Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Edward Dowden, 4 March 1876

Dear friend,

Yours of Feb. 6 with draft reach'd me which I responded to sending new edition "Leaves of Grass" and "Two Rivulets," two or three days since, by mail, same address as this, which you ought to have rec'd​ now lately—sent postal card briefly notifying you, & asking you to send me word (by postal card will do) immediately on their reception.1

To-day comes your affectionate, hearty, valued letter of Feb. 16, all right, with enclosure, draft 12£. 10s.2—all deeply appreciated—the letter good, cannot be better, but, as always, the spirit the main thing—(altogether like some fresh, magnetic, friendly breath of breeze, 'way off there from the Irish Coast)—I wonder if you can know how much good such things do me. I shall send the six sets (six "Leaves" and six "Rivulets") by express, very soon, (probably by next Philadelphia steamer.) The extra copies of "Memoranda of the War" not being ready bound, at present, I will send by mail—six copies, before very long. (I hope the set above mention'd I mailed you by last steamer, will have reach'd you before you get this.) I saw O'Grady's article in the December "Gentleman's"3 & from my point of view, he dwells on what I like to have dwelt on. I was deeply pleased with the article, & if I had O'Grady's address I would like to send him my photograph.4 I also read the Peter Bayne article. (It was copied in full here at once, & circulated quite largely.)5 As I write this, I have not read Abraham Stoker's letter,6 but shall do so, & carefully. (The names shall be written in the Vols. as you mention.) I read with great zest the account of the discussion at the "Fortnightly"7—I have learn'd to feel very thankful to those who attack & abuse & pervert me—that's perhaps (besides being good fun) the only way to bring out the splendid ardor & friendship of those, my unknown friends, my best reward, art & part with me, in my pages, (for I have come to solace & perhaps flatter myself that it is they indeed in them, as much as I, every bit.)

My condition physically is pretty much the same—no worse, at least not decidedly. I get out nearly every day, but not far, & cannot walk from lameness—make much of the river here, the broad Delaware, crossing a great deal on the ferry, full of life & fun to me—get down there by our horse cars, which run along near my door—get infinite kindness, care, & assistance, from the employés on these boats & cars—My friend, next time you write say more about yourself, family & Mrs. Dowden, to whom with yourself best love & regards—

Walt Whitman


  • 1. Dowden enclosed a draft for $10 on February 6, 1876. Whitman sent the two books on March 2, 1876 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). The post card is lost, but Dowden received it on March 14, 1876; see Dowden's Fragments of Old Letters, E. D. to E. D. W., 1869–1892 (London: Dent, 1914), 149. [back]
  • 2. On February 16, 1876, Dowden ordered six copies of the new edition for friends, including Professor Atkinson of Trinity College, Dublin, and Bram Stoker. Whitman mailed the volumes on March 14, 1876, which Dowden mentions in his letter to Whitman dated March 16, 1876. [back]
  • 3. "Walt Whitman: the Poet of Joy," by the Irish poet, Standish James O'Grady, appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, 15, n.s. (1875), 704–716. See Whitman's January 18, 1872 and March 4, 1876 letters to Dowden. [back]
  • 4. Whitman sent the photograph to O'Grady about October 19, 1876 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 5. Peter Bayne (1830–1896), a Scots journalist, in the Contemporary Review attacked Whitman's English admirers, William Michael Rossetti, Dowden, and Robert Buchanan, as well as Leaves of Grass: "While reading Whitman, . . . I realized with bitter painfulness how deadly is the peril that our literature may pass into conditions of horrible disease, the raging flame of fever taking the place of natural heat, the ravings of delirium superseding the enthusiasm of poetical imagination, the distortions of tetanic spasm caricaturing the movements, dance-like and music-measured, of harmonious strength" (28 [December 1875], 49–69). Bayne's diatribe was reprinted in Littell's Living Age, 128 (January 8, 1876), 91–102. See also the Nation, 22 (January 13, 1876), 28–29. In the West Jersey Press Whitman referred to "the scolding and cheap abuse of Peter Bayne" (Clifton Joseph Furness, Walt Whitman's Workshop [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928], 246). See also Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 121 and 126. [back]
  • 6. Whitman eventually responded to Stoker's February 14, 1876 letter on March 6, 1876. [back]
  • 7. On February 16, 1876, Dowden mentioned a discussion of "The Genius of Walt Whitman" at the Fortnightly Club that had taken place two days earlier. [back]
Back to top