Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas W. H. Rolleston, [22 December 1881]

Date: December 22, 1881

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:260–261. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00530

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Kirsten Clawson, and Nicole Gray

Yours of Nov: 28 rec'd.1 My satisfaction with your proposed German trans[lation] increases the more you unfold it, and I think of it.2 What you say against the two texts is sound, & I am content (retracting former suggestion) that it should be in the usual form, in German only. Want it by all means to be Complete. In the whole matter I freely trust to your intuitions and 'cuteness as to meanings, my dear friend—you have so long been a reader and lover of the book—& I fully empower you to go on & go your own way. I like of course what you say of getting the carefullest, technical, grammatical (and ? idiomatic) German assistance and collaboration as you go along.

I have received a good letter from Mr Lee3 about the Russian translation, & have written him in answer.

I keep well for me, & shall remain here for the winter.

I suppose you recd a note from me weeks since acknowledging the Encheiredion.4 My letter to Mr Lee was also as a preface to the Russian translation. Should that be fulfilled I will prepare & send you something of the same sort for the German Volume—I think so much of the internationality element (sentiment) which I have intended as one of the leading fibres of my book—



1. This draft letter is endorsed (by Whitman): "letter sent T W H Rolleston | Dresden, Dec 22 '81." For Rolleston's letter of November 28, see Horst Frenz, ed., Whitman and Rolleston—A Correspondence (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951), 43–47. [back]

2. On September 17 Rolleston had proposed a German translation of Leaves of Grass "as soon as I could find a proper German collaborateur" (Frenz, 41). In his lost letter written on November 9, Whitman approved the translation and proposed a double text. On November 28 Rolleston confessed that the "collaborateur" was too "pedantic," and that he had reservations as to a double text (Frenz, 44–46). On January 7, in reply to this letter, Rolleston stated his "principle of rigid literality" (Frenz, 54). The Rolleston translation was completed years later with the assistance of Karl Knortz. [back]

3. See the letter from Whitman to John Fitzgerald Lee of December 20, 1881[back]

4. See the letter from Whitman to Rolleston of December 2, 1881[back]


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