Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 24 May 1887

Date: May 24, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03318

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: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Nicole Gray, and Stephanie Blalock

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24 Warwick Lane,London.

Sq Cheyne Walk,
24th May 1887
Walt Whitman
Camden, U.S.A.

Dear Walt Whitman,

I have this morning received your card of the 11th rec'd. Spec. Days in America makes its appearance in the London book-shops to-morrow, & before you get this I expect you will have a preliminary batch of six copies of the volume. I am writing to the publishers to-day to instruct them about sending the 50 more you want. The publishers seem to have made some mistake about the Preface & Addl note printed slips. I gave them distinct instructions about sending them, & I must just make them pay for their mistake by sending you further copies of the book to supply the omission. I enclose two cut-out leaves which they sent to me last week, with some vague idea of atonement, I suppose.

Yesterday afternoon J. Addington Symonds1 called here unexpectedly when I had a pile of the Spec Days Vols. on the table, & he was delighted with the appearance, &c. of the book. I took him a copy on going to dine with him & Roden Noel2 in Eaton Square last night. I sent copies off to many other folk yesterday,—Mrs. Costelloe3 among the rest. She wrote me a nice little note about it, which arrived this morning. Gabriel Sarrazin, the young French critic, who is writing a study of L. of G., which he is tremendously taken with, shall have one to-day or to-morrow.4 I feel quite proud at being the agent & deputy of the book in this way. It gives me quite a new conception of my own importance in the world. I do hope you will like the general get-up of the book, & so on. If we have made any slips in this respect in the book, we can profit by them in the Democratic Vistas vol. the addl papers for which I look forward to receiving.

I was glad to hear & read in the papers you sent of the brilliant success of the Lincoln Lecture.5 How I wish you could come over here & deliver it too; but I suppose that may not be. The gathering of the literarati in the audience was very significant. It shows a new departure, I think, on the scholastic literary side.

By this time I expect Herbert Gilchrist6 is with you & has given you a general account of things over here. (Give him my hearty greetings!) By him I sent a batch of birthday wishes for the 31st, which I follow now with all imaginable devout orisons. In your coming year I earnestly hope you will have the great gratification of seeing a deeper & wider application of Leaves of Grass, pointing to a nearer consummation of their great idea than we have hitherto deemed possible! And, so, with deep love, I am

Ernest Rhys

Tell Gilchrist not to forget about writing to me.

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), a prominent biographer, literary critic, and poet in Victorian England, was author of the seven-volume history Renaissance in Italy, as well as Walt Whitman—A Study (1893), and a translator of Michelangelo's sonnets. But in the smaller circles of the emerging upper-class English homosexual community, he was also well known as a writer of homoerotic poetry and a pioneer in the study of homosexuality, or sexual inversion as it was then known. See Andrew C. Higgins, "Symonds, John Addington [1840–1893]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. 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). [back]

3. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about Costelloe, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Gabriel Sarrazin (1853–1935) was a translator and poet from France who commented positively not only on Whitman's work but also on Poe's. Whitman later corresponded with Sarrazin and apparently liked the critic's work on Leaves of Grass—Whitman even had Sarrazin's chapter on his book translated twice. For more on Sarrazin, see Carmine Sarracino, "Sarrazin, Gabriel (1853–1935)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. James B. Pond, Whitman's lecture manager, recounts the event as follows: "It was indeed a picturesque spectacle at Walt's last appearance in the Madison Square Theatre, on Lincoln's birthday. Just as he was about to recite 'My Captain,' a little girl, the granddaughter of Edmund Clarence Stedman, walked out upon the stage and presented him with a beautiful bouquet of roses" (Eccentricities of Genius, G. W. Dillingham Co: New York, 1900, 497). [back]

6. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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