Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas W. H. Rolleston to Walt Whitman, 7 January [1882]

Date: January 7, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05097

Source: 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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Whitman and Rolleston: A Correspondence, ed. Horst Frenz (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff. The material appears here courtesy of Indiana University Press.

Editorial note: The annotation, "'82," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

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Saturday, January 7.
29 Lange Strasse

Yours recd this morning.

I write in haste1 to say that Lee has suddenly left Dresden, having received an unexpected appointment in England. So if your letter did not catch him before he left (last Tuesday) it is probably on its way back to you, as I hear he did not leave any address here. If you put it into a new envelope and address

J. F. Lee
care of Anthony Traill, F.T.C.D.
Trinity College

it will reach him. Or I could send it on as soon as I know his address, which must be shortly. He did not know where he would be for a couple of weeks, & meant letters to be kept here at the place he was staying at, until he wrote for them, but they mistook, and tell me they had them sent back to the senders. I have nothing more to tell you about the translation, except that I am working away at it, find it difficult but not invincible. I have not the pen of a ready writer, and it will probably be a good time before the work can appear. But when it does I think it will satisfy you—At any rate you may rely upon it th[at] it shall be no emasculated version which I shall present to the German world.—I go on the principle of rigid literality, to the utmost extent reconcilable with making any representative sense. I think I can publish some bits of it now and then in a German weekly newspaper, the 'Gegenwart,' which has opened its columns to me before,2 & so gradually prepare the German mind for the shock it is going to have!

Lee's translation will probably be postponed, owing to the change in his plans. But I think he will carry it through. He is mediating going in for a Professorship of Slav languages in Dublin, (after a time) and thinks the translation would help him towards that end, as no doubt it would.

I got your card about the Encheiridion and the newspaper you kindly sent. There are always being reports in English papers about your coming to England soon. Is there any fact in them at all? I hope your new edn is doing well.3 I have just despatched a copy to a friend who is schoolmastering at the Cape.4

I feel greatly the confidence you put in me about this translation. Nothing shall be spared to bring it through well.

Yours always
W. Rolleston.


1. 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). [back]

2. No contributions by Rolleston in Die Gegenwart between 1875 and 1882 could be located. Neither are there any translations of Whitman's poems by Rolleston between 1882, the date of this letter, and 1889, the date of the publication of Grashalme[back]

3. This is the edition to which Whitman refers in his postcard of December 2, 1881[back]

4. Rolleston's son, Captain C. H. Rolleston, informed Horst Frenz in 1950: "I do not think there can be any doubt that my Father's schoolmaster friend was H. B. Cotterill, M.A., who was later in Germany and was the author of a version of Homer's Odyssey in English hexameters" (Frenz, 32). [back]


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