Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 9 July 1888

Date: July 9, 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.03330

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne
[address,—care Walter Scott,
24 Warwick Lane,
London. E.C.]
9th July 1888.

My dear Walt Whitman,

The good ship 'Crystal' landed me safe at Leith a fortnight & more ago, after a voyage of 14½ days, which I relished greatly. I was the only passenger on board, & so there was nothing to spoil the native sea-sentiment. For reading I had Hugo's1 "Les Miserables" & Chapman's Homer, & I read all the sea-poems in Leaves of Grass with a fresh zest. After so many months in your new world, you can imagine how Edinburgh (Leith is the port of Edinburgh) affected me with its fine antiquity, its Walter-Scott-like2 atmosphere of old Scotch city life, & all the rest of it. From the Castle, which overlooks the whole place, I had an inspiring vision of the past on my first afternoon.

By this time I have fallen into the old routine again more or less. One day passes very much like another, & unluckily the weather has been of the proverbial British kind,—wet, cold & austere, six days out of seven. Within easy reach of this house is a great stretch of grassy land,—called the Town Moor, whence one gets a superb sweep of sky, & there I often go & ramble about, sometimes with a book for company. I shall very probably be here for another fortnight, & then go to London for a week or two before going on to Wales where I may spend the autumn.

I was troubled to hear on reaching this side that you had been more than usually unwell, but Walter Scott's3 people tell me that they have had better news, which relieves my mind again.

The Democratic Vistas vol.4 is getting many first rate reviews. I will send some of these on presently. Meanwhile how goes the new book? Let me know if I can be of use in circulating it over here. Remember me to Traubel.5 Also to Mrs. Davis6 & other friends

With much love,—
Ernest Rhys

10th. July:—Since finishing this so far, I have had a note from Gilchrist.7 He speaks of paying another visit to America in the autumn,—"to paint portraits. At present he is painting Mrs. Costelloe8


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist best known for Les Miserables(1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris(1833). For more on Hugo, see Victor Brombert, Victor Hugo and the Visionary Novel (Cambrdige, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1984). [back]

2. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish statesman, historical novelist, playwright, and poet, best known for Ivanhoe (1820), The Lady of the Lake (1810), and Waverly (1814). For more on Scott, see Vickie L. Taft, "Scott, Sir Walter (1771)–1832)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).  [back]

3. Walter Scott was a railway contractor and a publisher in London. His publishing firm, Walter Scott, was based in London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and it was the imprint under which Whitman's books appeared in England. Walter Scott's managing editor was bookbinder David Gordon, and Ernest Rhys—one of Whitman's major promoters in England—worked with the firm. Rhys 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. Walter Scott also published Whitman's 1886 English edition of Leaves of Grass and the English editions of Specimen Days in America (1887) and Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers (1888). [back]

4. Rhys is referring to the UK edition of Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers, which was published in London by Walter Scott in 1888. [back]

5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. 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]

7. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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