Title: William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 17 November 1867
Date: November 17, 1867
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.01876
Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Kathryn Kruger
56 Euston Sq.
My dear Sir,
Allow me with the deepest reverence & true affection to thank you for the copy of your complete poems I have just received from you thro our excellent friend Mr. Conway—& still more for the accompanying letter to him, in which you authorize me to make, in the forthcoming London issue of your poems, such verbal changes as may appear to me indispensable to meet the requirements of publicity in this country & time.
I feel greatly honoured by your tolerance extended to me in this respect, & assure you that, if such a permission can in the nature of things be used rightly it shall not be abused by me.
My selection was settled more than a month ago, & is now going thro' the press. The only writing of yours from wh. I thought it at all admissible (with your consent applied for thro Mr. Conway) to cut anything out was the prose preface to the first Leaves of Grass. As for the poems, I felt bound not to tamper with their integrity in any the slighted degree, & therefore any of them which appeared to contain matter startling to the length of British ears have been entirely excluded. But now, after your letter it seems to me that all or most of these poems, with some minimum of verbal modification or excision, may very properly be included: & indeed that there is nothing to prevent a reprint of the revised copy of your complete poems (wh. you sent to Mr. Conway) coming out at once, instead of the mere selection—subject only to modification or excision here & there as above named. Of course I wd. explain in print that the responsibility of this shabby job belongs to me—fortified only by your abstaining from prohibiting it; for such a prohibition wd. be sacred to me.
I have just written in this sense to the publisher Mr. Hotten. I cannot clearly anticipate whether or not he will be disposed thus to sacrifice his outlay hitherto on the selection, & embark at once on the complete edition. If he does, it will please me all the better. I shall always hold it one of the truest & most prized distinctions of my writing career to be associated, in however modest a capacity, with the works of so great a poet & noble-hearted a man as you. The time is fast coming, here as elsewhere, when to be one of your enthusiastic admirers will only be to be one of the many. I shall remember with a degree of self-congratulation that in 1855 I was one of the few.
Dear Sir believe me most respectfully & truly yours,
W. M. Rossetti