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Frederick S. Ellis to Walt Whitman, 24 August 1871

 loc_nhg.00797_large.jpg Dear Sir:

When I wrote to you yesterday I quite forgot to mention that Mr. Swinburne1 had for a long time been very much concerned that not knowing your address he had been unable to send you a copy of his "Songs before Sunrise". As I think it possible that  loc_nhg.00798_large.jpg  loc_nhg.00799_large.jpg  loc_nhg.00796_large.jpg by this time you may have got the book I send you one of the special copies printed on fine paper, of which only 25 were struck off and shall feel much gratified by your acceptance of it.

Believe me Dear Sir Yours faithfully, F. S. Ellis To Walt Whitman Esqr. Ellis London

Frederick Startridge Ellis (1830–1901) was a London bookseller, publisher, and author who published the works of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Whitman first wrote to Ellis on August 12, 1871, to ask if he would publish Leaves of Grass. Ellis declined, writing in an August 23 letter that there were poems in Leaves of Grass that "would not go down in England," but he praised Whitman's poetry and sent him a specially printed copy of Algernon Charles Swinburne's Songs before Sunrise.


  • 1. The British poet, critic, playwright, and novelist Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909) was one of Whitman's earliest English admirers. At the conclusion of William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), Swinburne pointed out similarities between Whitman and Blake, and praised "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which he termed "the most sweet and sonorous nocturn ever chanted in the church of the world" (300–303). His famous lyric "To Walt Whitman in America" is included in Songs before Sunrise (1871). For the story of Swinburne's veneration of Whitman and his later recantation, see two essays by Terry L. Meyers, "Swinburne and Whitman: Further Evidence," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 14 (Summer 1996), 1–11 and "A Note on Swinburne and Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 21 (Summer 2003), 38–39. [back]
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