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Richard W. Colles to Walt Whitman, 12 February 1888

My dear Sir,

Yours of 27 January,1 and Leaves of Grass, received. Please accept my sincere thanks for your kindness in sending me the book and for the gratification you have given me by writing in it as I requested. I beg to enclose P.O. order in your favor for One Pound—No. 2044.

I hope that you did not consider my request for your photograph impertinent. My only intimation that you had had one recently taken was the published letter to you from Tennyson2 and therefore my allusion to it. It was a very deep disappointment to me that I failed so signally in my endeavor to prove to you how many in Ireland would gladly avail themselves of an opportunity to show their gratitude for such a gift as Leaves of Grass. But the reason is readily given. The chief men in connection with the University had contributed through Mr. H.H. Gilchrist,3 and such men as the Lord Chancellor4 and Sir E.C. Guinness5 resemble Gallio6 in that they care for none of these things. Professor Edward Dowden7 I have the honor of knowing for the past eighteen months—indeed, it is to my love of Leaves of Grass that I am indebted for my acquaintance with so lovable a man—and he is aware that I did my best—however—perhaps I soared too high—in addressing Barbarians. I had told Dowden of my not having received any reply to my cards or letters and my apprehension that you might be ill, and I have therefore all the greater pleasure in conveying (to him at least) your "best regards."

The two volumes I mentioned as having been sold by me were purchased by the National Library for one pound.

With every sincere wish that you may enjoy health, which is happiness, I am, dear sir, yours very gratefully, Richard Colles

Richard W. Colles was probably one of the many students of Edward Dowden who became fervid admirers of Whitman. 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. See Whitman's January 27 letter to Colles. [back]
  • 2. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]
  • 3. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. At the time of Colles' letter, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was highest judicial official, and Edward Gibson, 1st Baron Ashbourne (1837–1913) held the position from 1886–1892. [back]
  • 5. Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927) was an Irish businessman, serving as the chairman of the Guinness Company and running the Dublin brewery for more than twenty years. He was also well-known as a philanthropist and had a lifelong interest in collecting fine art. [back]
  • 6. Colles is referring to the Roman senator Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, mentioned in the Book of Acts as being indifferent to charges that Jews brought against the Apostle Paul: "Gallio cared for none of these things." [back]
  • 7. 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). [back]
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