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Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 20 February 1888

 loc.03320.001.jpg Dear Walt Whitman,

Instead of coming by boat, I came by the midnight train on Friday, & got here about 7 on Saturday morning. Since then I have been to Concord & discussed the New Poetry. The meeting took place after all in Dr. Emerson's house,  loc.03320.002.jpg instead of his father's. Old Mrs. Emerson (who is 85 years old, they tell me,) & Ellen Emerson,1 formed part of the audience which though small was perhaps as remarkable as any I am ever likely to have. The discussion after my paper, in which Sanborn2 took a main part, was full of interest, & there was a general agreement with my position, & that part based on Leaves of Grass in especial. Mrs. Talcott Williams3 gave me on Thursday evening two pictures of your house, inside & out, one shewing you seated by the window; & on Sanborn's suggestion I took these to shew to the people at the lecture, who were quite delighted with the glimpse of you thus given.

I stayed until this morning with the Sanborns, & found them endlessly kind. They were anxious to hear all about you. Sanborn himself may come to see you soon, when passing through Philadelphia.  loc.03320.003.jpg Yesterday morning he drove me round by Lincoln & other pleasant rustic places. It was so fine that I wish you could have been with us. In the afternoon Dr. Emerson drove me to Walden Pond again; & in the evening I met Channing4 (who as you know is morbidly shy.) & had a quiet talk at Sanborn's snug fireside, with its blazing logs to make good cheer.

With love, —Ernest Rhys

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. He is referring to Lidian Jackson Emerson (1802–1892), the second wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and two of their children: physician and writer Edward Waldo Emerson (1844–1930) as well as Ellen Emerson (1839–1909), named after Ralph Waldo Emerson's first wife. [back]
  • 2. Franklin B. Sanborn (1831–1917) was an abolitionist and a friend of John Brown. In 1860, when he was tried in Boston because of his refusal to testify before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Whitman was in the courtroom (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 242). He reviewed Drum-Taps in the Boston Commonwealth on February 24, 1866. He was editor of the Springfield Republican from 1868 to 1872, and was the author of books dealing with his friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. "A Visit to the Good Gray Poet" appeared without Sanborn's name in the Springfield Republican on April 19, 1876. For more on Sanborn, see Linda K. Walker, "Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin (Frank) (1831–1917)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Talcott Williams (1849–1928) was associated with the New York Sun and World as well as the Springfield Republican before he became the editor of the Philadelphia Press in 1879. His newspaper vigorously defended Whitman in news articles and editorials after the Boston censorship of 1882. For more information about Williams, see Philip W. Leon, "Williams, Talcott (1849–1928)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. William F. Channing (1820–1901), son of William Ellery Channing, and also Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Applications of Electricity (Boston: Daniel Davis, Jr., and Joseph M. Wightman, 1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitman stayed at his home in October, 1868. [back]
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