Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ernest Rhys, 17 January 1888

Date: January 17, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 6:47. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00689

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
PM Jan. 17 '881

Yours of 16th rec'd.2 Also Kennedy's3 card the day before—thanks for both. Nothing notable with me—still sort o' moping.—I am sitting here in the little front room—it is snowing roundly outside & wind east—Just got a letter from Morse4—he seems to be all right5—he is in Richmond Indiana yet—

I am not doing any thing particular—idly eking out the time—I send some letters that have come & the "Preface" proof—but not papers or books—cold, cold here—


Walt Whitman


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. This letter is addressed: Ernest Rhys | care W S Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Jan [18] | 6 AM | 88; Philadelphia, Pa. | Jan | 17 | 12 M | 1888 | Transit. [back]

2. Rhys arrived in the United States early in December 1887 and apparently spent most of the month in or near Camden. He was with Whitman at a Christmas dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Harned. Whitman noted: "Ernest Rhys here daily—his talks &c. ab't English matters & people" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [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 [1896], 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. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]

5. On December 22, 1887, Morse, "who has been here the last seven or eight months, started this evn'g by western RR. for Richmond Indiana" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). At this time Thomas Eakins was doing his famous portrait of the poet. [back]


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