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Cyril Flower to Walt Whitman, 23 April 1871

 loc.01616.001_large.jpg My dear Mr. Whitman

I wonder if you have quite forgotten me I know the first thing you will very naturally do will be to look to the end of this letter endeavour to decipher the signature, & then maybe get to thinking of when & where & how it comes to pass that you hear from one—you will then I hope remember that some months ago (in the Early part of December I think it was for I know Washington was busy with preparations for the reopening of Congress) I came to see you in yr:​ office at the Treasury—And we had a long walk & talk together. I then  loc.01616.002_large.jpg promised that I would write to you when I reached England perhaps you have thought me forgetful I hope not for indeed I think of you very very often & though sometimes one feels as if there were a huge gulf between this and America at others again the thousands of miles of sounding sea seems but as a very little space, & I must say that since I have crossed this ferry & shaken hands upon the other side the distance seems as nothing & the desire to return once more gets stronger every day—I have been very, very much occupied & intensely busy one way & another arrears of work claimed my attention for you know I am not a "briefless barrister" & latterly my work has increased but I have determined that this  loc.01616.003_large.jpg glorious spring time shall not pass without my carrying out the my​ intention of scribbling to you.

I think that most countries are perhaps most beautiful in spring time certainly England is to my mind—you know the whole country looks like one lovely garden bursting forth into new life Every shade of green—the grass like Emeralds & the most perfect effects of light & shadow, & really what with the songs of birds, the smell of the flowers, the clouds the rainbows & sunlights as I see them & hear them all from this my room one can almost for the time forget care & sorrow & believe that after all this is Paradise—& so it is if one will only make it so. I long for you very often to see all this country It is so different & yet so like to yours. Differences I think very great yet almost indistinguishable, certainly for the most part differences which  loc.01616.004_large.jpg can be better felt than exprest. When are you coming—What month—what week in what steamer. I know you will go to Brooklyn & then for Xing in the Ferry boat among the crowd of people & I hear the bells jangling & I see the great Comander's coming from us to you & going from you to us, & then you will meet yr:​ mother2 & spend with her a few days. & then will you next cross again to the great New York and walk straight to the office take ticket, & spend 9 days of yr​ holiday upon the great Atlantic—land at L'pool​ and come on to me. Remember you promised that you would do so and I have been counting and relying upon yr:​ promise and am very very anxious to show you all I can & to see you again.

I must tell you that I gave Alfred Tennyson3 yr​ books.  loc.01616.005_large.jpg he was much touched by your memory of him, and I told him of yr​ deep regard for him & that you were coming over here this year which seemed to please him, and I can promise you from him too a hearty welcome. Indeed until you come, you can hardly I think understand how many friends you have. I do not know that I have very much news to tell you, for really yr:​ papers contain all. I seemed to know more of what was going on here when I was over there, than I do now somehow

Lowe our Chancellor of Exchequer has just taken a leaf out of the transatlantic page & taxed matches.4 I think if I remember the tax has been a very bad one with you, & led to many evil results. here there is a general dislike to it


Swinburne5 goes on writing a good deal he has been ill very ill. It is fearful to see his life utterly wretched & unmanly I think it seems that his craving for drink is quite incurable—Now I am not going to write any more just at present, but will write again soon & hope that perhaps before very long I may hear from you—& that you are well.

Any news you may have all you say, & anything you think will be very welcome & intensely  loc.01616.007_large.jpg interesting to me, but if you tell me that you have finally reached to come over to us directly this will be the most pleasing of all—This will delight me—I send you a little book written by a friend of mine printed only for private circulation, it is rather prettily done I think, not perhaps very original & wanting in power, but still there is something engaging about it—He  loc.01616.008_large.jpg is an artist with a Spark of the divine light in him to be sure—

Yours my dear Walt. Very affectionately Cyril Flower  loc.01616.009_large.jpg from Cyril Flower  loc.01616.010_large.jpg

Cyril Flower (1843–1907) was an English barrister and a friend of Alfred, Lord Tennyson; see Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (1934), 128–129. According to the February 20, 1886 Solicitor's Journal, Flower was appointed a Lord of the Treasury (275). Flower served as a member of Parliament from 1880 to 1892, when he was given the title Baron Battersea (see the London Gazette, 6 September 1892, 5090). Flower wrote to Whitman on October 20, 1871: "When I read you or think of you . . . I feel that I hold in my hand clasped strong & tight & for eternity the great hand of a friend a simple good fellow a man who loves me & who is beautiful because he loves, & with the Consciousness of that I feel never alone—never sad."


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Mr. Walt Whitman | Washington. D.C | U.S.A. It is postmarked: London-E. O | AP 2[illegible] | 71; [illegible] | MAY | 1; CARRIER | MAY | 8 | 8 AM. [back]
  • 2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. On April 20, 1871, Chancellor of the Exchequer Robert Lowe (1811–1892) proposed a tax on matches—a halfpenny on a box of wooden matches and a full penny on waxed matches. For this proposal, Lowe invoked the Latin phrase ex luce lucellum: "Out of light, a little profit." The proposal was met with protests and significant popular upheaval, and the tax was withdrawn; in its place, the income tax was raised. [back]
  • 5. 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]
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