Selected Criticism

Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)
Myerson, Joel
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Ernest Percival Rhys, an author and editor, is best known for beginning the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works, 983 volumes of which appeared between 1906 and Rhys's death. He went to a private school in Newcastle and later became a mining engineer. In 1886 he moved to London to be a writer. Rhys was a member of the Rhymers' Club, which included Arthur Symons and William Butler Yeats among its members, and contributed poetry and reviews to the magazines. He married in 1891 and had three children.

Rhys was instrumental in securing from Whitman his permission and assistance in publishing three of his volumes in Britain by the firm of Walter Scott. He wrote Whitman in 1885 about a one-shilling edition of Leaves of Grass in Scott's Canterbury Poets series, and when it appeared the following year, it sold eight thousand copies within two months. This edition of Leaves presented many of the poems from the 1881 edition—although about one hundred were omitted—in approximately the same order. Whitman received ten guineas for the book, whose sale was restricted to England. Leaves of Grass remained in print from Scott through at least 1911. In 1886, at Whitman's suggestion, Rhys helped publish Specimen Days in America in Scott's Camelot Series; the following year, he helped with Democratic Vistas in the same series. This was a clever way for Whitman to make two books out of Specimen Days & Collect. Whitman received another ten guineas for each book, and they were both in print through at least 1902. In 1887 Rhys met Whitman during a trip to America, and the two got along famously.


Rhys, Ernest. Everyman Remembers. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1931.

Thomas, M. Wynn. "Walt Whitman's Welsh Connection: Ernest Rhys." Anglo-Welsh Review 82 (1986): 77–85.


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