Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Standish James O'Grady to Walt Whitman, 5 October 1881

Date: October 5, 1881

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03386

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, "from Standish O'Grady | sent photos to him Dec 24 '81," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "See notes June 27 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, Grace Thomas, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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11 Lr Fitzwilliam St
October 5, 1881

Dear Sir,

My friend Mr Bagenal has written to me from America describing his interview with you & the kindness with which you spoke of myself. For years it has been a hope to me that I may see you & be able to tell you personally what your writings have been to me, every line breathing hope adoration trust & love. For myself I can safely say that except William Rolleston no reader or student of your poetry has studied it so closely or has taken it into his nature as myself.

As a practical advice I would suggest that you would cause a certain number of advertisements to appear in our & the English press announcing that copies might be had from you personally. I procured mine from Trubner paying £2-10 whereas I understand they may be had from you for £2-0-0 & I see no reason why publishers should fatten while the producer is neglected.

When Mr. Bagenal was in Ireland, I remember he used to laugh copiously at the form of your poetry forgetting that account given by Alcibiades of the outer form of Socrates with the images of the gods within. Now find that from having met you & conversed seen & heard he is also one of us & reads marks learns & inwardly digests.

One thing in your poetry I will [illegible] to that is the love of the heroic successful & unsuccessful. It chances that I have given a good deal of time to the study of the primitive literature of this country & race in which the note of heroism & chivalry ever sounds. My impressions regarding this literature I have published in various works. One of these recently published is History; Ireland Vol 1 Critical & Philosophical. I directed Scribner & Co to send you a copy of this knowing your acquaintance & love for early Norse literature, which is kin to the Irish. With the heroes of the Nibelungenlied: you are well acquainted & have praised them but I think Cuculain our primitive Irish hero is equal to any of them but English literature has the ear of the world & wilfully ignores everything of the kind. May I ask whether you have received the book. If not I shall send one direct. My other works are History of Ireland Heroic Period Vols 1 & 2, an epical representation chiefly of Cuculain's career but not blameless as I have moulded the chaotic poems & tales into a complete whole & so the student can never be exactly certain what is & what is not my own.

I dare say like most men but for you I would have swung round to the theory of strong Govts an aristocratic ruling class &c. I think from your comments on English literature that Shelley you dont appreciate. In the revolt of Islam he has a fine Panegyric on the future of America Fr my own part I put him high very high; his meaning lies fold within fold never to be exhausted. For example his love-poetry: chiefly mystical religious the divine [bride?] "perfect wife" is the object.

I find that as I change I cannot so change as that I do not meet in you the expression of every changing ideal punctuating even the remotest parts of my nature with a profound sympathy as of his who knew what was in man.

Farewell, know that there are many in the "ancestor continents" of whom towards you might be said what was sung of our Irish hero Cuculain meeting his friend, "He poured forth a torrent of friendly welcome & affection"

Standish O'Grady


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