Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Addington Symonds to Walt Whitman, 12 July 1877

Date: July 12, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04063

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: Alicia Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Grace Thomas, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth Price

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Clifton Hill House,
Clifton, Bristol
July 12, 1877

Dear Mr. Whitman

I was away from England when your volumes reached me, & since my return (during the last six weeks) I have been very ill with an attack of hemorrhage from the lung—brought on while riding a pulling horse at a time when I was weak from cold.1 This must account for my delay in writing to thank you for them & to express the great pleasure which your inscription in two of the volumes has given me.

I intend to put into my envelope a letter to you with some verses from one of your great admirers in England.2 It is my nephew— the second son of my sister who married Sir Edward Strachey, a Somersetshire baronet.3 I gave him a copy of Leaves of Grass in 1874, & he knows a great portion of it now by heart. Though still so young, he has developed a considerable faculty for writing & is an enthusiastic student of literature as well as a frank vigorous lively young fellow. I thought you might like to see how some of the youth of England is being drawn toward you.

Believe me always sincerely & affectionately yours
J. A. Symonds.

St. Loe writes so bad a hand that I shall transcribe his verses for him


Thine is no Carol of weak love or hate;
Thine is no Song by listless idler Sung;
No poor attempt to cheat us from our fate;
No shallow words from shallower fancies wrung.
These are not thine; thy music pure is flung
From out a heart that throbs & pants, which aches
With its great love: our Suffering role among
Thou com'st with thy great gift of song that makes
All things seem bright & clear,
all lovelier vision wakes.


Though now the world is deaf & will not hear,
Though now the foolish rail & sneer at thee
It matters not: their frowns thou dost not fear
Thou know'st the day will come the [illegible]
When thou in love with Him of Galilee
Shalt have thy place. Not yet, The years must wane,
And thought from Superstition's curse be free:
When this is ended, thou with him shalt reign
[Strong?] in all hearts, as loved, as
mighty brothers twain.

St. Loe Strachey


1. John Addington Symonds, a prominent biographer, literary critic, and poet in Victorian England, was in his time most famous as the author of the seven-volume history Renaissance in Italy. But in the smaller circles of the emerging upper-class English homosexual community, he was also well known as a writer of homoerotic poetry and a pioneer in the study of homosexuality, or sexual inversion as it was then known (Miller,Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 701). [back]

2. See the letter from (John) St. Loe Strachey to Walt Whitman on July 12, 1877[back]

3. John St. Loe Strachey (1860–1927) was a British journalist, and for a time was the editor of The Spectator. He was the second son of Sir Edward Strachey and Mary Isabella Symonds, sister of John Addington Symonds. [back]


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