Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Dowden to Walt Whitman, 18 April 1890

Date: April 18, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01503

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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April 18. 1890.

Dear W. Whitman,

The addresses on Giordano Bruno have come to me2—many thanks—& are most welcome both for their own sakes and as a token of your kind remembrance. I have read them with great interest & they have helped me to understand something of Bruno's philosophy.

I trust the Spring finds you fairly well. I often feel you near me in your books, & get strength & joy from them.

I have had a sorrow lately in the death of my elder sister.3 She had led a very active & useful life as a clergyman's wife. I saw her a few days before her death & found her joyous, although not through any false detachment from what had been dear to her in life. In a day or two I go to visit my father who is in his ninety–first year & who has been saddened by this loss.

Believe me, dear Walt Whitman,
Ever affectionately yours
Edward Dowden.

Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: Dublin | 3D | AP 19 | 90; New York | Apr | 28 | PAID | C | A [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | Apr | 28 | 4PM | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Giordano Bruno: Philosopher and Martyr (1890) consisted of two speeches before the Philadelphia Contemporary Club by Daniel G. Brinton (1837–1899), a pioneer in the study of anthropology and a professor of linguistics and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, and by Thomas Davidson (1840–1900), a Scottish philosopher and author. It included a prefatory note by Whitman dated February 24, 1890 (see The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman: Prose Works 1892, ed. by Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [1963–1964], 2:676–677). In his essay Brinton links the poet with Bruno in his rejection of the "Christian notion of sin as a positive entity" (34). On April 4, 1890, Whitman sent copies of the book to John Addington Symonds, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Gabriel Sarrazin, T. H. Rolleston, and W. M. Rossetti (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See also Whitman's April 11, 1890, letter to Bucke. After the poet presented him with a copy of Complete Poems & Prose, Brinton expressed his thanks effusively on April 12, 1890[back]

3. Dowden had an elder brother John and two sisters, Margaret (six years older than Edward) and Anna, the eldest sibling ("Biographical Note," Letters of Edward Dowden and His Correspondents [New York: Dutton, 1914], 395–397). Dowden is likely referring to Margaret because he had written to his brother expressing concerns about her health in 1888. See Dowden's letter dated August 20, 1888 (238). [back]


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