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Walt Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt, 31 July 1875

My dear Rudolf Schmidt1,

Your letter of July 17, from near Wiemar has just reached me. I am still here in Camden, & shall probably remain permanently. I do not recover my health—for over two months past have been worse than ever, but feel better to–day, as I write—(if it would only continue)—I have pretty much given up all prospect of going out again in the world, as an active worker—& the best I look for is to keep up, by care & moderation, & have the use of my mind as so far, with the partial use of my physical powers, for whatever term of life I have yet to live. I still go out in the open air a little, talk, & keep in good spirits.

I have just sent you a paper with a long piece in, that may give you more particulars about me.2 Write often as you can—your English I get the meaning of very well, & I am quite lonesome here. (All the letters you have ever sent—& papers, sheets, &c—have quite certainly reach'd me—I have a large bundle of them.)

As I write, I sit here by my open window—it is very pleasant, plenty of trees & foliage, (though I live in a street, in a city) warm, but a slight rain, just now—I have been out, this forenoon, riding in a street car—& to the printing office, where I am printing a little book, my War–Hospital Memoranda of ten & twelve years since. When finished I will send it to you. Also "Two Rivulets," you see mentioned in the paper.

Your brief words about Wiemar, only made me want more.3 Every thing now going on about literature or authors, or subjects appertaining to them, in the Old World, (Denmark included of course,) is more interesting to me than you might suppose. I have been in hopes of hearing from Elster4. I wonder if he got the letter & papers I sent him—If any Dane you know is coming to America, (if convenient,) give him my address here in Camden—(Philadelphia is on one side of the river Delaware, & Camden immediately opposite on the other—ferries constantly running—I live near the river)—Good bye, my dear Rudolf Schmidt—write often as you can.5

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. On July 23, 1875, the Springfield Republican printed a three-column article entitled "Walt Whitman. | His Life, His Poetry, Himself." Though the article was signed with the initials J. M. S. (James Matlock Scovel), Burroughs observed on July 27, 1875: "It is an admirable piece of writing (of course I see your hand) & contains some of the best things about you that have yet been in print." The New York Tribune printed excerpts from the dispatch on July 24, 1875; William Michael Rossetti quoted from it in The Academy, 8 (August 14, 1875), 167; see Letters of William Michael Rossetti, ed. Gohdes and Baum (1934), 96–97; Scovel utilized most of the material in the National Magazine, 20 (1904), 165–169. [back]
  • 3. Schmidt described his visit to the tombs of Goethe and Schiller in his letter of July 17, 1875. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Schmidt replied at length on August 18, 1875. [back]
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