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Rudolf Schmidt to Walt Whitman, 5 January 1872

 syr.00004.001_large.jpg In this moment the papers received. All right! Heartfully thanks! see note Feb 7 1889 Walt, Whitman, esq Dear Sir: Schmidt, Rudolf

I will postpone no longer to thank you for your kind letter of 7 Dec.1 It was in my hands two days before the beginning of the new year. Your "leaves of grass" Clausen2 has already sent me; but the other papers—especially your "democratic vistas"3—shall be very welcome. I wonder, that they are not arrived yet, and hope, that they  syr.00004.002_large.jpg have not miscarried on the way. This unexpected delay makes me very sorry; my mind is full of your poems, but naturally I won't beginn​ to write before having in my hands as complete materials as possibly​ .

Hans Christian Andersen4 would perhaps not make you very great joy, if you did know him personally. Björnson5 would be your man, he is a dear friend of mine and coeditor of the periodical.6 At present he is living in Christiania.

The enclosed portrait is no bad photography, but a photographical portrait is never truly a good one.

Most truly yours Rudolf Schmidt7

The Danish writer Peter Carl Rudolf Schmidt (1836–1899) was the editor of the idealist journal For Idé og Virkelighed ("For Idea and Reality") and had translated Whitman's Democratic Vistas into Danish in 1874.


  • 1. See Whitman's letter to Rudolf Schmidt of December 7, 1871. [back]
  • 2. Carl F. Clausen, who Rudolf Schmidt called "my old friend and countryman," corresponded with Schmidt after he left Denmark in 1860. See Carl Roos, "Walt Whitman's Letters to a Danish Friend," Orbis Litterarum, 7 (1949), 34–39. The Directory in 1870 listed him as a draughtsman and in 1872 as a patent agent. He died of consumption in the middle 1870s. [back]
  • 3. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) was a Danish author best known for his work on fairy tales and children's stories, including "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," and "The Emperor's New Clothes." [back]
  • 5. Björnstjerne Björnson (1832–1910), Norwegian poet, dramatist, and novelist, was co-editor of Rudolf Schmidt's journal. In his January 5, 1872, letter, Rudolf Schmidt observed: "Hans Christian Andersen would perhaps not make you very great joy, if you did know him personally. Björnson would be your man" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, February 7, 1889, 103). Schmidt later altered his opinion of Björnson, writing at some length on February 28, 1874: "His poetry comes from the source that is throbbing in the people's own heart. He has been the spoiled darling of the whole Danish public. But he is a living test of the hideous and venomous serpent, that hides his ugly head among the flowers of the pantheistic poetry. You have in your 'vistas' spoken proud words of the flame of conscience, the moral force as the greatest lack of the present democracy. You have, without knowing it, named the lack of Björnson at the same time! Björnson owes Denmark gratitude. He has shown it in the form of deep and bloody offences, that make every honest Danish heart burn with rage and indignation." [back]
  • 6. For Idé og Virkelighed was a journal published from 1869 to 1873 by Schmidt, Rasmus Nielsen, and Björnstjerne Björnson. [back]
  • 7. According to Horace Traubel (With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Thursday, February 7, 1889," 103–104), Whitman responded to this letter: "Later—indeed, from this time on—Schmidt became more and more intimately associated: I have always felt peculiarly appealed to by him: his Danish renderings are, I am told, done with rare genius. Schmidt has had a checkered career: domestically he's gone through the most agonizing experiences." [back]
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