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Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, December 1866

 duk.00389.001_large.jpg Friend Walt.

I have sent to you the "Galaxy";1 It contains two articles,2 one on Whitman and one on Swinburne,3—I have read both criticisms, with great satisfaction. Richard Grant White4 has but paid just sympathy to a true poet "Swinburne"; The criticism is a "Poem," in itself. It has the comprehensiveness, and the fearless recognition of the divine idea, or sentiment of "Love," as expressed by the Poet, he writes upon—Swinburne electrifies me. I read one verse of his "Laus Veneris," in a store, and bought the book—When critics or ordinary readers, or writers scribble him down, the Sun will cease to procreate  duk.00389.002_large.jpg and vitalize the earth. He is cultivated, and "passion" is his subject—"St Dorothy" is saddening, and the "Leper" oh how passionately full of piteous Love—and the "Orchard" oh! the night is all starrd by it, and earth burdend with dewy fragrancies​

There is enough beauty in your "Leaves" to make a rare book, and not cast out sensuous extravagance either. But you are wonderfully, woefully mistaken in the privileage​ you take of being, merely savagely material, and consequently offensively vulgar—Han5 is much better, than usual, and is continualy​ promising to write to her Mother.6

C L Heyde

Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter from Pennsylvania, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Heyde often claimed to have been born in France. For more information about Heyde, see Steven Schroeder, "Heyde, Charles Louis (1822–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Francis Pharcellus Church (1839–1906) established the Galaxy in 1866 with his brother William Conant Church (1836–1917). Financial control of the Galaxy passed to Sheldon & Company in 1868, and the magazine was absorbed by the Atlantic Monthly in 1878. [back]
  • 2. Heyde is referring to the December 1, 1866, issue of the Galaxy, which contained a review of Drum-Taps written by John Burroughs and a review of Algernon Charles Swinburne's work by Richard Grant White. [back]
  • 3. The British poet, critic, playwright, and novelist Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909) was one of Whitman's earliest English admirers. At the conclusion of William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), Swinburne pointed out similarities between Whitman and Blake, and praised "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which he termed "the most sweet and sonorous nocturn ever chanted in the church of the world" (300–303). His famous lyric "To Walt Whitman in America" is included in Songs before Sunrise (1871). For the story of Swinburne's veneration of Whitman and his later recantation, see two essays by Terry L. Meyers, "Swinburne and Whitman: Further Evidence," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 14 (Summer 1996), 1–11 and "A Note on Swinburne and Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 21 (Summer 2003), 38–39. [back]
  • 4. Richard Grant White (1822–1885) was a prominent Shakespeare scholar and journalist from New York. He authored a short parody of Whitman in 1884. [back]
  • 5. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) was the youngest daughter of Walter Whitman, Sr., and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. She resided in Burlington, Vermont, with her husband Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter. The relationship between Hannah and Charles was difficult and marred with quarrels and disease. Charles was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. Louisa wrote, "if heyde was kind to her she would get well" (see her November 11–14, 1868 letter to Walt). [back]
  • 6. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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