Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 15 June 1877

Date: June 15, 1877

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.03601

Contributors to digital file: Eder Jaramillo, Vince Moran, Alicia Bones, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth Price



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Somerset House, W.C.
15 June, '77

Dear Whitman,

I received some little while ago your post-card of 3 May, & felt obliged to you for having sent the books to Mr. Cozens, without waiting for actual receipt of the money—wh., as before stated, is in my hands.1 The only reason why, contrary to my usual practice, I have so long delayed sending it on to you is that I have been looking out for any other stray subscriptions, promised but not yet paid, wh. c.d be sent along with Mr. Cozens's in a Bank-order—or, if more convenient, a P.O. order. On receipt of your card (other such subscriptions not making their appearance at present) I was intending to send C's money at once by P.O. order; but then, some little while ago now, Minto,2 the Editor of The Examiner, started in talk with me, of his own accord, the subject of the money that he owes for your article, & he proposed to send it round to me at once—wh. of course I approved. This again made me hold over the dispatching of the P.O. order for C.s money, but as yet, after all, no symptom of Minto's remittance appears. One of these days C.'s money will be properly sent off to you—accompanied, let us hope, by some other, but if not then by itself. I enter into all these tiresome details because an explanation of my delay is due to you: but I fear you will think them quite as bothering as the delay itself.

It is a goodish while ago— say 6 weeks—that I wrote to Dowden3 in Dublin, enquiring about those subscribers who volunteered thro him (not holding any direct communication with me), & who have not yet paid. Dowden has not yet replied to me: when he does so, it will behove me to look into the details of all the outstanding subscriptions, & get the affair finally closed.

Lately,—say 3 weeks ago—I received a letter from Australia, of wh. I enclose some extracts, along with the printed matter wh. accompanied it. I replied the other day, giving the writer Mr. Adams4 my last news of your health, & enclosing also a copy of my last circular (summer of 1876) regarding your new editions—not without some hope that some few Australians here & there may do themselves the good-service of ordering copies. Mr. A.'s wish for a copy of my "full Review" of you (as he terms it, meaning of course the introduction to the selection from your Poems wh. I published in 1868) has been attended to—the Publishers sending him a copy [I hardly thought there was any remaining] of the book. The tone of his letter is agreeable to me, & I hope it will be the same to you: his name had not previously been known to me.

Please remember me to Mrs. Gilchrist5—or us, I sh.d rather say. My wife received lately a letter from Mrs. G. to serve as an introduction for an American lady, Mrs. Edwards. To the latter my wife sent a card for a gathering at our house of a few friends on 14 June, & we had the pleasure of seeing Mrs. E. & her son accordingly. I was glad to hear from her a good account of the G.'s generally, tho she thinks Philadelphia is anything but a favourable field for the painting career of Herbert.6

I have by me a note written long ago (6 Jan?) by Foote,7 Editor of The Secularist, to say that, before receiving my then last note on the subject, he had sent on to you direct the subscription-money in his hands. This, I suppose, is all right, within your cognizance.

I enclose a note written to you by C.P. O'Conor,8 & shall without delay forward to you by post the vol. of his poems. In a note addressed to me he says: "Will you kindly tell Whitman that the writer is one of his ardent admirers, & that it was a rich treat to read in your American Poems those of Walt Whitman's production." I never met Mr. O'Conor: but he has addressed me from time to time about his little vol. of poems, & other such matters.

Not very long ago I received a letter from Mr. Marvin9 offering a prospect, rather more definite than hitherto, of your coming to look a little about you in England, & perhaps on the European Continent. I can but repeat my delight in this prospect, were it to be realized, & my wife's hope & my own that you will not, in such case, fail to give us some of your company in this house, Euston Sq..

We have had a rather noticeable season here. Up to 2 June, nothing that was worthy the name even of Spring: then suddenly on 3 June hot summer, wh. continues till now—but less decidedly these 2 days.

I am interested in hearing that the Bostonians mean to cut us out—& we deserve it for our neglectful tardy stolidity—& erect a statue to our poet Shelley.

Believe me with all affection
Truly Yours,
W. M. Rossetti

Finished 22 June


Notes:

1. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868 Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to F.S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. William Minto (1845–1893) was a Scottish literary critic, editor and writer. He was the editor of The Examiner from 1874 to 1878. See Alexander Mackie's entry on Minto in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, ed. Sir Leslie Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee Lazarus, (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1901, vol. 38). [back]

3. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888 Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. According to Roger W. Peattie, the writer Adams mentioned by Rossetti in this letter is Robert Dudley Adams (1829-1912). Adams was an Australian businessman, journalist and writer. See Philip Mennell's entry on him in Dictionary of Australasian Biography (London: Hutchinson, 1892). [back]

5. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. George William Foote (1850–1915) was a British republican, secularist, and journalist. He edited The Secularist from 1876 to 1877, together with George Jacob Holyoake. [back]

8. Charles Patrick O'Conor (1837–?) was an Irish poet, known as "the Irish peasant poet," who went to live in England during his youth. He published Songs of a Life: Wayside Chants; Fatherland (London: Kentish Mercury Office, 1875) and Wreaths of Fancy (London: John Vickers, 1870). See Catherine Reilly, Mid-Victorian Poetry 1860-1879: an Annotated Bibliography (London: Mansell, 2000), 345. [back]

9. Joseph B. Marvin, a friend and admirer of Whitman's poetry, was from 1866 to 1867 the co-editor of the Radical. He was then appointed as a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, on behalf of which he took a trip to London in the late fall of 1875. On October 19, 1875, Whitman wrote a letter to William Michael Rossetti to announce a visit from Marvin. Rossetti gave a dinner for Marvin, which was attended by the following "good Whitmanites": Anne Gilchrist; Joseph Knight, editor of the London Sunday Times; Justin McCarthy, a novelist and writer for the London Daily News; Edmund Gosse; and Rossetti's father-in-law, Ford Madox Brown. [back]


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