Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 24 May 1874

Date: May 24, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: col.00004

Source: Walt Whitman Papers ca. 1842–1969, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elizabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Alex Kinnaman, and Nicole Gray

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May 24 '74

Dear Mr. Tennyson,

It is a long time since my last to you.1 I have however mailed you once or twice pieces of mine in print which I suppose you rec'd. Jan. '73 I was taken down with illness—some three months, afterward was recovering at Washington, when called here by the death of my mother—& from that time becoming worse, I have given up work & remained here since.2

I had paralysis from cerebral anemia.3

I rec'd your last letter, & the good, good photograph—which I have looked at many times, & sometimes almost fancied it you in person silently sitting nigh. To-day, a cloudy & drizzly Sunday, I have taken it in my head, sitting here alone & write—follow the inner mood—(a tinge of Quaker blood & breed in me)—though really without any thing to say, only just to write to you.

It is pleasant here, right on the banks of the noble Delaware, opposite Philadelphia. The doctors say I shall yet come round, & I think so too. I do not fail in flesh, color, spirits—appetite & sleep pretty good—am up & dressed every day, & go out a little—but very lame yet.

Truly your friend—

To Tennyson, May 24 '74.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer.


1. See Whitman's letter to Tennyson of September 2, 1872[back]

2. Whitman made several deletions to this draft letter and moved parts of it around. See the images for specific revisions. [back]

3. At this point Whitman deleted the following: "sixteen tedious months now, & still laying me up—but it might be much worse—& I shall come round yet." [back]


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