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Walter M. Rew to Walt Whitman, [1890–1892]

 loc.03634.001_large.jpg Sir:

To say that Walt Whitman is the chief singer in America is to say little. That leaves unexpressed the fact that no other champion has stepped into Poetry's Arena who has determined by so much as a conjecture the issues involved.

It has become now, happily a mere act of piety to put one's self on record. It is a very brief silent ceremonial—but this votive leaflet must come:—the rushing wind leaves now some bit of calm in a rather bare call. The return current goes underground unexpressed—yet is felt.  loc.03634.002_large.jpg I have been tempted to make too much perhaps of my chosen association with our greatest in England this century & your good nature must [damage] by any sort of reply even if such were possible.

Yet I cannot refrain from expressing the feeling as I rise from a completed task—3 dramas—that just a faint breath of that larger air that breathes from you has come my way.

These plays are:

(1) The Troubador—who nurses wounded heroes during the war of the Rebellion

(2). The Cynic—an American statesman of the future who put a great fool on "Confections and persiflage."1


(3). The Adept—a prophet in mean raiment surrounded by the inanest crazes of modern times and unexpectedly enouncing a gospel that startles idolators by showing them to themselves greater than they knew.

A good few rather paltry Buddhas must be swallowed up the Tiger's maw, and we need not grumble at such a destiny since the en masse doctrine has been preached. We can accept obscurity.

"Tui Moriamus te salutamus,"2 Walter May Rew


BY WALTER M. REW, M.D., Author of Dion, Poems, etc "Marks of a fine Genius."—Carlyle. "Many passages as remarkable."—London Aca'my. "Although this novel minutel[cut-away]
 loc.03634.004_large.jpg Walter M Rew

Walter M. Rew was a physician and a graduate of the University of New York. In addition to his medical practice, he wrote several literary works, including Dion, A Tragedy: and Poems (1877) and Maud Vivian: A Drama, and Poems (1873). In 1893, Rew was accused and convicted of illegally conducting a so-called medical prepatory college at the 99 Macdougal Street address that appears on this letter. Rew issued false medical diplomas for a fee to individuals who studied with him for a couple of weeks; the "diplomas" supposedly certified the recipients to practice in the Western States ("Made M.D.'s in Two Weeks," The Evening World [July 25, 1893], 3). He served three months in prison for the diploma scandal, and three years later, he was arrested again on charges of bigamy as he had married at least five women and swindled some of them out of their savings ("Had Five Wives," Boston Post [October 29, 1896], 5).


  • 1. Rew is referencing the preface of Leaves of Grass. [back]
  • 2. The phrase "Tui Moriamus te salutamus" means "We who are about to die, salute you" in Latin. [back]
  • 3. Rew pasted part of a newspaper clipping onto this letter for Whitman to read. The clipping includes several positive blurbs about Rew and his writing. [back]
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