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Walt Whitman to Edward Dowden, 8 September 1876

 loc.01498.003_large.jpg Edward Dowden My dear friend

I send you by mail to-day, same address as this note, 1 copy, Leaves of Grass and two copies Two Rivulets2—Also the set, Two Vols. for Rev. A B Grosart3 as the address sent me for Mr. G's books dont​ appear to me specific & full enough. I have also sent same mail with this a set, Two Vols. directed Rev. Prof. Dowden,4 North Brantisfield Pl. Edinburgh, Scotland—(Is that address right?—The Scotland was not on the address as sent me)—I have also sent a copy of Two Rivulets to Rev. R P Graves,5 1 Watson r'd​ , Leeson Park Dublin. (Eight Volumes altogether, for which the pay was some time since rec'd​ by me from Wm Rossetti,6) Please  loc.01498.004_large.jpg send me word soon as they reach you safely—& also whether Rev. Mr. Dowden's set was directed right—My second batch of the new edition (600 copies each Vol.) is at last now ready, & I promptly supply orders henceforward. I have many things to say to you my dear friend.

I am sitting here by the open window, writing this, 'most​ sundown—feeling pretty well for me, as things go—often think of you & yours, & the friends in Ireland—must close as I want to send this to catch to-morrow's New York mail.7

Walt Whitman.  loc.01498.001_large.jpg  loc.01498.002_large.jpg

Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Prof. Edw: Dowden | Temple Rd Winstead | Rathmines | Dublin | Ireland. It is postmarked: Camden | Sep | 8 | N.J.; Philadelphia, PA | Sep | [illegible]; DUBLIN | SE 18 | [illegible]. [back]
  • 2. During the centennial celebration of the U.S. in 1876, Whitman reissued the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in the repackaged form of a "Centennial Edition" and "Author's Edition," with most copies personally signed by the poet. Two Rivulets was published as a companion volume to the book. Notable for its experimentations in form, typography, and printing convention, Whitman's two-volume set marks an important departure from previous publications of Leaves of Grass. For more information, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, " Leaves of Grass, 1876, Author's Edition," "Two Rivulets, Author's Edition [1876]," and "Preface to Two Rivulets [1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Alexander Balloch Grosart (1827–1899) was born in Stirling, Scotland, and he attended the University of Edinburgh. He became a Presbyterian minister and literary editor, and he reprinted numerous works of Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. [back]
  • 4. John Dowden (1840–1910), brother of Edward Dowden, was an Episcopalian clergyman. Ordained in 1865, John Dowden was elected bishop of Edinburgh in 1886, a position he held until his death. In a September 5, 1871, letter to Walt Whitman, Edward Dowden described his brother as one "who finds his truth halved between John H. Newman (of Oxford celebrity) & you." [back]
  • 5. As yet we have no information about this person. [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. On October 4, 1876, Dowden acknowledged receipt of the volumes and noted the impending publication of his own volume of poems. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, August 4, 1888. [back]
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