Skip to main content

Edward Dowden to Walt Whitman, 23 July 1871

 loc.01486.003.jpg My dear Sir,

I wished to send you a copy of the July No of the Westminster Review containing an article by me which attempts a study of one side of your work in literature. I wrote to Mr. W. M. Rossetti to enquire for your address & he tells me that he has already forwarded a copy to you. But I will not be defrauded by Mr. Rossetti of the pleasure I had promised  loc.01486.004.jpg myself & therefore you must accept a second copy of the Review (which I post with this letter) & do what you like with it.

I ought to say that the article expresses very partially the impression which your writings have made on me. It keeps, as is obvious, at a single point of view & regards only what becomes visible from that point. But also I wrote more cooly than I feel because I wanted those, who being ignorant of your writings are perhaps prejudiced against them, to say "Here is a cool, judicious, impartial  loc.01486.005.jpg critic who finds a great deal in Whitman—perhaps, after all, we are mistaken." Perhaps this will be unsatisfactory to you, & you would prefer that your critic should let the full force of your writings appear in his criticism, & attract those who are to be attracted, & repel those who are to be repelled, & you may value the power of repulsion as well as that of attraction. But so many persons capable of loving your work, by some mischance or miscarriage or by some ignorance or removable error fail in their approach to you, or do not approach at all.  loc.01486.006.jpg that I think I am justified in my attempt.

You have many readers in Ireland, & those who read do not feel a qualified delight in your poems—do not love them by degree, but with an absolute, a personal love. We none of us question that yours is the clearest, & sweetest, & fullest American voice. We grant as true all that you claim for yourself. And you gain steadily among us new readers & lovers.

If you care at all for what I have written it would certainly be a pleasure to hear this from yourself. If you do not care for it you will know  loc.01486.007.jpg that I wished to do better than I did.

My fixed residence is 50 Wellington Road,  

My work there is that of Professor of English Literature in the University of Dublin. We have lately had a good public lecture in Dublin from a Fellow of Trinity College on your poems—R. Y. Tyrrell a man who knows Greek poetry very well, & who finds it does not interfere with his regard for yours. If the lecture should at any time be published  loc.01486.008.jpg I shall send you a copy.

I am, dear Sir, Very truly yours Edward Dowden.
Back to top