Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas W. H. Rolleston to Walt Whitman, July 29, 1879

Date: July 29, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: man.00017

Source: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. 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 Meyer, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Tuesday, July 29
Kings County

Dear Mr Whitman

Last year, in June '78. I was the means of introducing your book to a Mrs Alexander, in the North of Ireland. She wrote at that time to you, enclosing a money order for £1-6-0 for one of your books, I think the Two Rivulets. A couple of months afterwards I heard that she had never received any answer, & after some time I wrote to my friend Professor Dowden1 whom I knew to be in correspondence with you, asking him to mention the circumstance to you when he next wrote. I think he must have forgotten to do this, as I have heard again today that Mrs Alexander has not received the book. Therefore I thought better to write to you myself, as having given her your address, &c. I feel myself in a certain degree responsible. I heard that at the time you should have received her letter you were away from home. I concluded that the letter failed somehow to reach you. And it has also occurred to me that perhaps your last edition is out & you have no more copies to send—or that you may have mislaid the letter & address.

So I should be much obliged if you would let me have a line today whether you ever received it, or not, & if your books are obtainable from you still in the usual way.

You have forgotten no doubt a letter I wrote you some years ago while an undergraduate in College, thanking you as deeply as I could find words to do for the spiritual health and thought I had found [or gained?] in the Leaves of Grass. I cannot let this occasion pass without renewing my thanks, sending you again my greeting and love. Your book has travelled with me wherever I have gone. I have joined hands with you in it, tried to realize its ideals in my life; and to [lead?] others to do so, often I am glad to say with success. homage like this you must have often received, nevertheless I think you will hardly think very lightly of any one—and this makes me feel encouraged to tell you freely what you have done for me.

Yours affty.
T. W. H. Rolleston.

P.S. If you will kindly send Mrs Alexander the Two Rivulets, & let me know, I will enclose you the money if not received. Her address is

Mrs J. Alexander
The Palace


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. 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]


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