Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas W.H. Rolleston to Walt Whitman, 7 January 1889

Date: January 7, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03565

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: Andrea Bastien, Breanna Himschoot, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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January 7. 1889.
Fairview Delgany. Co. Wicklow1

My dear Walt

I have to tell you that towards the end of December I sent back to the German publisher the last proofs of the German Leaves of Grass. so we may soon expect its appearance now. I have ordered 100 copies & shall direct him to send you 30 of these—you can have more if you send me a line to say so. The contents are as follows:—

To Foreign Lands —
Excelsior (Transl. by K. K.)
Oneself I sing—
Starting from Paumanok
Song of Myself—
For Thee O Democracy
To a Boy of the West
Doubt of Appearances
Give me the Sun
To one about to die (KK)
That Shadow My Likeness.
Brooklyn Ferry.
I Sing the Body Electric.
City dead House.
—Open Road.
Salut au Monde
Who Learns my Lesson complete
What am I—
Square Deific.
O Poverty, wincings—.—(KK)
Faces (KK)
The Letter (K. K.)
Mystic Trumpeter (K K.)
Passage to India
On Journeys through the States
Poets to Come—
Out of the Cradle. (K. K.)

I got the Camden Post from you today, with enclosure "Impromptu Criticism."2 I want to get the new 900 p. volume but don't know its publisher or its price.3 If you'll tell the publisher to send me a copy with account, including postage I'll remit money-order at once. Or if you are bringing the book out yourself I'll do so to you.

Dowden4 gave me your kind message—I am very glad to hear of your even partial recovery from your late severe illness. Not over well myself, & very busy—life of Lessing for Scott & Co5 on hand now which will be a troublesome business. but worth the trouble.

TW Rolleston.

Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St. | Camden | New Jersey | United States. It is postmarked: Greystones | B | Ja 17 | 89; New York | Jan 20; Paid L All. [back]

2. Bucke had written to Whitman on December 20, 1888, registering at length his enthusiasm for Whitman's just-published Complete Poems and Prose. Whitman decided to have Bucke's letter printed for distribution among his friends and disciples, and he titled it "An impromptu criticism on the 900 page Volume, 'The Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman,' first issued December, 1888." The first printing had several typos, including the addition of an acute accent over the first "e" of "Goethe," so Whitman had the errors corrected in a second printing that was completed by January 2, 1889. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, December 27, 1888[back]

3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by the poet himself—in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]

4. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Life of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing by Rolleston was published in London by Walter Scott Publishing Co. in 1889. [back]


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