Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thayer & Eldridge to Walt Whitman, 24 May 1860

Date: May 24, 1860

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00574

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Eric Conrad, Kathryn Kruger, Nick Krauter, and Nicole Gray



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Boston
May 24, 1860

Dear Walt,

I1 have this day sent to Mr. Clapp2 Bound Vols. Leaves of Grass for the Editorial Fraternity as follows.3

Editor Saturday Press     Ada Clare4
NY Herald     E.G.P. Wilkins5
Times6
Tribune7
Day Book8
Vanity Fair9
Momus10
Illustrated News11
Herald of Progress12
Journal Commerce13
Evening Post14

Hoping for their safe arrivals, and strong effect upon their readers who command the Press, we give you our hand again—on paper—and say goodbye


Thayer & Eldridge


Notes:

1. Thayer and Eldridge was the Boston publishing firm responsible for the third edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde [1829–1896] and Charles W. Eldridge [1837–1903]." [back]

2. Henry Clapp (1814–1875) Jr., was a journalist, editor and reformer. Whitman and Clapp most likely met in Charles Pfaff's beer cellar, located in lower Manhattan. Clapp, who founded the literary weekly the Saturday Press in 1858, was instrumental in promoting Whitman's poetry and celebrity; over twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded (for the first time) in 1860. Of Clapp Whitman told Horace Traubel, "You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me." (For Whitman's thoughts on Clapp, see With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Sunday, May 27, 1888.") [back]

3. To publicize Leaves of Grass, Thayer and Eldridge distributed review copies of Whitman's poetry to multiple periodicals care of Henry Clapp. In a March 12, 1860, letter to Thayer and Eldridge, Clapp suggests that Whitman's publishers "should send copies at once to Vanity Fair, Momus, The Albion, The Day Book, The Journal of Commerce, Crayon–also to Mrs. Juliette H. Beach, Albion, N.Y., who will do you great justice in the S.P. (for we shall have a series of articles)–to Charles D. Gardette Esq, No 910 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, to Evening Journal, Philadelphia, and also some dozen copies to me to be distributed at discretion.” See Henry Clapp, Jr., to Walt Whitman, May 14, 1860[back]

4. Ada Clare was an actress, novelist and regular at Pfaff's beer cellar. Clare publicly defended Whitman's poem "A Child's Reminiscence" in the New-York Saturday Press, stating that it "could only have been written by a poet" and asserting "I love the poem" ("Thoughts and Things" New-York Saturday Press, January 14, 1860, 2). For further discussion of Clare see "Clare, Ada [Jane McElheney]." [back]

5. Edward "Ned" G. P. Wilkins was a theater critic, playwright, journalist and regular at Pfaff's beer cellar. Wilkins wrote for James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald, a paper which by 1861 had a circulation of 84,000 copies and a strong connection to the Democratic Party. Wilkins eventually became Henry Clapp's chief assistant on the New-York Saturday Press where he published a number of musical and dramatic reviews under the pseudonym "Personne." Whitman counted Wilkins as one of his earliest defenders calling him "courageous: in an out and out way very friendly to Leaves of Grass." For Whitman's recollection of Wilkins see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (New York: Rowan and Littlefield, 1906), volume 3, "Saturday, November 17, 1888." [back]

6. The New York Times was founded in 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond (the second chairman of the Republican National Committee) and George Jones. For the Times review of the 1860 Leaves of Grass see "The New Poets." [back]

7. The New York Tribune was a newspaper founded by Horace Greeley in 1841.  [back]

8. New York Weekly Day Book was a Copperhead newspaper founded by Nathaniel R. Stimson in 1849. The Day Book billed itself as "The White Man's Paper" and changed its name to the Caucasian (August 1861) while under the control of John H. Van Evrie (author of Negroes and Negro Slavery [New York: Van Evrie, Horton and Co., 1861]) and Rushmore G. Horton. Beginning in October 1861, the paper was excluded from the mail for fifteen months; the Day Book reappeared in 1863 under its old title. [back]

9. Vanity Fair was one of the premier comic papers in the United States during its short run from December 1859 to July 1863. Vanity Fair published over twenty references to Whitman during its brief existence. For a discussion of the cultural significance of Vanity Fair in the context of Whitman's life and career see Robert Scholnick, " 'An Unusually Active Market for Calamus': Whitman, Vanity Fair, and the Fate of Humor in a Time of War, 1860–1863." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 19 (Winter/Spring 2002), 148–181. [back]

10. The Momus was a humorous newspaper edited by Charles Gaylor (Whitman's predecessor at the Brooklyn Eagle). Gaylor is presumed to be the author of a derisive poem published in the paper on May 24: Walt Whitman well names his obscene productions Where he riots in filth, on indecency feasts, For 'tis plainly the simplest of simple deductions That such "Leaves of Grass" can but satisfy beasts. Humanity shrinks from such pestilent reekings As rise, rotten and foul, from each word, line and page, Of the foulness within him the nastiest leakings, Which stamp him the dirtiest beast of the age  [back]

11. New York Illustrated News was a weekly newspaper published by J. Warner Campbell and Co. from 1859 to 1864. For the Illustrated News review of the 1860 Leaves of Grass by George Searle Phillips see "Walt Whitman." [back]

12. Herald of Progress was a weekly Spiritualist newspaper published by Andrew Jackson Davis from 1860 to 1864. [back]

13. New York Journal of Commerce was a newspaper founded by Samuel F.B. Morse and Arthur and Lewis Tappan in 1827 (edited by Gerard Hallock and David Hale at the time of this letter). [back]

14. New York Evening Post was a newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801. The New York Post (as the paper came to be known in 1934) maintains that it is the nation's oldest continuously published daily newspaper. Poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant served as the Editor-in-Chief from 1828 to 1878. [back]


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