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Ernest Rhys to Walt Whitman, 11 September 1889

 loc.03339.001.jpg My dear Walt Whitman,

I was very glad to have your postcard2 two or three days ago, & to find that you still struggle on so bravely. When your card came, I was staying awhile at a pleasant farm near the little town of Brecon, whither I went for the Welsh Eisteddfod. (I send paper by this post, with article of mine giving brief description). Harvest was in full swing while I was there, and I had a capital time of it, riding loc.03339.002.jpg about on a sturdy & quick little mare, & getting well sun-burnt. My work—editing &c., made me come away at last sooner than I wished to. I left there on Monday,—travelling by farmer's gig & train, & then afoot for twelve miles by a good country road through a quiet & picturesque cwm or valley,—so reaching this place, Carmarthen, where I stay with my grandfather & mother.

Wales has been at its best for the last three of four weeks—splendid harvest sunshine day after day; & you may think of me, if you will, as living a free & easy life in the sun, having for society the hearty & simple farm folk of South Wales, listening with loc.03339.003.jpg immense zest to their folk-songs & folk-tales, which are of a kind that you would like & take to heart.

There is great stone of the antique in Wales, as you know; & it is good on these sunny autumn afternoons to climb up to some old castle, and imagine the Medieval bards & warriors parading there as of old. I have been dipping more & more into old Welsh romance & poetry, of late; eking out with a dictionary my small store of the vernacular as now spoken. There is great wealth of metaphor, & excessive metrical finesse in some of these old Welsh poets. Indeed, Welsh poetry is far more intricate & distinctive in its way than the English, while of course loc.03339.004.jpg wanting in many things that the best Elizabethans had.

I expect to stay in this neighborhood for two or three weeks,—exploring some parts of the coast (for the sea is quite near.) & of the country, that I have not already come to know. Little by little Wales is becoming a fairly well-known country & fatherland, where many hospitable rooftrees serve as a kind of friendly barricade against the outer world—if it should be inclined to treat me badly at any time. Now defended from the sophistications of life, one can manage to live the spirit of "Leaves of Grass,"—a life simple & healthy & very human! But I must stop now, for the sun calls me out; & I have already written much to-day.

With continued love & remembrance, 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. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish statesman, historical novelist, playwright, and poet, best known for Ivanhoe (1820), The Lady of the Lake (1810), and Waverly (1814). For Whitman's view of Scott, see Vickie L. Taft, "Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's August 25, 1889, postcard to Ernest Rhys. [back]
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