Title: John Camden Hotten to Walt Whitman, 5 February 1868
Date: February 5, 1868
Editorial notes: The annotation, "John Camden Hotten," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Sept 7 & 8—1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.
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.01731
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elizabeth Lorang, Beverley Rilett, and Nicole Gray
74 & 75 Piccadilly W
5 February, 1868
I have taken the liberty to send you by this post a copy of Mr. Swinburne's new book upon William Blake, poet and artist—a great but neglected genius who was counted as a madman by his contemporaries here sixty years ago. As Mr. Swinburne makes mention of yourself in this, his most recent published composition, it is but right that you should see what is said. But irrespective of that I feel assured—from what Mr. M. D. Conway tells me—that the book will interest you.
Mr Conway will have told you of our intention to publish an English edition of your "poems"—or rather a "selection" from them—edited by Mr. W. M. Rossetti, one of our most able critics, and himself a poet. In about a week I shall send you a copy by post. It makes a handy vol. of about 440 pages, & will I think be a favourite here. Mr. Rossetti's introduction is most admirable, and gives great satisfaction to your admirers and his friends.
Now, we want the privilege of selling copies of this "selection" in the United States—if you will allow us: and I have told Mr. Conway that I would give you—or your agent—a royalty of one shilling (or 25 cents gold) upon every copy sold in your country.
I imagine that the sale of this "selection" in your country would serve as whet, or stimulant, to readers to secure copies of the complete works. I really don't think it would materially interfere with the sale of the latter.
On this English edition I will ask your acceptance of a share of our profits—after the original outlay in paper, printing, & binding, has been returned to the publisher.
I was greatly gratified this afternoon in having almost the first copy of Mr. Robert Buchanan's new vol. of "Essays" placed in my hands. I was gratified because in the middle of the book his admirable paper upon your "poems—the article wch recently appeared in the Broadway—is given.
I think, in conclusion, that I ought to apologise for sending this familiarly written letter to you, as I am but a trader—a bookseller—and have only an acquaintance with your books of some years standing to offer as an excuse. True, the first copies imported into this country were at the order of the undersigned; but, that, it is feared, will not in any way palliate the liberty now taken.
Yrs: very obdtly:
Jno Camden Hotten
Perhaps because he had lived in the United States from 1848 to 1856, London publisher John Camden Hotten (1832–1873) introduced such writers as Robert Lowell, Artemus Ward, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Bret Harte to an English audience. Hotten published Poems by Walt Whitman, selected and edited by William Michael Rossetti, in 1868. Whitman was dissatisfied with Hotten's work, however, referring to him as "the English pirate-publisher" in a January 16, 1872, letter to Rudolf Schmidt. For Whitman's relationship with Hotten and the "bad & defective" edition, see Whitman's November 1, 1867, letter to Moncure D. Conway. After Hotten's death, his business was purchased by Chatto & Windus, who reprinted the text of Poems by Walt Whitman in 1886 and several subsequent printings.