Dear Lucy Larcom,Madison, Wis.
July 27 -- 83
Your pleasant letter is at hand.
Quite a discussion arose recently among my
friends -- some claiming your name was a non de
plume --. I am pleased to know it is not -- tho'
such a musical alliteration suggests the idea natu-
Unlike yourself I have made literature my sole
means of earning a livelihood, ever since I was six-
teen years old.
My poems and stories have broot [sic] me all my
advantages, and pleasures, and necessities, besides
permitting me to be of some assistance to others.
I have parents -- but they were not situated to
give me more than a district school edcuation and
my daily bread. I began to write at fourteen -- for the
press -- received compensation very soon, and year
by year my life has broadened thro' my blessed
work, until it has broot me the experiences of some
travel -- of society -- of books -- and of financial
success. This summer I have been enabled to build
an addition on my home where my dear parents live
-- and I am now writing in my new library. My
winters I usually pass in Chicago, Milwaukee, and
St. Louis -- where I can enjoy the social pleasures
which my nature craves a portion of the year.
I have written too much, I know but I had to do
it. I am now approaching a position I trust of finan-
cial security -- which will allow me to write less and
I thank you for your advice, dear Lucy Larcom,
but really it is quite useless to advise me.
I follow my own convictions of right -- I must
live my own life to the end, not another's. I would
not write a line I believed to be wrong. I would not
misuse my talents knowingly. But many men of
many minds comprise the world.
I believe it is the impulse which leaves its mark in
the world, in all we do.
I feel myself fully en rapport with the High Pow-
ers. I ask, and receive guidance in the least acts of
my life. I am confident my career from first to last
so far has been an upward one. I am confident it
will so continue. The realistic poems I have written
have been few. I believe them as proper as I believe
nude statuary. Many good people condemn that, you
Whenever I have an inspiration to write such a
poem, I shall doubtless follow it. Very likely I will
outgrow this style of writing, however. I am now in
the high tide of life -- and health. Very likely later I
shall write in an entirely different vein. I have not
selected this as a 'style' and studiously followed it
as many suppose.
I presume no person has ever before received quite
so much advice as I have; and several times before I
was thoroughly acquainted with my self -- I tried
to follow other people's ideas of propriety. And im-
mediately Ella Wheeler became a mere imitation of
another -- no longer herself, and at last I learned, to
receive to (?) be grateful for the motive which
prompted the advice -- but to go on and follow my
own higher impulses, regardless of everybody, so
long as I believed I was doing right.
Since I took that stand, happiness and success
have come to me in a marked degree.
To one who believes dancing a sin -- the act is
wicked. If she dances, she violates a principle. But
I love to dance -- and believe it right.
It would have been wrong for you to write 'Poems
of Passion' because you would have felt that you
did wrong. My impulse was entirely free from
wrong -- it never occurred to me that they would be
misconstrued, and I violated no principle in writing
them. Nor would I omit one from the collection
Pardon my wilfulness, dear Lucy Larcom -- and
like me as well as you can in spite of it--. That is
the way all my friends have to do -- and really I
know of no one who has more true loving friends
than I, today, thank God for. Sincerely your