, Emerson, Bryant, Whittier and the others. Tennyson and all the others possess the qualities I have named in common. A poet need not be personally a democrat for his works to have that tendency.

"I have a great admiration for Tennyson. His works are noble. I do not include his poem on the Fleet. He must have been nodding. You know even great Homer nods. Shakespeare, supposed to be the poet of kings and feudalism, is as much the poet of democracy.

"I would like to go on record as having a feeling of the utmost friendliness to all my fellow poets. It has been said in the magazines—Stedman did it for one—that I derided all others. That is not true.

As to my works, I am in a peculiar position. In the strict sense of the word I am still without a publisher. My works 'Leaves of Grass,' and my prose work, 'Specimen Days,' are printed and on sale, but still I am without a publisher. As I grow older I become the more confirmed in my adherence to my original theories. During the past eighteen months I have issued a dozen pieces showing this. The last piece was that on Gen. Grant, in which are embodied all my original theories. You will pardon the egotism of what an old man says, but I have reason to know that my popularity is increasing among the younger generation."

For more than a week the window of Walt Whitman's humble chamber in Mickle street, Camden, has displayed a portrait of Victor Hugo, draped in crape, pleasingly indicating the kind fellow-feeling the great poets have for one another.


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.