Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Gabriel Sarrazin to Walt Whitman, 3 July 1890

Date: July 3, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03739

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Noumeáa
Nouvelle-Calédonie
(Colonies Françaises)
3/7 1890

Dear Walt,

an important event took place in my life at the beginning of this year et I delayed answering you for this very reason. As I have no fortune whatever, and journalism does not suit my temper, I obtained a situation in our colonial magistracy and am now in New Caledonia. It will be now easy for me to write my books in peace and without being incessantly troubled with pecuniary difficulties.

I thank you very much for the newspapers you sent to me at different times: and especially for the two essays on Giordano Bruno,1 by Daniel G. Brinton and Thomas Davidson.2 My opinion, too, is that Bruno is one of the martyrs of free thought, one of our martyrs, and one of the forerunners of this future Humanity you sang in our days with such a genial intuition.

Excuse my short letter, as I am more used to read English than to write it and am always afraid of making many mistakes.

I hope you are always in pretty good health.

On my arrival here I suffered from this Oceanian climate, but am getting better each day and will, no doubt, accustom myself to the climate.

I am writing to H. L. Traubel3 and to Harrison S. Morris4 by this very post; be assured, dear Walt, of all my love


Gabriel Sarrazin

My address is as follows:

M. Gabriel Sarrazin magistrat
á Noumeá, Nouvelle-Calédonie,
(Colonies Françaises)


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) was an Italian Dominican friar and philosopher, whose notions of a vast and infinite cosmos, as well as his pantheism and denial of doctrines like the divinity of Christ and the virginity of Mary, got him tried for heresy beginning in 1593 and burned at the stake in Rome in 1600. [back]

2. Giordano Bruno: Philosopher and Martyr (1890) consisted of two speeches before the Philadelphia Contemporary Club by Daniel G. Brinton (1837–1899), a pioneer in the study of anthropology and a professor of linguistics and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, and by Thomas Davidson (1840–1900), a Scottish philosopher and author. It included a prefatory note by Whitman dated February 24, 1890 (see The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman: Prose Works 1892, ed. by Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [1963–1964], 2:676–677). In his essay Brinton links the poet with Bruno in his rejection of the "Christian notion of sin as a positive entity" (34). On April 4, 1890, Whitman sent copies of the book to John Addington Symonds, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Gabriel Sarrazin, T. H. Rolleston, and W. M. Rossetti (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See also Whitman's April 11, 1890, letter to Bucke. After the poet presented him with a copy of Complete Poems & Prose, Brinton expressed his thanks effusively on April 12, 1890[back]

3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919],"Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Harrison S. Morris (1856–1948) of Philadelphia was a writer, editor, and translator. He made an English translation of French critic Gabriel Sarrazin's "Poétes moderns de l'amérique, Walt Whitman," La Nouvelle Revue, 52 (May 1888), 164–84; Morris's translation of Sarrazin's piece is reprinted in In Re Walt Whitman (1893, pp. 159–194). Morris also served as the managing director of the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts and editor of Lippincott's Magazine, as well as the president of the Wharton Steel Company. He was the author and/or editor of several books, including Walt Whitman. A Brief Biography, with Reminiscences (1929). [back]


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