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Herbert J. Bathgate to Walt Whitman, 31 January 1880

 loc.01084.001_large.jpg Dear Sir

In a letter which I have just received from Mr Ruskin2 he says as follows "I have not time just at present to write such a letter to Mr Whitman as I should like, will you kindly transmit the value of enclosed cheque to him with request for five copies"—

Mr Ruskin in his correspondence with me expressed his utter astonishment at what I had told him about your pecuniary position,—which he read of first in an article of mine which I send you by this post—

Will you Kindly send five copies of your last 2 Volume Edition addressed to me as above, for which I enclose a draft upon New York—£10 10/.

It gives me a deep sincere pleasure to write this note, but I should like to say about my article, that I have since3



  • 1. Herbert J. Bathgate was a British author and friend of the art critic John Ruskin. His essay "Ouida" was advertised in the 1881 Trübner & Co. reprint of Whitman's preface to his first edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman commented on Bathgate later in life: "Bathgate writes genuinely, considerately: he has no affectations" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, January 28, 1889). [back]
  • 2. John Ruskin (1819–1900) was one of the leading art critics in Victorian Great Britain. Whitman sent Leaves of Grass and a "couple of photographs" to Ruskin via William Harrison Riley in March 1879 (see the letter from Whitman to Riley of March 18, 1879). Ruskin, according to Whitman, expressed "worry...[that] Leaves of Grass is...too personal, too emotional, launched from the fires of...spinal passions, joys, yearnings" (see the letter from Whitman to William O'Connor of October 7, 1882). Whitman, late in life, said to Horace Traubel: "[I] take my Ruskin with some qualifications." Still, Ruskin "is not to be made little of: is of unquestionable genius and nobility" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 24, 1889, 17). [back]
  • 3. The letter is cut off here but a transcription of the letter by William Douglas O'Connor shows that Bathgate went on to quote a recent communication from Ruskin: "The reason neither he (yourself) nor Emerson are read in England is first—that they are deadly true—in the sense of rifles—against all our deadliest sins. The second that this truth is asserted with an especial colour of American egotism which good English scholars cannot, and bad ones will not endure. This is the particular poison and tare by which the Devil has rendered their fruit ungatherable but by gleaning and loving hands, or the blessed ones of the poor" (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library). For Ruskin's January 29 letter to Bathgate, see William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardner, 1896), 84. See also the letter from Whitman to William Harrison Riley of March 18, 1879. On February 16, Whitman received from Ruskin £10 for five sets of books through Bathgate, to whom the books were sent on February 19 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
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