Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Robert M. Sillard to Walt Whitman, 9 September 1890

Date: September 9, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03774

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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No 3 Nelson Street
9th Sept 1890

Walt Whitman Esq.
Dear Sir.

May I ask the favour of one of your volumes of Poems direct from yourself. I should be charmed to have some little souvenir from an American so good as you.

I should very much wish to know from you what stage play and what actor and actress you you remember that has left the most pleasing impression on your mind. Which of Shakesperes1 great plays do you find the most entertaing reading?

Have you not in some of your poems mentioned some of Americas great players?

Did you know Boyle O'Reilly2 personally, had he not a grand mind? Of him it can be well said, "not deep the poet sees, but wide."3

Will you pardon all these questions from an Irish admirer who sends you his very sincere best wishes for your health. I will highly prize any words written by you to yours

very sincerely,
Robt M. Sillard

Robert Michael Sillard (ca. 1860–1908) was an Irish theatre historian, travel writer, and critic. Sillard lived and worked closely with his brother Peter, a fellow critic, in their native Dublin. In 1908, the brothers moved from Dublin to New York City where they hoped to pursue their literary careers; unfortunately, Robert caught pneumonia and died a few months after their arrival. Sillard is the author of Barry Sullivan and His Contemporaries: A Histrionic Record (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1901), and his essays appeared in numerous periodicals, including Donahoe's Magazine, The Westminster Review, and Fortnightly Review. For more information, see Sillard's obituary, "In Memoriam: Robert Michael Sillard," The Irish Monthly 37.428 (February 1909), 112–114.


1. William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright and is widely considered the world's greatest dramatist. He was the author of numerous plays, sonnets, and narrative poems. [back]

2. John Boyle O'Reilly (1844–1890) was a fervent Irish patriot who joined the British Army in order to sabotage it. He was arrested and sentenced to be hanged in 1866. Later the decree was altered, and O'Reilly was sent to Australia, where he escaped on an American whaler in 1869. In 1876 he became the coeditor of the Boston Pilot, a position which he held until his death in 1890. See William G. Schofield, Seek for a Hero: The Story of John Boyle O'Reilly (New York: Kennedy, 1956). For more on O'Reilly, see also the letter from Whitman to James R. Osgood of May 8, 1881[back]

3. Sillard is referring to the poem "Resignation" by Matthew Arnold (1822–1888). Arnold was an English poet and cultural critic, who published poems and essays. He is well know for his poem "Dover Beach" and his book Culture and Anarchy (1869), a work of social criticism. [back]


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