Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Dowden to Walt Whitman, 7 May 1890

Date: May 7, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01504

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.

Contributors to digital file: Zainab Saleh, Brandon James O'Neil, Marie Ernster, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

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Rathmines, Dublin
May 7. 1890.

Dear Mr. Whitman,

Many thanks for sending me the notice of your lecture, with the added paragraphs, which I am very glad to possess.1

It grieves me to hear of your bodily infirmity, but the spirit remains strong & sane & sweet—& that is the chief thing.

My father2 still lives, at the age of ninety-one. But I have lately lost my sister.3 I saw her a few days before her death, which she looked forward to with great happiness. We had rather a true reunion than a sorrowful parting—& yet there was sorrow in it too.

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). 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. Whitman had likely sent notice of his lecture on Lincoln, "Death of Abraham Lincoln," which he delivered for the last time on April 15, 1890 in the Arts Room in Philadelphia, where he was part of a reception given that evening by the Contemporary Club. If Whitman enclosed a notice for Dowden with a letter, that letter has not yet been located. For more information on Whitman's lecture, see Larry D. Griffin, "'Death of Abraham Lincoln' (1879)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Edward Dowden (1843–1913) was the son of John Wheeler Dowden (1799–1891) and Alicia Bennett Dowden. [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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