Title: Thayer & Eldridge to Walt Whitman, 17 August 1860
Date: August 17, 1860
Editorial note: The annotation, "Thayer & Eldridge (about taking Saturday Press)," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.
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.00578
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Eric Conrad, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter
You will accept our hearty thanks for your kindly advice about the S.P.—You can rely upon our keeping it secret1—
Perhaps Mr. Clapp told you of our offer to take it September 1st. We rec'd a letter to day from him stating he intended to visit us Monday or Tuesday to make some arrangement with us—if possible.
Now as you have been so kind as to give us a valuable hint, will you please write us per return mail stating what you know of the affairs of the S.P.—that is if it can be done without trenching upon your friendly relations with Mr. Clapp? Is the paper in debt; if so to whom; are there any liabilities incurred, which would make it subject to attachment if sold to and owned by parties not formerly connected with it;—what are Mr. Howland's claims, and of what nature.2 Does he help edit the paper? These questions are asked with a view to our being the sole owners of the Press with Mr. Clapp for editor.
The tone of his letter indicates a determination to make a trade with us of some kind, and therefore we wish to have any statement of his affairs he may make corroborated by others. If you have no objections to answering our queries we would esteem it a favor to hear from you by return mail.
Your suggestion as to our discerning the ownership and responsibilities of the paper we regard as the only practical thing that can be done, toward relieving Mr. C. from his difficulties. Of course we should not want it unless he was its Editor and we could be its business managers. We can make it pay (we think) in a very short time—Beside we are deeply interested in sustaining any journal that dares in these days of literary flunkeyism to be independent, and make the literature of a country what it should be.
Now if Mr. C. can obtain a business party to do the business of the paper, (T & E or some other), what a flourishing paper could be got up. But T & E do not want to be subjected to any liabilities connected with the past of the S.P. and therefore proceed with caution before operating.
We wrote to Mr. C. some days ago making an offer, but now we shall act having in view your suggestion.
About the L of G.—Our Mr. E. is in the country, to return tonight or tomorrow. He will write you at length about the Cheap Edition as he has it in charge3—Will Mr. Clapp use the notice of L of G in the Cincinnati Daily Press?4 If not please re-mail it to us when you have done with it. We have heard of the "Dial" notice, but could not get a copy here. We have written to the Editor for a copy.5
We too wish you could be with us in Boston for we have so much to say; and our "fanatic" wants to get under the refreshing shelter of Walt's spirit; he does not ask Walt to talk, but only for the privilege of looking into those eyes of calm, and through them to enter into that soul, so deep in its emotions, so majestic in all its thought-movements, and yet so simple and childlike.6 Yes, Walt Whitman: though men of the world and arch-critics do not understand thee, yet some there be among men and women who love thee and hold thy spirit close by their own.
"Among the men and women, the multitude, I perceive are picking me out by secret and divine signs—
* * * *
Some are baffled—But that one is not—that one knows me."7
And so Dear Walt, would we love to seek you and learn to know you. And have we not known you?—
We will try the Smithsonian House when we are obliged to represent the "Hub" in Gotham. Either Mr E or T will be in New York soon on business and will then see you, unless that you first come to Boston. Frank regretted his missing you. Perhaps the miss in this case was a mile.
We do not care one single damn for the Miss Nancys of Bookdom but shall continue to publish and sell Leaves of Grass "so long" as Walt will have us.
Goodbye for a day or two from your genuine
Thayer & Eldridge
Dear Walt, I wrote you in the name of T & E a longer letter than I intended. Somehow I could not stop. I felt such a wondrous geniality, that I enjoyed looking at your handwriting and imagined you were before me instead of the letter.
My dear little wife wants to write you a letter, and will when the domestic gods are propitious, so that she can talk with the great Poet as she would like. She has had much ill health, but is now much better.
I wish you could visit our home. The country is delightful. You would laugh and grow fat to see our blessed Jamaica Plain, and enjoy its beauties.—Come and see us if you can.
There now, some business comes in that I must attend to so I close
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 David Breckenridge Donlon, "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)."
1. Thayer and Eldridge sought Whitman's advice on the prospect of purchasing Henry Clapp, Jr.,'s New-York Saturday Press, which Clapp founded in 1858. Whitman and Clapp most likely met in Charles Pfaff's beer cellar, located in lower Manhattan. The Saturday Press was instrumental in promoting Whitman's poetry and celebrity; over twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded in 1860. [back]
2. Edward Howland was a journalist, essayist and reformer. Howland helped back Clapp financially when he founded the Saturday Press in 1858. [back]
3. Whitman and Thayer and Eldridge contemplated issuing a "Cheap Edition" of Leaves of Grass for $1; with the proposed release of this cheaper Leaves of Grass, the price of the "fine" edition would be raised from $1.25 to $1.50. [back]
4. The Cincinnati Daily Press was a daily Ohio newspaper published by Henry Reed from 1860 to 1862 (formerly the Penny Press). [back]
5. Thayer and Eldridge refer to an August 1860 article in the Dial. [back]
7. The lines Thayer cites (with the exception of one error) appear in the 1860 Leaves of Grass as "Calamus 41." [back]