Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman, the Poet

Creator: Anonymous

Date: September 13, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: med.00528

Source: St Louis Globe-Democrat 13 September 1879. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. 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 and Shea Montgomerey

image 1

Walt Whitman, the Poet

Among those who accompany John W. Forney to the Kansas celebration is Walt. Whitman, the poet, an oddity in appearance as in his writings. Although as young as his travelling companion, Mr. Forney, he is much more venerable and patriarchal in appearance. His quaint garb and primitive collar served to attract attention to the old gentleman.

"From Camden, are you not, Mr. Whitman?"

"Yes, but rather from New York, for there I was born and live."

"On your way to the Kansas celebration, are you not?"

"Yes, Col. Forney asked me to accompany him, and I embraced the opportunity of briefly visiting my brother [Water Commissioner Thos. J. Whitman] and his family here. Go to Kansas on conditions, however," and Mr. Whitman smiled quaintly.

"And those conditions were?"

"I agreed to go, provided I was not asked to speak nor eat any public dinners. I am only to show myself. I call myself a half paralytic, and yet I am not so feeble after all, nor so old as I look, for that matter. I was born in 1819. After the Kansas celebration, if I feel as well as now, I shall go out to Denver before I return here to pay my brother a more extended visit."

"What do you expect to do in Kansas?"

"As I told you, I shall not make speeches or eat public dinners, but the people will have an opportunity to see this big, saucy red rooster, whom they might otherwise think would speak."

"Your literary labors, do they still engross your attention?"

"Oh, yes; I still write, and this winter shall read my own poems in public and also lecture. Meantime I am writing gossipy letters to the New York Tribune and Philadelphia papers. I have written four letters lately to the Tribune. I greatly enjoy it."

"Better than twenty years ago, when you were in Boston getting some book printed?"

"Oh (smiling), that was my 'Leaves of Grass.' Yes, I like my present life better—rambling about a little. I like to meet people, and especially the young men of the press. I think American boys are very companionable, the friendliest in the world. As I have noted in my poem, I think American youths, more than any other, are possessed of that high quality and gift, comradeship. But especially do I like to meet writers and young men of the craft. I am a printer, and can yet stick type with the average compositor."

"Have you been West much?"

"Your question reminds me that I am called a Western man. Although born in New York, I am in sympathy and preference Western—better fitted for the Mississippi Valley."

Although he is known to be for Grant in 1880, before Mr. Whitman could be further interrogated on political matters, he was called off by his nieces and other young ladies, who took possession of him for a carriage drive. He yielded, with a promise of a further interview upon his return here from Colorado.


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