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Thomas Dixon to Walt Whitman, 19 December 1875

 loc.01457.003_large.jpg Dear Friend

I have mailed you and registered there. the following Books and printed matter. a Copy of "the Bhagavad Gita"2 Thompson's3 translations. (a recent Edition.) Selections from the Sanscrit​ by John Muir4 D.D. a lecture on English Literature by a Unitarian Minister of Birkenhead (to whom I gave a copy of the Complete Edition of your Poems) lastly the Supplement to our town's paper. I would like you to look over a Sketch by H.C. Andersen5 on two Candles, its​ translated by one of your readers here. the other is a Story from Iceland being the first story in said paper, it is also written by a warm friend of yours, he was once Editor of the paper but is now engaged in a larger paper in a neighbouring town. a paper that is quite in advance of all our papers here about entitled the Newcastle Chronicle it has got a Daily as well as weekly issue. I will send you a copy someday of the weekly one so that you may gauge its power and its principles. and also  loc.01457.004_large.jpg contrast it with your own papers for I think there is large room for improvement in—many of them I see. they seem to contain matters of such trivial interest outside of the district they are issued in, now I think your papers ought as a rule to be universal in a lare​ portion of there​ topics. if your National poetry to a large extent is intensely European I think the papers to large extent are essentially local in there​ articles. at least with very few exceptions, such I find is the case in those I recieve​ . the best piece of hopeful outspoken utterance in print I see is the reports of the Free Religious Association6 of Boston. It seems quite in Keeping with what supposes and expects from the cultureed​ people of your land—but perhaps you dont​ see it? so that my reference to it will not be of use to you. I help all I can here its circulation. Well I hope you will enjoy our little gift I hope in the perusal of each work you will something akin to the width and depth of your own heart. these are old utterances. yet new to us in  loc.01457.005_large.jpg this lands. "the Gita" is one of my favourite Books, it is the gem of all Indian lore. it is as wide in its teachings and runs deep too as anything I have ever yet seen in printed Book. I have tried hard to induce a few souls to aid in the issue of a cheap universal Edition of it. but have utterly failed. its present publisher been lead to do it, in the hopes it may lead to some such recognition by some of our Literary associtions​ —I read with deepfelt sympathy the slight utterances as E.A. Poe7 He and his Works have long been in part dear to me.—but what is it that is not so. and to Carlyle8 and my own nature too and lastly to you and your teachings. how can one but feel interested and moved by such a Nature and then I ask? How comes the distance in such life as own such Souls? We We poor mortals sit in judgement on such—who know nothing of the nature or the environments of such. I pause in my thoughts on all such, and gaze on them in wonderment—even with awe and silence too.—


How much of the Speculations of our time did he not solve. and lies therein embeded​ in these wild wild awful stories of his. Ah! that nature is one that used one's love and deepest sympathy, not our Hate and Scorn. as alas too often is given it. your sketch of him in the Storm tossed vessel is very very awful real and true. it made me tremble while I read it.—and I have read it up to friends 3 times who call in to hear the news. bye​ the way is the photograph you sent me with your Beaver on procurable yet? If so where and what price? The friend whose letter I sent you on your Critique on Burns9 who lives in London wants a copy. he has seen the one you sent me in 1869. Now lastly I feel glad to see in our papers you have seen Conway10 again, I once spent a little time pleasantly with him in London in 1873. He's a right noble free spoken man, full of wise helpful energy of all sorts in his neighborhood in London. I regretted his notes on you was so very brief. Will my subscription to your New Edition of your works, if sent you direct to America, be of any real aid in your new efforts? let me know I will  loc.01454.001_large.jpg see what I can do in the matter of subscribing for a few Copies—I would gladly like to aid you if I can do so. I think all who read your Books ought to help you in some way that would really be helpful—


I feel in your case that it is only by some such method we cannot really help forward the work you aim to do. Excuse that simple free scrawl.—

Yours Thankfully Thomas Dixon  loc.01457.001_large.jpg Dixon—Jan '76 ans Feb. 2/76  loc.01457.002_large.jpg

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Care of Col Whitman | Stevens Street | Camden—New Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: Sunderland | D | DE 19 | 75. [back]
  • 2. The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu scriptural text, a part of the Mahabharata in which Lord Krishna provides counsel on the concept of dharma and the relationship between this life and the next. [back]
  • 3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 4. Scottish-born John Muir (1838–1914) was an American author, naturalist, and an environmentalist. [back]
  • 5. Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) was a Danish author best known for his work on fairy tales and children's stories, including "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," and "The Emperor's New Clothes." In his letter of January 5, 1872, Rudolf Schmidt observed to Walt Whitman: "Hans Christian Andersen would perhaps not make you very great joy, if you did know him personally." [back]
  • 6. The Free Religious Association was a group of abolitionists who opposed organized religion and instead supported evolutionary science. Operating from 1867 to 1914, its members included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Moncure D. Conway. [back]
  • 7. Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American poet, fiction writer, and literary critic. Though born in Boston, he was shaped by an upbringing in the South. He is best known for his short tales, including detective fiction and stories of the macabre. Poe passed away a few days after he was found delirious and in need of medical assistance on the streets of Baltimore. [back]
  • 8. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish writer who wrote frequently on the conflict between scientific changes and the traditional social (often religious) order. For Whitman's writings on Carlyle, see "Death of Thomas Carlyle" and "Carlyle from American Points of View" in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), 168–170 and 170–178. [back]
  • 9. 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]
  • 10. Moncure Daniel Conway (1832–1907) was an American abolitionist, minister, and frequent correspondent with Walt Whitman. Conway often acted as Whitman's agent and occasional public relations man in England. For more on Conway, see Philip W. Leon, "Conway, Moncure Daniel (1832–1907)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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