Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas W. H. Rolleston to Walt Whitman, [February–May 1881]

Date: February–May 1881

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Whitman and Rolleston: A Correspondence, ed. Horst Frenz (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1951), 28–29. 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: upa.00209

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Eder Jaramillo, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray


I wish you would send a card to say whether you received safely the guinea I sent per money order, as usual for a copy of the Leaves of Grass. I acknowledged the latter, and asked you to let me know when you got the money safely, but as I have not heard from you since I am beginning to fear that it may have gone wrong.

I missed some things from the 'Leaves of Grass' which I expected to find in it. It has three or four poems not in my old copy,2 but I heard of a poem beginning—"Thou who hast slept all night upon the storm"3—which I did not find in this 1876 edn. nor can it be in the –76 Two Rivulets, as I possess that already. Is there any other collection of poems, not included in these two volumes? If so, I wish you would send it to me.

I have been in Dublin for some days and saw Dowden.4 He is preparing an article on Carlyle for the XIX Century. It is said that in this as in another article shortly to appear by some other author there will be some "damaging" facts revealed from C's private correspondence.5 I pity anyone whose notion of Carlyle is likely to be damaged by any facts that could be revealed. Lilliputians, looking at the great man through a telescope and judging him by the facts, 'damaging' or otherwise which they may have the fortune so to discover!

Yours sincerely
T W H Rolleston


1. This undated letter must have been written between February 10, 1881, the date of the preceding letter, and May, 1881, when Dowden's article appeared in the Nineteenth Century. In the letter of February 10, Rolleston stated that he had sent the money for Leaves of Grass; in this letter he is inquiring as to its safe receipt. Since Rolleston saw Dowden in Dublin before the publication of the article in the May issue of the Nineteenth Century, the letter could not have been written after that date. [back]

2. Since the copy of Leaves of Grass which Whitman had just sent, the 1876 edition, was a reprint of the fifth edition (1871–72), Rolleston's old copy must have been either the 1867 fourth edition or the first issue of the fifth edition, which was subsequently changed to include "Passage of India" and some other new poems. [back]

3. This is the opening line to "To the Man-of-War-Bird," published in the 1881 edition. [back]

4. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature and oratory in Trinity College, Dublin, was a noted scholar at whose home gathered many of the leaders of the Irish Renaissance. Through reviews and personal action, he did much to advance Whitman's cause in the British Isles. [back]

5. "Carlyle's Lectures on the Periods of European Culture. From Homer to Goethe," transcribed by Dowden, appeared in the May 1881 issue of the Nineteenth Century (9, 856–879). Dowden introduced the article with the following: "'Detestable mixture of prophecy and playactorism'–so in his Reminiscences Carlyle describes his work as a lecturer." This is the only statement in the article that might be constucted in any way as "damaging" and even this estimate by Carlyle of his own work Dowden refuted. Sir Henry Taylor's essay on the publication of Carlyle's Reminiscences is to be found in the same volume. While this contains personal material, the author's attitude is a very sympathetic one. The only other article on Carlyle which appeared in the Nineteenth Century around that time is J. A. Froude's "The Early Life of Thomas Carlyle" (July 1881), which contains letters but hardly of a "damaging" nature. [back]


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