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Rudolf Schmidt to Walt Whitman, 4 April 1873

 loc.01907.005_large.jpg Dear Walt Whitman,

I have been in these last months as a haunted​ deer and still at present I have in many days not an only leisure-hour, and all this business is not in your american mony​ -making way, though of the most cumbrous and toilsome sort.

"Democratic Vistas"1 have therefore not appeared in danish translation. The translation  loc.01907.006_large.jpg into Danish of your prose is a very difficult task, and I dare not confide it to any other than myself. But in the next half year the translation shall appear.

I have received to​ or three american papers from you;—of course you have duly received from me a little selection of norwegian poetry in english translation? If my article on you should appear in any american magazine, I should like to have sent a copy.

"Northamerican​ Review"2  loc.01907.007_large.jpg Jan, has had an article on Bj Bjornson3 by Hjalmar Hjorth Boysen​ .4 I wonder, that Clemens Petersen5 who is an infinitely greater talent has got no entrance into this periodical.

How is it with poor Clausen?6 I long to hear news from him and from yourself.

Yours Rudolf Schmidt  loc.01907.008_large.jpg Schmidt

The Danish writer Peter Carl Rudolf Schmidt (1836–1899) was the editor of the idealist journal For Idé og Virkelighed ("For Idea and Reality") and had translated Whitman's Democratic Vistas into Danish in 1874.


  • 1. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. The North American Review was the first literary magazine in the United States. The journalist Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851–1889) edited and published the magazine in New York from 1876 until his death. After Rice's death, Lloyd Bryce became owner and editor. [back]
  • 3. Björnstjerne Björnson (1832–1910), Norwegian poet, dramatist, and novelist, was co-editor of Rudolf Schmidt's journal. In his January 5, 1872, letter, Rudolf Schmidt observed: "Hans Christian Andersen would perhaps not make you very great joy, if you did know him personally. Björnson would be your man" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, February 7, 1889, 103). Schmidt later altered his opinion of Björnson, writing at some length on February 28, 1874: "His poetry comes from the source that is throbbing in the people's own heart. He has been the spoiled darling of the whole Danish public. But he is a living test of the hideous and venomous serpent, that hides his ugly head among the flowers of the pantheistic poetry. You have in your 'vistas' spoken proud words of the flame of conscience, the moral force as the greatest lack of the present democracy. You have, without knowing it, named the lack of Björnson at the same time! Björnson owes Denmark gratitude. He has shown it in the form of deep and bloody offences, that make every honest Danish heart burn with rage and indignation." [back]
  • 4. Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848–1895) was a Norwegian author who immigrated to the United States in 1869. Boyesen's article, entitled "Björnstjerne Björnson as a Dramatist," was published in the January 1873 edition of the North American Review, no. 238, 109–138. [back]
  • 5. Clemens Petersen (1834–1918), for ten years a critic for the Danish magazine "Fædrelandet" (Fatherland), left Denmark in 1869 amid police accusations of homosexuality; accusations that Petersen was inappropriately involved with schoolchildren were never proven. Petersen remained in the U.S. until 1904, when he returned to Denmark. Petersen and Norwegian poet Björnstjerne Björnson (1832–1910) engaged in a long correspondence, suggesting a close friendship. Rudolf Schmidt pressed Walt Whitman for his opinion of Petersen, as in his February 28, 1874, letter: "I have asked you at least two times how you did like Clemens Petersen; you have not replied and most probably you wont speak of this matter. If that is the case, I shall repeat the question no more." See Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History, ed. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (London: Psychology Press, 2000), 2:55, 343; see also Carl Roos, "Walt Whitman's Letters to a Danish Friend," Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 43n. [back]
  • 6. Carl F. Clausen, who Rudolf Schmidt called "my old friend and countryman," corresponded with Schmidt after he left Denmark in 1860. See Carl Roos, "Walt Whitman's Letters to a Danish Friend," Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 34–39. The Directory in 1870 listed him as a draughtsman and in 1872 as a patent agent. He died of consumption in the middle 1870s. [back]
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