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Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Walt Whitman, 15 November 1887

Dear Walt Whitman

I thank you for your kind thought of me.1 I value the photograph much, and I wish that I could see not only this sun-picture, excellent as I am told it is, but also the living original. May he still live and flourish for many years to be. The coming year should give new life to every American who has breathed a breath of that soul which inspired the great founders of the American Constitution, whose work you are to celebrate. Truly, the mother country, pondering on this, may feel that how much soever the daughter owes to her, she, the mother, has, nevertheless, something to learn from the daughter. Especially I would note the care taken to guard a noble constitution from rash and unwise innovators.

I am always yours,


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.


  • 1. Walt Whitman sent Tennyson one of the photographs taken by George Collins "G. C." Cox (1851–1903), who was a well-known celebrity photographer. Cox had taken photographs of Whitman when the poet was in New York to give his Lincoln lecture in 1887. The text of this letter was published in the New York Tribune on November 22, apparently before Walt Whitman received it. See the November 23, 1887, letter to Whitman from William D. O'Connor and Richard Maurice Bucke. [back]
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