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Walt Whitman to Edward Dowden, [January 1876]

My dear friend,

Enclosed I send you a piece printed here to give a true statement of the situation—& which I should be well satisfied to have printed in Britain. I ought to have written you before. I have read your "Shakspere"2 & ought to have thanked you for it. I find it full of vitality & suggestiveness, on themes that might be supposed exhausted years ago—but are not at all exhausted.

As I write I am feeling pretty comfortable—much the same as for last two years—no worse. John Burroughs was here with me last week. He is well. …3

M D Conway has called upon us. He is a good & intellectual man, but I don't think I either got hold of him, nor he of me, at all. My friend, I must still put off for another letter some things I have had in my mind for months to say to you. Your letters past—what John Burroughs told me—(and your Shakspere book)—have grafted you more on my good will & memory than you perhaps know. I write in haste.

Walt Whitman


  • 1.

    This letter must have been written about the same time as the one to William Michael Rossetti (dated January 26, 1876), for the following reasons: Whitman referred to the article in the West Jersey Press, to Burroughs' visit in the middle of January, and to Conway's recent interview. Dowden apparently replied to this letter on February 16, 1876. However, Dowden's letter on February 6, 1876, also noted receipt of a communication referring to his book on Shakespeare.


  • 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. Whitman had praised the book's opening chapters in his May 2, 1875 letter to John Burroughs. [back]
  • 3. Probably at this point Whitman mentioned the publication of Leaves of Grass and Two Rivulets. [back]
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