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Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 2 February 1889

 loc.03336.001.jpg THE CAMELOT SERIES. EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS. Dear Walt Whitman,

I came off down here on Tuesday, having lectures to give at Cardiff and Swansea on Tuesday & Wednesday nights. Now I am staying a few days over with a bright young fellow who has a cottage here overlooking the pleasant sweep of Swansea Bay;—after over-work day & night in town, you can imagine how good it seems to have the sea hard-by, & the free sea-wind a-blowing.

"The sea-wind & the seaMade all my soul in meA song for ever!"1

In an hour or two, we shall set off for a two or three days tramp through the remote sea-slopes of Gower. The coast scenery is said to be very fine. We will loc.03336.002.jpg expect to reach the lovely headland of Worm's Head some time to-morrow, stopping on the way at King Arthur's Seat, & putting up for the night at some old country inn. Altogether it is just the sort of excursion that you would delight in, could you only be with us!

Meanwhile I am glad to forget town & things literary, & to loafe & take it easy here, though the post brings occasional reminders that London still exists. I must not forget, by the way, to say that a note has come to say a package (of portraits presumably) from you, awaits my return. For this again, best thanks! I shall be able now to get on with my article for the 'Scottish Art Review' as soon as I am back in town. A day or two before I left, Ed. Carpenter2 spent an evening with me. He showed me your last letter to him. He was well. I devoutly pray that you are not suffering so much as you were.

With deep love,— Ernest Rhys

Swansea Bay is famous for its oysters. The flavour they are were like the American, though small in size. Wish I could send you some!

Ernest Rhys (1859–1946) wrote on May 31, 1885: "Let me say simply in a young man's way to you who are an old man now, how dearly and earnestly I think of you across the sea to-night, remembering the Past, looking on to the great to-morrow, for perhaps of all young men you have helped me most powerfully & perfectly." On July 7, 1885 Rhys proposed a one-shilling edition of Whitman's poetry in The Canterbury Poets series. On September 25–29 Rhys wrote for the third time after waiting "for a reply so far in vain," and included the payment from Walter Scott, the English publisher of The Canterbury Poets. On Rhys's letter Whitman wrote: "the little English selection from L. of G. is out since, & the whole edition (10,000) sold." 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. Rhys is quoting a passage from Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "Ex-Voto." [back]
  • 2. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart . . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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