Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 7 March 1888

Date: March 7, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00728

Source: The Oscar Lion Papers, 1914–1955, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Horace Traubel (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:46–47. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

St. Botolph Club,
Mar. 7, 1888.

Dear Walt Whitman:

I believe you told me sometime ago that you had a friend at Los Angeles, Cal. If you have, I wish you would give me a line of introduction to him for my brother Bertie (Albert)1 who has just left hospital after a month's illness with typhoid fever, and who at such a distance from home and friends feels (I'm afraid) homesick and possibly despondent. If I had known earlier I would have gone on to Los Angeles myself, to nurse the lad; but this seems unnecessary now that he is able to get about again. You will easily understand, however, that I feel pretty anxious, and if you can let me have a line as I suggest, it will be a great help.

Down here I've been talking again about the New Poetry—on Monday in Boston, and last night before the Harvard students who gave me a very hearty reception—the best I've had so far. I find there is quite an earnest feeling for Leaves of Grass among a great many of them. You have no doubt got their invitation to lecture2 by this time—which I told you sometime ago they were preparing to send.

Next week (as you will see by my enclosed circular) I am to speak in Chickering Hall3 on Literary London—rather a rash adventure, I'm afraid.

Has Dr. Bucke4 returned yet? I must write and ask him whether he can arrange a talk at London, Ontario, or not.

With remembrances to Mrs. Davis.5 Yours affectionately
Ernest Rhys.

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

2. See Charles Sempers' letter to Whitman of March 4, 1888[back]

3. Chickering Hall was a Boston concert hall opened in 1883 and the site of a number of lectures by well-known writers, including Matthew Arnold and George Washington Cable. [back]

4. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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