Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt, 4 March 1874

Date: March 4, 1874

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:282–283. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Royal Library of Copenhagen

Whitman Archive ID: rlc.00009

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

431 Stevens st.
cor West.
Camden, New Jersey,
March 4, 1874.

Dear Rudolf Schmidt1,

The Danish edition Demokratiske Fremblik, of my Democratic Vistas2, has reached me to–day, (one copy, complete, paper–bound, and two instalments of loose sheets)—makes a handsome little book, very neatly & appropriately printed & bound—It is a great, deep, joy to me to be thus in communion with thoughtful & democratic men & women in the Scandinavian countries—I think much, much of it—& of you as the medium of it.

I suppose you rec'd my letter from here of Jan. 25—about my illness, paralysis—(& the papers I sent giving some details of it.) I am still unwell—Cannot work any— To–day I send you Harper's Magazine3 for February, with a piece4 I have written to idealize our great Pacific half of America5, (the future better half)—also a N. Y. Tribune, with a poem, (my latest,) Prayer of Columbus.6 So you will see I cannot desist from writing, sick or well.

Clemens Petersen I see his pieces occasionally in the magazines—I have sent you one or two, formerly—I only met him that time, over two years ago, I mentioned7—have not seen any thing of his lately in print. You speak of a jaunt or tour in Germany—O how I should like to be with you & go around with you, in some of those quaint old cities & spots—the motherhood, (or rather grandmotherhood) of so much in this New World. Don't fail, my dear friend, to write me at least as soon as you return. Mention whether you have rec'd the paper, (N. Y. Graphic) with acc't of my illness8—also February Harper's, and the Tribune, by this mail—I like to hear specifically whether the papers and letters I send, reach you all right—address me here, Camden, N. Jersey, until further notice. (On papers, printed matter, &c. don't write any thing on wrappers, but only address, as our post office law strictly prohibits it.)

As I am laid up here, very lonesome, your letters will be doubly welcome. I am saving up for you some pieces on American humor, which I will send, when ready. About Demokratiske Fremblik I shall next time have something further to say. I enclose in Harper's, two copies, proof of my portrait—wood engraving,9 rough but good, lately made—looks quite like me—(for all my sickness, which is pretty serious, I keep much the same in flesh & face.) It is mild & pleasant here to–day as I write, middle of the day—I am sitting here with open doors, the bright sun shining—Don't fail to write me—try to take some time of an hour's leisure—I like to hear about your people there—about the lady10 you spoke of who was interested in Democratic Vistas—& the Professor11 you once wrote of also—about Bjornsen also.

Walt Whitman


1. Rudolf Schmidt, a Dane and editor of For Idé og Virkelighed, is credited with introducing Walt Whitman to Scandinavia by quoting translated passages from Leaves of Grass in a 1872 essay in his magazine. He wrote to Walt Whitman on October 19, 1871: "I intend to write an article about yourself and your writings in the above named periodical which is very much read in all the Scandinavian countries. ... I therefore take the liberty to ask you, if you should not be willing to afford some new communications of yourself and your poetry to this purpose" (The Library of Congress). [back]

2. Rudolph Schmidt translated Whitman's Democratic Vistas into Danish in 1871. [back]

3. Harper's Monthly Magazine (sometimes Harper's New Monthly Magazine or simply Harper's) was established in 1850 by Henry J. Raymond and Fletcher Harper. The magazine published several of Walt Whitman's poems, including "Song of the Redwood-Tree" and "Prayer of Columbus." In 1857, Fletcher Harper founded Harper's Weekly (subtitled "A Journal of Civilization"), which gained its fame for its coverage of the Civil War and its publication of cartoonist Thomas Nast's (1840–1902) work. For Whitman's relationship with these two publications, see "Harper's Monthly Magazine" and "Harper's Weekly Magazine." [back]

4. "Song of the Redwood-Tree." [back]

5. In a November 2, 1873, letter, Walt Whitman offered "Song of the Redwood-Tree" to Henry M. Alden, editor of Harper's Monthly Magazine. Of "Song of the Redwood-Tree" Rudolf Schmidt observed: "It is your old great theme in a simple and powerful stile, embracing the holy and original nation of the far West" (Syracuse University; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:464). For digital images of the poem as it appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine, see "Song of the Redwood-Tree." [back]

6. In reprinting the poem on February 24, 1874, the Tribune commented that it "shows the brawny vigor, but not the reckless audacity, by which the name of that wild poet has become best known to the public." [back]

7. Whitman mentioned this meeting in his April 4, 1872 letter to Schmidt. Schmidt pressed Walt Whitman for his opinion of Petersen, as in his letter of February 28, 1874: "I have asked you at least two times how you did like Clemens Petersen; you have not replied and most probably you wont speak of this matter. If that is the case, I shall repeat the question no more." [back]

8. Walt Whitman referred to an article in the Daily Graphic of January 23, 1874, in which C. F. presented "A Biographical Sketch—An American Poet Graduating from a Printer's 'Case.' " [back]

9. Linton's engraving appeared in the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass[back]

10. Roos suggests the reference is perhaps to Nathalie Zahle, a reformer of Danish female schools; see Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 49n. [back]

11. Roos proposes two possibilities—Falbe Hansen and Rasmus Nielsen. [back]


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