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Walt Whitman to Thomas W. H. Rolleston, 22 January 1884


Yours of New Year's day rec'd,2 with K's translations3—I send you a little paper—Yes, I know Edward Carpenter4—I am well as usual—A severe winter here—have had fine sleigh-rides, & enjoyed them—or some days on the river, the Delaware, on our powerful steam ferry-boat, pressing & crashing through the heavy ice.

Walt Whitman  loc.03540.001_large.jpg

Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This postal card is addressed: T W Rolleston | 28 Terrassen Ufer | Dresden | Saxony. It is postmarked: (?) Paid | (?); Dresden (?) ALTST | 62 | 94(?) | 12-IN. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Rolleston to Whitman of January 1, 1884. [back]
  • 3. Whitman sent Knortz's translations from Leaves of Grass to Rolleston on October 14 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). In his letter of January 1 Rolleston asked Whitman about Carpenter, whose Towards Democracy (1883) he was reading (Whitman and Rolleston—A Correspondence, ed. Horst Frenz [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951], 81–82). [back]
  • 4. 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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