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Walt Whitman to Edward Dowden, 21 November 1888

My dear friend,

Again a few lines to you. The past summer & fall have laid me up again, & I am now entering the sixth month of confinement in my big chair & sick room—commenced early in June—abt the sixth whack (as I call it) from my old obstinate war-paralysis—from the overstrain'd work & excitement of Secession years, 1863, 4 & 5. I am now staving it off and on, but it is a serious siege & I do not really look for it being raised anything like really—I am in good spirits & comfortable enough. Mr. Fry1 (of England bro't a note from you) call'd upon me yesterday—and I sent you by him my new little book November Boughs2 (but it will be a week before he sails home). I have also a big 900 page Vol. nearly ready, combining all my writings, last revisions,3 &c.—I will send you a copy—Do you see anything of Rolleston?4 If so I send him my affectionate remembrances—I am sitting by my oak-wood fire writing this (cold but sunny weather here)—Spend most of my time alone—a few visitors—get along better than you might suppose. Love & thanks to you, my friend, & best best regards to my Irish friends all.

Walt Whitman

Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. With a letter of introduction dated August 31, 1888 from Edward Dowden (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, November 12, 1888), Lewis Fry (1823–1921), a Liberal and Unionist Member of Parliament from Bristol, England, called on Whitman on November 20. Whitman was much impressed with this "good Liberal" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, November 20, 1888). Dowden acknowledged receipt of November Boughs (1888) on June 26, 1889. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is referring to his Complete Poems & Prose, which would be published in December of the same year. [back]
  • 4. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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