Title: Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 4 January 1888
Date: January 4, 1888
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.03319
Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Nicole Gray, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
P.O. Box 22, Orange,
4th January 1888
Dear Walt Whitman,
Back here again last night—after a fine time of it at Mrs. Nordhoff's,1 where everyone was so kind & the fun so continued all day long, that I did not find time to write you even a line.
There were some jolly young fellows there, & some splendid girls, but among the last I think Alys Smith2 may be said to have "taken the cake." Dressed as Portia, when a Shakespeare masquerade (in which everyone took some part from the plays) was being enacted, it would have delighted your eyes to see her dance,—"A wild Bacchante passionate of foot!"—The house itself stands on the Palisades of the Hudson, about 500 feet or so above the river on a steep cliff, commanding a superb view right over to the sea & far away up & down the Hudson. The place [would?] have thoroughly suited you for a camping spot.
Passing through New York yesterday, in a bright, splendid sunlight, the rush of life in Broadway made me wish you could have been with me there.
After the stupid, half-&-half pretence of Philadelphia, the reckless, go-ahead life in New York is very refreshing. Tell this not to the Philadelphians!
No letters arrived at Alpine Bergen for me,—so I suppose none have reached you! If there are any waiting now, will you mail them on here. I expect to go to Boston on Friday or Saturday—after which my address will be to the care of Kennedy3 at Belmont.
I hope you are feeling well these bright days. I am trying to persuade myself that from this New Year forward everything is to be first-rate with me & with all my friends—in the higher, eternal sense, if not always & altogether in the other!
With much love,
Best rememberances to Mrs. Davies!4
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
1. Lida Nordhoff was the wife of author and New York Evening Post and Herald newspaper correspondent and editor Charles Nordhoff (1830–1901); they were among the first of the wealthy families to build vacation estates on the New Jersey Palisades in the late 1800s. [back]
2. Alys Smith was a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith and eventually married the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]
3. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman , 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
4. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]