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Walt Whitman to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 24 July 1875

My dear Mr. Tenn[yson]2

Since I last wrote you, (your kind response was duly rec'd)3 I have been laid up here nearly all the time, & still continue so, quite shattered, but somehow with good spirits—not well enough to go out in the world & go to work—but not sick enough to give up either, or lose my interest in affairs, life, literature, &c. I keep up & dressed, & go out a little nearly every day.

I have been reading your Queen Mary,4 & think you have excelled yourself in it. I did not know till I read it, how much eligibility to passion, character and art arousings was still left to me in my sickness & old age. Though I am Democrat enough to realize the deep criticism of Jefferson on Walter Scott's5 writings, (& many of the finest plays, poems & romances) that they fail to give at all the life of the great mass of the people then & there.

But I shall print a new volume before long, & will send you a copy. I send you a paper about same mail with this.6

Soon as convenient write me a few lines. (Put in your letter your exact p.o. address.) If you have leisure, tell me about yourself. I shall never see you & talk to you—so I hope you will write to make it up.


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "To Tennyson July 24 '75." [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. See Whitman's May 24, 1874 letter to Tennsyon and Tennyson's July 8, 1874 letter to Whitman. Tennyson replied to Walt Whitman's letter on August 11, 1875. [back]
  • 4. Queen Mary appeared in 1875. [back]
  • 5. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish writer and poet most famous for his historical novels, which include Waverly (1814) and Ivanhoe (1819). He is considered to be the first English-language writer to achieve international popularity in his own lifetime. [back]
  • 6. Probably the Springfield Republican of July 23, 1875; see Whitman's July 31, 1875 letter to Rudolf Schmidt. [back]
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