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Walt Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt, 4 June 1872

My dear Rudolf Schmidt,1

I have sent you some books by Mr. Clausen2—All the real flavor of American fun resides in its idioms, which are untranslatable expressions of elements in the places, people, & nativities here—perceptible enough here, but in the nature of things invisible & inaudible to a foreigner—The extracts I enclose will illustrate—3

Mr. Clausen started for Denmark last Saturday, June 1st.

I am just having your criticism fully rendered into English—I am to obtain possession of it next Thursday4—From what I get of it, in advance, it is going to prove the grandest response & praise yet given anywhere to me & my poems. I rec'd the newspaper. I shall keep you advised of any printed use made of your criticism in this country—(The brief of the N. Y. Commercial Advertiser, has been copied in the papers somewhat.)

From the 10th of June to 10th of July I shall be home in Brooklyn, New York, & then return here again—

We are in the midst of the preparations & canvassing for one of our national elections—the election is next November—(for President for the term from March 4, 1873, to March 4, 1877)—There is nothing very radical or important in the political questions—it is mostly an excitement of personal piques, & for the spoils, as we call it, (i.e. the pay & perquisites of office)—

One of our great nominating Conventions is just now meeting, (at Philadelphia)5—You would enjoy the sight of such a spectacle greatly—there are many hundreds of delegates, and many thousands of active interested followers. (All voluntary—all perfectly good natured)—such talking, such gesticulation, such immense crowds by day & night—such manoevering by the different coteries, for their favorite men, (to get "the nomination")—&c. &c. &c.—It is all very salutary exercise for the bulk of the people. But the spectacular part of the scenes is the best, especially at night—many bands of music—

Walt Whitman


  • 1. Rudolf Schmidt, editor of For Idé og Virkelighed, wrote to Walt Whitman on October 19, 1871: "I intend to write an article about yourself and your writings in the above named periodical which is very much read in all the Scandinavian countries. …I therefore take the liberty to ask you, if you should not be willing to afford some new communications of yourself and your poetry to this purpose" (Library of Congress). [back]
  • 2. Carl F. Clausen, identified by Schmidt as "my old friend and countryman," corresponded with Schmidt after he left Denmark in 1860; see Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 34–39. The city directory in 1870 listed him as a draughtsman and in 1872 as a patent agent. He died of consumption in the middle 1870s; see Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #108. [back]
  • 3.

    On April 25, 1872, Schmidt made a request: "Will you do me a service? I should like to write an article on 'American fancy' contrasting the grotesque humor that is scattered with no pretension in your newspapers with the humor of Luther and Shakespeare…Could you not find for me about a dozen jokes of this sort."

    With this letter are three newspaper clippings: "American Slang in England," "Artemus Ward and the Press," and "Yankee Talk."

  • 4. Emil Arctander, who was acting vice-consul for Denmark, translated Rudolf Schmidt's 1872 article for Walt Whitman. According to his letters of June 17 and 20, 1872, Arctander did not complete his self-styled "weak translation" until later in the month. The translation, with scores of corrections in Walt Whitman's hand, is in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. [back]
  • 5. The Republican convention of 1872. [back]
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