Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 14 August 1889

Date: August 14, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03338

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: Kirby Little, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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The Camelot Series. Edited by Ernest Rhys.
Walter Scott,
24 Warwick Lane,
London, E.C.
c/o Walter Scott,
W. W.
14th Aug. '891

My dear Walt Whitman,

Your welcome p'card of July 23rd2 reminds me how the time has slipped away since my last letter to you. I have now been here in North Wales for nearly six weeks, having retreated to these mountains very soon after returning from Paris. I am lodged very comfortably in the cottage of a quarry-man,—William Davies,3 who works at Festiniog, 5 or 6 miles from here. He is a very good type,—healthy, well-built, good-natured, impulsive, with the over-carefulness of the average Welshman tempered by his experiences of American life, for "he went to the states," as they say here, some years back, & travelled far & wide, working in mines & quarries. Even now he does not talk English very fluently, & prefers his native Welsh, in which he gives me lessons every night on his return from work. Many people in the district speak no English at all. The Welsh are a peculiarly adhesive race, & stick to their language & old customs, &, it must be added, to their money, with a somewhat dubious devotion. An infusion of American generosity & freedom would do them great good. As it is, Methodism & money-making is the formula of the lives of most of them,—their redeeming quality being their love of music & oratory!

I found the change here from Paris very striking. The French are exactly opposite in every way,—those who live in Paris at any rate. There the sunshine & the gaiety & general friendliness are very pleasantly in contrast with the grey skies & the somewhat montonous routine of London. Paris is a sort of ideal New York,—a New York touched with Romance & the finer graces of the Past, but without the youthful ardency that pulses in Mannahatta. Paris would delight you greatly, I know, though you might have misgivings at last about a life so frivolously secular, so wanting (as it seemed to me) in humane & religious aims of the higher kind. But this notwithstanding, the charm of those sunny streets, & good-natured irresponsible faces, is something to remember.

The Exhibition, I daresay, you have heard enough of. What struck me most of all—much more than the Eiffel Tower & other nine-days wonders, was the endless cosmopolitan ebb & flow of the peoples of the world,—American, Arabian, Japanese, Indian, Egyptian, English, Norse:—a wonderful, indescribable Concourse de Monde!

I must stop here to-day—Post-time!—hoping to take up the story at greater length shortly. Luck has been dead against me of late. I suppose I shall have to turn Quarry-man presently,—Scottish Art Review & other papers not paying up!

With love & remembrances to Camden friends, yrs.
Ernest Rhys

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. This letter is addressed: To Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street, | Camden, | New Jersey, U.S.A.. It is postmarked: PENRHYN DEUDRAETH | B | AU14 | 89, CAMDEN N.J. | AUG | 2 A M | 1889 | Rec'd; Paid | A | [illegible]. These is one additional postmark, but it is illegible. Whitman included this letter as an enclosure in his April 24, 1889, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke. [back]

2. See Whitman's April 23, 1889, postcard to Ernest Rhys. [back]

3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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