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Cyril Flower to Walt Whitman, 20 October 1871

 loc.01618.001_large_mflm.jpg My dear Mr. Whitman:

I have just returned from a long tour in Germany & France & find a pamphlet of yours awaiting me Sent I hope & presume by you—I say I hope for there is no line accompanying it and yet I think it is your writing on the cover  loc.01618.002_large_mflm.jpg If you have sent it then am I not forgotten.

I have often wished I may say Even longed to hear from you—a few a very few lines to tell me of your well being a little of your doings and of your recollection (if it is not too much to ask) of one who is always yr:​ sincere friend & lover & who travelled many a mile to see & speak with you.


I even hoped against hope that you would brighten us perhaps in England this summer but it past​ and neither you, or word of you came, though many a time and oft as steamer after steamer arrived I wondered, does he come or write.—Enough—

Mark you; if to you I am indebted for the pamphlet I like it much. it strikes me as so simple pure & powerful, & reminds me  loc.01618.004_large_mflm.jpg as so much of your work does of all that is sweet & good & noble in the world Somehow when I read you or think of you, I feel once more the cool never to be forgotten breeze of a boundless prairie; my lungs seem to open and I respire more easily I feel perhaps freer for the time & less material & then again 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  loc.01618.005_large_mflm.jpg who loves me & who is beautiful because he loves, & with the Consciousness of that I feel never alone—never sad—& Much more, I feel but to what purpose do I write thus—

I will tell you a little of what I have seen but it must be very little as I only returned late last night after a long journey & find much to occupy me. Paris, the gay, the beautiful is no longer either.  loc.01618.006_large_mflm.jpg It is terribly sad & horribly ugly. Great wounds as it were over the face of it—ruins at every corner streets blackened with petroleum. Shop window after shop window in the most busy & flourishing quarters still smashed & unmended patched up with paper houses torn by shells—and the people in the streets & on the boulevards  loc.01618.007_large_mflm.jpg no longer the Parisians of old but a sadder may we hope a wiser people—

So many thousands are in deep mourning that this gives as it were a funeral touch to it all.

Then the Palace of St. Cloud is a skeleton, not a window not a bit of roof is left of it. The old Tuilleries too look fearful—with their picturesque walls & in the distance The grand almost sublime ruins of the Hotel de Ville look reproachfully upon  loc.01618.008_large_mflm.jpg you—to me Paris was very saddening—still more Metz & Strasbourg which are alike what the French call Abimé—literally razed Even unto the ground—the soldiers all that remain of them look small, ill fed, ill clothed, and are I heard over drilled—In Strasbourg—Prussian band plays magnificently Every day at a certain but as yet no one has been seen to stand & listen to it—  loc.01618.009_large_mflm.jpg hatred is no word for the feeling between them.

The Prussian soldiers are really splendid fellows I think you would very much like them, they are so manly & simple perhaps too warlike but that is of course the fault of their Education for their temperament is it seems to me very domestic & affectionate.

Blind as Frenchmen  loc.01618.010_large_mflm.jpg always are to their own faults Parisians appear to be dimly conscious that it was Paris much more than France that forced the Emperor by its mad clamor to undertake the war which has ruined both the Emperor and Capital.1

I will write again when I hear from you

In the meantime I remain dear Mr. Whitman

Forever affec'y​ , Cyril Flower  loc_tb.00656.jpg from Cyril Flower (Paris, after the German siege '71) see notes Oct. 10 1888

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). According to Flower's April 23, 1871 letter, he met Whitman in Washington in December, 1870. He had later delivered some of Whitman's books to Tennyson, who "was much touched by your memory of him, and I told him of your deep regard for him." On July 16, 1871, Flower informed Whitman that Tennyson was sending a letter by the same mail (Tennyson's letter was dated July 12, 1871).


  • 1. Instigated by growing tensions between France and Prussia preceding a vacancy on the Spanish throne, the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870–May 1871) ended in complete Prussian victory and facilitated the unification of Germany, whose previously unaffiliated states had allied with Prussia. In the New York Evening Mail on October 27, 1870, the Washington correspondent reported: "At the commencement of the present war in Europe [Walt Whitman] was strongly German, but is now the ardent friend of the French, and enthusiastically supports them and their Republic" (Charles I. Glicksberg, Walt Whitman and the Civil War [1933], 116n). [back]
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