Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt, 25 April 1874

Date: April 25, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: rlc.00010

Source: The Royal Library of Copenhagen. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:295. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

431 Stevens st. Camden,
N. Jersey,
U. S. America.
April 25, 1874.

Rudolf Schmidt1
Dear friend—

Yours of April 4 has come to hand—with picture, which I prize2—you speak of Mr. Elster's3 criticism—when it comes I shall have it carefully translated to me—if you communicate with him, please give him my serious thanks & good will—

All your papers, copies of D. Fremblik & your letters have reached me safely in the past—(also the large photo. by poor Clausen4.) Did you receive Redwood Tree5 in Harper's Magazine6—& Prayer of Columbus7—sent some weeks (March 4) since? This piece of C. Petersen is in the May Galaxy,8 a New York Monthly. I will make inquiry about Petersen, & if I see him or find out I will duly write you. I am not well yet—far from it—but live in hopes—

Walt Whitman

John Burroughs visited me for two days lately9—He is well, is married, (36 years old), has left Washington, & has settled on a little farm with horse, cows, & fowls on the banks of the Hudson river, 60 miles from New York, his native state & mine. I am to go there the coming summer. J. B. is a most natural, homely, good man—(like an apple–tree, or pine, or a good field of wheat—yet thoroughly human)10—has a nice wife, kind & good to me, like a sister.

To–day is dark & rainy here—spring very backward here—I sit here in the room alone, writing this—I am much alone—

W. W.


1. Rudolf Schmidt, a Dane and editor of For Idé og Virkelighed, is credited with introducing Walt Whitman to Scandinavia by quoting translated passages from Leaves of Grass in an 1872 essay in his magazine. He wrote to Walt Whitman on October 19, 1871: "I intend to write an article about yourself and your writings in the above named periodical which is very much read in all the Scandinavian countries. ... I therefore take the liberty to ask you, if you should not be willing to afford some new communications of yourself and your poetry to this purpose" (The Library of Congress). [back]

2. This picture, now in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., appears in Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1996), 2:84[back]

3. On April 4, 1874, Schmidt described a critical article composed by a young Norwegian named Kristian Elster, who had expressed "a great fear that the editor (in Christiania) would not print it. In the war, on the roaring sea the Norwegians are a people of heroes; but in their civil and literary life they are a race of cowards." According to Roos, Elster (1841–1881) was a friend of Björnson; see Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 51n. [back]

4. Carl F. Clausen, who Rudolf Schmidt called "my old friend and countryman," corresponded with Schmidt after he left Denmark in 1860. See Carl Roos, "Walt Whitman's Letters to a Danish Friend," Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 34–39. The Directory in 1870 listed him as a draughtsman and in 1872 as a patent agent. He died of consumption in the middle 1870s. [back]

5. In a November 2, 1873, letter, Walt Whitman offered "Song of the Redwood-Tree" to Henry M. Alden, editor of Harper's Monthly Magazine. Of "Song of the Redwood-Tree" Rudolf Schmidt observed: "It is your old great theme in a simple and powerful stile, embracing the holy and original nation of the far West" (Syracuse University; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:464). For digital images of the poem as it appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine, see "Song of the Redwood-Tree." [back]

6. Harper's Monthly Magazine (sometimes Harper's New Monthly Magazine or simply Harper's) was established in 1850 by Henry J. Raymond and Fletcher Harper. The magazine published several of Walt Whitman's poems, including "Song of the Redwood-Tree" and "Prayer of Columbus." In 1857, Fletcher Harper founded Harper's Weekly (subtitled "A Journal of Civilization"), which gained its fame for its coverage of the Civil War and its publication of cartoonist Thomas Nast's (1840–1902) work. For Whitman's relationship with these two publications, see "Harper's Monthly Magazine" and "Harper's Weekly Magazine." [back]

7. Having successfully submitted "Song of the Redwood-Tree" to Harper's New Monthly Magazine on November 2, 1873, Walt Whitman submitted a second poem, "Prayer of Columbus," later in November 1873, also for $60. Editor Henry Mills Alden (1836–1919) accepted the poem on December 1, 1873; it appeared in the March 1874 edition, 58 (1874), 524–525. In reprinting the poem on February 24, 1874, the New York Tribune commented that it "shows the brawny vigor, but not the reckless audacity, by which the name of that wild poet has become best known to the public." For digital images of the poem as it appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine, see "Prayer of Columbus." [back]

8. "Scandinavia" appeared in two parts in the May and June 1874 issues; see the Galaxy, 17 (1874), 610–618, 770–778. [back]

9. Whitman also wrote about Burroughs's visit in his April 16, 1874 letter to Peter Doyle. [back]

10. This description of Burroughs was inserted in answer to Schmidt's request. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.