Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Roden Noel to Walt Whitman, 16 May 1886

Date: May 16, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02908

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.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "Roden Noel," is in an unknown hand. The annotation, "see notes June 28 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Anesley Park1
May 16 1886

Dear Sir,

I am so sorry to hear of your illness! And very sorry to hear the book has not reached you. I have now told my publisher to send another copy to your correct address.2 I shall be glad to hear you are not dissatisfied with the essay on yourself. I formerly sent you some of my poetry, but it was early work. I hope I have been getting on since, & have now got a place perhaps as permanent as this sort of thing can be!—among our poets—though I am not popular here, or in America. I could wish to be more known in America.

I am glad that you are at last taking your rightful place among the best.

My debt to you is great. Would that I could express it in person! I have often said the chief (if not the only) reason why I want to go to America is to see Niagara, the Yosemite, & Walt Whitman!

You did send me your works, & I value the present not a little. But I was sorry to see Dr Bucke3 did not mention me among your early admirers, for I published in "Dark Blue" (an essay you & Mr Burroughs4 liked) long ago (this one is an enlarged republication of that).

[Processing?]5 the fine "Democratic Vistas" & "Sketches during the war" &c [illegible].

Yours with sincere respect,
Roden Noel.

I venture to send a photo of myself in return for some you sent me of yourself formerly.

I'll send a copy too of my last book, "Songs of the Heights & Deeps"

Roden Noel (1834–1894) was an English poet, critic, and admirer of Whitman. Noel's "A Study of Walt Whitman: The Poet of Modern Democracy" (Dark Blue 2 [October 1871], 241–253), spoke glowingly of the poet, describing him as "tall, colossal, luxuriant, unpruned, like some giant tree in a primeval forest. . . . He springs out of that vast American continent full-charged with all that is special and national in it" (242).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328. Mickle St. | Camden | New Jersey | USA. Camden is written in red between the Mickle Street address and the state of New Jersey. A post office stamp indicates that the missing part of the address—Camden—was supplied by the New York Post Office. The letter is postmarked: [New?] York | [MAY?] | 24. The letter is also postmarked: [RW??] | 5 | May 5 | 86; CAMDEN N.J. | MAY | 25 | 7AM | 1886 | REC'D; NEW YORK | MAY 24 | 530PM | 86. The post office has also marked the letter Due | 10 | cents; DEFICIENCY | IN | DIRECTION | SUPPLIED | BY | NEW YORK POST OFFICE. [back]

2. Noel had informed Whitman on March 30, 1886 that he had his publishers send Whitman "a vol. of [his] essays on Poetry and Poets." The poet replied on May 3, 1886, stating he did not receive the book and describing himself as "well cared for, but paralyzed in body, & quite unable to walk around." After Noel had re-sent his book, Whitman acknowledged its receipt on June 29, 1886[back]

3. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. The ending of the letter can be found on the first page. Noel has written in a palimpsest across the opening of the letter. [back]


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