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Alfred, Lord Tennyson, to Walt Whitman, [8 July 1874]

Dear Mr. Walt Whitman:1

I am grieved to hear2 that you have been so unwell and can only trust that your physician is a true prophet, and that you will recover and be as well as ever.3 I have myself known a case of cerebral anæmia in a young lady living near me. She lost her mind and no one who saw her believed she could live; but under the superintendence of a good doctor she has perfectly recovered and looks plumper and fresher than ever she did before.

This is the first letter I have written for weeks, and I am afraid I write rather obscurely, for my hand and arm have been crippled with rheumatism (I hope it is not gout), and I am not yet perfectly recovered.

I was beholden to you for your Democratic Vistas,4 and if I did not answer and acknowledge them I regret to have done so; but if you knew how great the mass of my correspondence is, and how much I dislike letter-writing, I doubt not, you would forgive me easily.

When I next hear of or from you may the news be that you are fully re-established in your old vigor and body: Meanwhile believe me

Yours ever A Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer.


  • 1. According to Donaldson, this letter is postmarked: Haslemere, July 8, 1874 (Walt Whitman The Man, ed. Thomas Donaldson [New York: Francis P. Harper, 1896], 227–228). [back]
  • 2. Whitman had written to Tennyson on May 24, 1874. [back]
  • 3. Whitman suffered a stroke in 1873 that left him partially paralyzed and recovering for several years. [back]
  • 4. Whitman's prose work Democratic Vistas was published in an eighty-four-page pamphlet in 1871. It is comprised of three essays Whitman had planned to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Two of these essays appeared in the Galaxy: "Democracy" was published in the December 1867 issue and "Personalism" in the May 1868 issue. Whitman submitted the third essay, "Orbic Literature," to the Galaxy, but it was not published in the magazine. For more information on this work, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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