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There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.
In the New York days all the literary men knew and liked him. A deeply felt attachment grew up with Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. Stedman, John Swinton, and Charles Eldridge were close friends. Bryant would accompany him on long walks. At Washington he was a familiar figure. Lincoln was at once impressed by his presence, and thought that here, at length, was a genuine man. Garfield always welcomed him with a salute and the quotation, “ After all not to create only.” He formed lifelong friendships with William D. O'Connor and John Burroughs, who became his stanchest defenders. Long, lonely days followed upon his paralysis in 1873, when at Camden, sick and in isolation, unrecognized and almost neglected, he suffered three dark years. After several months of residence in Camden, he wrote pathetically to Doyle: “I don't know a soul here,— am entirely alone sometimes sit alone and think, for two hours on a stretch
- have not formed a single acquaintance here, any ways intimate.” He records the visit of Mr. Ingram from Philadelphia: « He came over and hunted for hours through the hot sun, found me at last — he evidently thought I was keeled up and hard up, and he came to offer help — he has been a great traveller, is English by birth — I found him good company, and was glad to see him he has been twice so you see there are good souls left.”
But in 1876 recognition came from England. “ Those blessed gales from the British Island probably (certainly) saved me,” the poet confessed. A letter had been sent to the English press, written by Robert Buchanan, stating the poet's needs; and a hearty response followed from hundreds of English authors who promptly purchased his books and sent emotional cheer. To John Addington Symonds, from his youth up, Whitman had been the medium of a regenerated life; and Symonds' letters to his “master " offer the tribute of a disciple's affection. An acquaintance with Tennyson began in 1870, and a correspondence was kept up between them till Whitman's death. One of the last letters written by Tennyson was a note of thanks to a correspondent in America who had sent him notice of Whitman's death. Concerning this relationship Whitman wrote in 1876, “ I am not at all sure that Alfred Tennyson sees my poems; ... but I think he sees me, and nothing could have evidenced more courtesy and manliness and hospitality than his letters to me have shown for five years. Edward Carpenter
came over in 1877 for the express purpose of meeting his great friend. A most beautiful and intimate comradeship sprang up with Anne Gilchrist, who had written in 1870 « A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman,” the most courageous and appreciative essay that had been written of Whitman up to that time. During a visit to America in 1876 she came to know Whitman personally, and he fully realized the ideal she had formed from the poems. She wrote to a friend, “ He brings such an atmosphere of cordiality and geniality with him as is indescribable”; and warmer tributes follow. Whitman said on his part, “ Among the perfect women I have known (and it has been my remarkably good fortune to have had the very best for mother, sister, and friends), I have known none more perfect in every relation than my dear, dear friend, Anne Gilchrist. And at her death he wrote, “ Nothing now remains but a sweet and rich memory,more beautiful all time, all life, all the earth.” After 1876 the Calamus battle was pretty well gained. No man ever had more or warmer friends. Bucke, Harned, Traubel, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston, Kennedy, Ingersoll, O'Reilly, Donaldson, and many others were his lovers and comrades. Joaquin Miller, Joel Chandler Harris, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Hamlin Garland, and all the Western men came to recognize the Camden Sage as their fellow and leader. The press became more lenient. The Critic, under the direction of Richard Watson Gilder, gave the poet fair treatment and honor. From all parts of Europe came tokens of love. At the time of Whitman's death, in 1892, his yearning for comrades was fully gratified. He was one of the Great Companions.
From these relationships this poet, beyond a doubt, derived his greatest strength and wisdom.
As he himself was a new type of man,- a man who was wholly love, who could not harbor hate or jealousy,– so his book is a new type of book,- a book that not only has love as its ground and plan, but that also requires the comprehension of love from the reader.
Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I,