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Thomas Dixon to Walt Whitman, 8 September 1874

 loc.01447.001_large.jpg Dear Sir,

I was right glad to hear of you again through the medium of the newspaper, you so kindly sent me, I have been thinking of writing you afew​ lines these months past, only I was afraid your illness1 would prevent you form​ feeling any interest in one so far away as me, and I also felt so deeply for you that I did not like to disturb the repose you seemed to need from your Duty. the enclosed papers2 will show you the use I have made of the paper, so that other English friends of yours should also learn the good news from Camden. Hope these few  loc.01447.002_large.jpg Chapters upon you and your work may make your work and you more known to our working Classes the periodical in which they were published as principally its main subscribers amongst them. the writer of them is a fellow of deep sympathy and has contributed from time to time some fine feeling and Sympathetic articles to its pages. the first one I noted was on W.Blake3 our Poet Artist of whom Swineburne​ 4 has written of so nobly and so well. I post these by letter (and send also two by newspaper Post,) so that I may feel somewhat certain some of them will reach you. I had some hopes of seeing you in our land, and  loc.01447.003_large.jpg was delighted beyond measure when I saw in our papers our Tennyson5 had written to invite you to visit him, I also feel glad to be enabled to inform you that W.M. Rossetti's6 Edition7 has been all sold. and the 1872 are subscribed too by our English Publisher has also met with a good sale, of course in a way that is not very complimentary to English appreciation of your Work. I.E. by being sold in what is termed the "remainder sale" of course my own feeling respecting this is, it gives to people of small means an opportunity to possess a Book they otherwise would never have, "so out of evil cometh forth good" so saith the Old Book


last year I was down at oxford at the time Emerson8 was there, I had no opportunity to speak to him of you, that is I did not think it wise to open the question at the times when I saw. I would gladly have done so, only I was not quite certain how he felt towards you, so as he did not name you out anytime I was in his company as a listener at Max Muller's,9 I thought it best to be silent, and while at oxford I wandered through the Marketplace (for I love to mingle with all kinds of my fellow men, but I most especially love country folk, fisher folk, and hard workers amongst our people I dearly love to mingle with and we chat in their ways, and to enjoy a kind feeling of sympathy one with the other on these occassions​ .) well while I wandered here and there I saw a stout wellbuilt man in a small shop selling paper and when I looked at his wares I saw thereon your Family name, so felt a desire to talk with him. I bought some paper then had some talk and he said the only persons he Knew bearing the name lived at Egham in Surrey and where​ mostly Market Gardners.  loc.01447.005_large.jpg and one branch of the family had been Stewards to the Duke of Richmond, and one had emigrated to America some distant relation of his family years ago, but they had never heard any news of them—so when I told him there was such a name in America owned by a family there and one of them was a poet, he thought perhaps it might be possible you where​ a desendant​ of that distant relative. he was quite a build of man like you, a noble large bodied and large featured man, full of seeming good honest purpose in his nature, and more like a farmer then​ a humbl​ Stationer, so that he did honour to the Stock, though not exactly in his trade. he was a type of man I like to see, only he seemed rather confined in his ideas of Books.—


I sent to him some small notice of you and your work, from Chambers paper, but I never received any reply, so feel afraid your work is not of a kind to suit his tastes. I note also recently your Poem on Lincoln has been read in London at a Liberary​ Association, so slowly though I suppose and hope certainly will you become known to us more widely and truly. Well I must conclude this rambling note, with a hearty wish that you will be once again, able to do some more work for our race and help on the Life, that our hope is! yet shall be. Ruskin10 is also working hard too to help on a nobler life, and one not much unlike the one you also long to see. so many souls labouring for one end must someday effect the accomplishment of the "Golden Days" so long sung, so long toiled for, prayed for—and fought for!!

Yours Affectionately T Dixon

Thomas Dixon (1831–1880), a corkcutter of Sunderland, England, was one of Walt Whitman's early English admirers. In 1856, he had bought copies of Leaves of Grass from a book peddler; one of these copies was later sent by William B. Scott to William Michael Rossetti. Dixon vigorously supported cultural projects and represented the ideal laborer of John Ruskin, who printed many of his own letters to the corkcutter in Time and Tide (1867). See Autobiographical Notes of the Life of William Bell Scott, ed. W. Minto (1892), 2, 32–33, 267–269; Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (1934), 15–17; The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (1905), 17: lxxviii–lxxix.


  • 1. In January 1873, Whitman suffered a paralytic stroke that made walking difficult. He first reported it in his January 26, 1873, letter to his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873), and continued to provide regular notes on his condition. By mid-March Whitman was taking brief walks out to the street and began to hope that he could resume work in the office. See also his March 21, 1873, letter to his mother. [back]
  • 2. This enclosure has not been located. [back]
  • 3. William Blake (1757–1827), the English painter, printer, and Romantic-era poet, is known for his illuminated books, including his collection of poems Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789). He also illustrated numerous books, including works by the English writers Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Gray, and John Milton. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]
  • 6. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. William Michael Rossetti prepared a British edition of Whitman's writings called Poems by Walt Whitman that John Camden Hotten published in 1868. About half of the poems from the 1867 American edition of Leaves of Grass were removed for the British edition. In his twenty-seven page "Prefatory Notice," Rossetti justified his editorial decisions, which included editing potentially objectionable content and removing entire poems: "My choice has proceeded upon two simple rules: first, to omit entirely every poem which could with any tolerable fairness be deemed offensive to the feelings of morals or propriety in this peculiarly nervous age; and, second, to include every remaining poem which appeared to me of conspicuous beauty or interest." For more information on this book, see Edward Whitley, "Introduction to the British Editions of Leaves of Grass." [back]
  • 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 9. Friedrich Max Muller was a philologist, Sanskritist and Orientalist. [back]
  • 10. 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]
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