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Walt Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt, 28 July–28 August 1874

Yours1 of June 262 duly arrived some days since.

1) I have sent a paper to Kr. Elster3 at Throudhjem, containing my last, (the College poem) & a piece in about my sickness. I sent you a copy same paper.

2) The letter you speak of, (March 20,) duly reached me. I have no doubt, dear friend, that all the letters, papers, sheets, &c. during the last three years sent me by your loving kindness & attention have every one reached me. (The post office here is among the best things of the New World—is sure, quick, cheap, & every way admirable. If letters addressed to me go to other cities, as they sometimes do, they are pretty sure eventually to come here—the post office men, even the carriers, are wonderfully bright & intuitive.)

3) I will be on the look out for John Burroughs's photograph—he is well at last accounts.

4) I myself have pleased myself more fully with Redwood Tree4 than any of my pieces of late years.5 But it is generally thought wild & cloudy here—(the Columbus is more popular far)—I suppose it is hardly necessary to tell you that I have pitched and keyed my pieces more with reference to fifty years hence, & how they will stand mellowed and toned then—than to pleasing & tickling the immediate impressions of the present hour.

6)6 I have not heard any thing more of C. Petersen lately—but if I meet with any thing of his printed, I will send you.

7) All the criticisms, Danish papers, & those from Norway, duly rec'd—to be carefully translated & read to me—I prize them all, very much—but I am yet feeble, & read, write &c. as little as possible. 8) One or two little items have been in the papers here about the Fremblik translation. I get along with your English very well indeed—

W. W.

431 Stevens st. Camden,  
 N. Jersey.  
 U. S. America  
 Aug. 28, '74

Rudolf Schmidt  
 My dear friend,

Your letter of July 28, from Gaûsdal,7 in "old Norway" reached me to-day. Quite curiously, on the very same day, I was writing to you—as per sheet accompanying, written at date (a month ago) but not sent until I could add further. I am glad to get your letter from Norway—am still laid up sick & lonesome here—do not seem to get any thing like well, & at times the prospect is very uncertain—yet maintain a steady heart. I was dismissed from my clerkship under Government at Washington about two months ago. I write this by my open window—the majestic & beautiful Delaware flows near, in sight—we have had a fine summer in America—& now a spell of rich, golden, mellow weather—far & near wonderful crops of every thing—now beginning to be gathered.

Walt Whitman


  • 1. Rudolf Schmidt, a Dane and editor of For Idé og Virkelighed, is credited with introducing Walt Whitman to Scandinavia by quoting translated passages from Leaves of Grass in an 1872 essay in his magazine. He 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" (The Library of Congress). [back]
  • 2. Walt Whitman's letter is a point-by-point reply to Schmidt's of June 26, 1874. [back]
  • 3. Kristian Elster (1841–1881) was a Norwegian novelist whose work focused on cultural conflict, as in his 1872 pamphlet, "On the contrast between the western and the eastern parts of Norway." According to Carl Roos, Elster was a friend of Björnstjerne Björnson (1832–1910), Norwegian poet, dramatist, and novelist; see Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 51n. [back]
  • 4. In a November 2, 1873, letter, Walt Whitman offered "Song of the Redwood-Tree" to Henry M. Alden, editor of Harper's Monthly Magazine. Of "Song of the Redwood-Tree" Rudolf Schmidt observed: "It is your old great theme in a simple and powerful stile, embracing the holy and original nation of the far West" (Syracuse University; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:464). For digital images of the poem as it appeared in Harper's Monthly Magazine, see "Song of the Redwood-Tree." [back]
  • 5. Of "Song of the Redwood-Tree" Schmidt observed: "It is your old great theme in a simple and powerful stile, embracing the holy and original nation of the far West." [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman's numbering is inaccurate. [back]
  • 7. See Schmidt's letter of March 20, 1874. [back]
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