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Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Walt Whitman, [11 August 1875]

My dear Walt Whitman1

(Somehow the Mr does not come well before Walt Whitman). I am glad to hear from you again & to learn that at any rate you are no worse than when you last wrote, & that though your health be shattered2 your good spirits flourish up like a plant from broken ground, glad also that you find something to approve of in a work so utterly unlike your own as my Queen Mary.3

I am this morning starting with my wife & Sons4 on a tour to the Continent. She has been very unwell for two years, obliged always to lie down & incapable of any work in consequence of overwork—the case of so many in this age, yours among others & we are now going into a land of fuller sunshine in hopes that it may benefit her.

I am in an extreme hurry, packing up & after these few words must bid you goodbye, not without expressing my hope however that you will ultimately recover all your pristine vigor. I shall be charmed to receive your book.

Ever yours 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. This is a reply to the letter from Whitman to Tennyson of July 24, 1875. [back]
  • 2. Whitman suffered a stroke in 1873 that left him partially paralyzed and recovering for several years. [back]
  • 3. Queen Mary, a poetic drama by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) about the life of "Bloody" Mary I of England (1516–1558) and her marriage to Philip II of Spain (1527–1598), appeared in 1875. [back]
  • 4. Emily Sarah Sellwood, Lady Tennyson (1813–1896), was born at Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England, and she was the eldest daughter of Henry (1782–1867) and Sarah Sellwood. Following her marriage to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, she served as a business manager and secretary for her husband, in addition to taking on the responsiblities of running large households. She was the mother of two sons, Hallam (1852–1928) and Lionel Tennyson (1854–1886). She also wrote hymns, set some of her husband's poetry to music, and assisted Hallam in writing a memoir of her husband. [back]
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