Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Edward Dowden, 19 September 1871

Date: September 19, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01700

Source: The Library of Congress. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:139–140. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Washington, U. S.
Sept. 19, 1871.

My Dear Mr. Dowden:

The gentleman who will hand you this is John Burroughs,1 a very valued friend of mine, who is about to start for Europe, and thinks of visiting Dublin, & making a call on you.

I have rec'd your letter of Sept. 5,2 & hope to write you further—Believe me I deeply appreciate all you send me—

Walt Whitman


1. Burroughs wrote to Walt Whitman from London on October 3–4, 1871, after he had visited St. Paul's, where he had a staggering revelation, not unlike Henry James's in a Parisian gallery: "I saw for the first time what power & imagination could be put in form & design—I felt for a moment what great genius was in this field.…I had to leave them & sit down.…My brain is too sensitive. I am not strong enough to confront these things all at once…It is like the grandest organ music put into form." Whitman wrote in the margin: "Splendid off hand letter from John Burroughs—? publish it." On October 8, 1871, William Michael Rossetti referred to a visit three days earlier from Burroughs: "I like his frank manly aspect & tone." Burroughs visited Dowden in November 1871; see Fragments from Old Letters, E. D. to E. D. W., 1869–1892 (1914), 16–17. [back]

2. In his letter of September 5, 1871, Dowden cited a number of Dublin admirers, and concluded: "One thing strikes me about everyone who cares for what you write—while your attraction is most absolute, & the impression you make as powerful as that of any teacher or vates, you do not rob the mind of its independence, or divert it from its true direction. You make no slaves, however many lovers."

Dowden replied to Whitman's letter on October 15, 1871[back]


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