Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 2 May [1875]

Dear John Burroughs,

I send you a letter, &c. I rec'd from Dowden, as you are alluded to. I have written to Dowden, today, & sent it off—so I suppose he will send you the books alluded to. Mine have arrived—Dowden advances, expands, or rather penetrates—the first two Chapters of his Shakespere, which I have read thoroughly, are very fine—(I have underlined passages on every page)2 —the Victor Hugo I have not yet read3

. . . I am pretty strong yet, & go out—but head, stomach & liver, all in a bad way, & seems as if nothing could bring them round.

Have rec'd a long & good letter from Rossetti4 which I will show you when you come. How are you getting along? How is 'Sula? . . .



  • 1. Transcript. [back]
  • 2.

    The presentation copy of Dowden's Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art (London: Henry S. King, 1875), now in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., is marked on every page for the first eighty pages but only sporadically after that, although there are underlined passages throughout the entire volume. The underscoring in various kinds of pencils and comments dated in the 1880s indicate that Whitman examined Dowden's study several times.

    In his reply to Whitman on July 27, 1875, Burroughs was not impressed with Dowden's book: "It does not differ very much from the rest of the critical literature of that subject, I do not yet see that it throws any new light. His Victor Hugo article strikes me as much more masterly."

  • 3. Dowden referred to his article on Hugo in a letter to Whitman on April 12, 1873: "There is much in common between Victor Hugo & you, but if I had to choose between 'Leaves of Grass' & 'La Légende des Siècles' I should have not a moment's hesitation in throwing away 'La Légende'." To Burroughs on June 9, 1875, Dowden admitted that "my article on Victor Hugo is only partially satisfactory" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 3:216). In a postscript he inquired about Whitman's physical comforts because a Camden newspaper which he had seen had described the poet as "ill and indigent." [back]
  • 4. On April 14, 1875, William Michael Rossetti discussed his literary activities, his insertion of notices about Walt Whitman in the London Academy, and his marriage in 1874 to the daughter of Ford Madox Brown, the painter. [back]
Back to top