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Thomas Dixon to Walt Whitman, 15 April 1875

 loc.01456.001_large.jpg Dear Friend

I was glad to see again once more a scrawl from you, even in a paper. I felt also glad to see there is someone else more gifted then​ me trying to honour you and make your Work known in our Old land. I noted the French Review—fain would I have read it, but alas I can only read my own tongue. I often and often—wish one could conjure up some Spirit to give one the meaning of much I see in other tongues, but alas though I often call up spirit alas—comes to aid me at my call. Well to cease I got your Essay on Burns1 reprinted here in two local papers. I enclose one rejoinder from a canny Scot, a decent soul, a man that came here a Journeyman and now is the working Manager of 500 men. he is also a Ryhmer​ one little Sketch of his I enclose you.2 you will see he is of a narrow school of thought, wants width, he has got a good heart though


I must confess I felt disapointed​ somewhat in the Burns. I fear you are not well up in Burns' Life. he was to all intents and purposes a Nature akin to yours. true not so wide, not so democratic, still a democrat. he lost promotion through his sympathy with the French Revolution 1793—he sent some guns to them which were stopped. that speaks for the man's sympathy with the cause of man. Carlyle's3 Essay on him and his Poems is by far the justest I have read with Lockheart​ 's4 Life of him. feeling how much there is of real Kinship between your two natures I felt sorry to find you had not fully grasped the hand of my Hero of Scotland in 1793. A man's a man for ah that."5 what a cheering voice that is to any soul that is able to read it. then again his idea that even "auld Nick "might be saved if he only would take a thought and mend" is the widest stretch of true charity I find in any—Poetry. I find his poetry comes home to the heart of all human Kind. I find in my travels and talks with men, many of their poor hard toiling souls to whom his Poems are the very gospel of consolation and hope.


I hope you will look it up again for us if possible. He will repay some thought I think I only wish I had you here beside me, then we could talk it over together so nicely. the stray notices I could place into your hands would enable you to see the full man. I feel glad you have done what you have, but yearn for more. give us Essays on Emerson6 & Tennyson.7 I often try to make out for myself what you really think of these two men. you are so dear to me, I often wish I was by your side. I feel there is so much I sympathise and love in Literature.—that we could chat over. and I think where​ it so, how many nice Essays would be done that would rejoice the hearts of brothers in the same grand school of human sympathy. the great hearts of our Time are begginning​ to wake up—we are begginning​ to shake of​ the bondage cast over us by the Jewish Race through their Books and the priesthood that has arisen from them.


I learn with sorrow and deep regret, your Poems are still a venture of your own. are your pupils too poor? What are we think you? if our prophet starve? excuse me being to​ bold: The great heart of America surely cannot long allow this to be true? or is it the penalty all prophets pay for being such to a people? Well I hope sunshine will come, and that soon. If I can in anyway be helpful let me know. I can at least try. we are far apart that is true. yet even here something I might do as a manifestation of my love and fellowship. I enclose some cuttings that have been saved for your reading.8 with a kind of boy's care I have gathered them. I would have sent them by news post, only I was afraid they would get lost, so thought this way was the best. I write you these few lines, simply as a quick reply to your scrawl, not by any means all I hoped to write you. If silent never once think you are forgotten even by one of the Old land.

Yours in true sympathy of heart Thomas 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. Robert Burns (1759–1796) was widely regarded as Scotland's national poet. An early Romantic poet who wrote in both Scots and English (often though not exclusively inflected by Scottish dialect), Burns is perhaps best known for his poems "Auld Lang Syne," "Tam o' Shanter" and "To a Mouse" (from which the title of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is derived). Of Burns, Whitman wrote in November Boughs: "Though so much is to be said in the way of fault-finding, drawing black marks, and doubtless severe literary criticism . . . after full retrospect of his works and life, the aforesaid 'odd-kind chiel' remains to my heart and brain as almost the tenderest, manliest, and (even if contradictory) dearest flesh-and-blood figure in all the streams and clusters of by-gone poets." For Whitman's full opinion of Burns as it appeared in November Boughs, see "Robert Burns as Poet and Person," November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888), 57–64. [back]
  • 2. This enclosure has not been located. [back]
  • 3. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish essayist, historian, lecturer, and philosopher. He wrote frequently on the conflict between scientific changes and the traditional social (often religious) order. His History of Friedrich II of Prussia, called Frederick the Great was published in 1858. For more on Carlyle, see John D. Rosenberg, Carlyle and the Burden of History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985). For Whitman's writings on Carlyle, see "Death of Thomas Carlyle" (pp. 168–170) and "Carlyle from American Points of View" (170–178) in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1882). [back]
  • 4. Scottish writer and editor John Gibson Lockhart was the author of Ancient Spanish Ballads; Historical and Romantic (1856). [back]
  • 5. Robert Burns wrote "A Man's a Man for A' That" in 1795. The song espouses Scottish republicanism and egalitarianism. [back]
  • 6. 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]
  • 7. 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]
  • 8. These enclosures have not been located. [back]
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