Title: Walt Whitman to Sylvester Baxter, 8 October 1882
Date: October 8, 1882
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:308–309. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library
Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00446
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray
Oct: 8 '82
the book is out & 1st edition quite exhausted2—
I send you same mail with this a paper-bound copy of "Specimen Days" for your printing office use—will send you a regularly bound copy in a day or two—the volume is issued in precisely the same style as "Leaves of Grass"—same cloth binding, same butterfly on the back, same size, &c.—It is a great jumble (as a man himself is)—Is an autobiography after its sort—(sort o' synonyms & yet altogether different—"Montaigne," Rousseau's "Confessions" &c)—is the gathering up, & formulation, & putting in identity of the wayward itemizings, memoranda, and personal notes of fifty years, under modern & American conditions, a good deal helter-skelter but I am sure a certain sort of orbic compaction and oneness the final result—dwells long in its own peculiar way on the Secession War—gives glimpses of that event's strange interiors, especially the Army Hospitals—in fact makes the resuscitating and putting on record the emotional aspect of the war of 1861–'65 one of its principal features.
The years from 1876 to the present date Whitman has been a partial paralytic. Very much of his days—(and nights also as it appears)—he has spent in the open air down in the country in the woods and fields, and by a secluded little New Jersey river—His memoranda on the spot of these days and nights fill a goodly portion of the Volume—Then comes the "Collect," embodying "Democratic Vistas," the Preface to L of G. of 1855, and much other prose.
It is understood that Whitman himself considers "Specimen Days" the exponent and finish of his poetic work "Leaves of Grass," that each of the two volumes is indispensable in his view to the other, and that both together finally begin and illustrate his literary schemes in the New World. Talking lately in a half jocular vein to a friend he termed them his Adam and Eve, sent out in "this garden the world."
(don't fail to copy this—can't it conclude your notice?)3
Four Phila: editions of "Leaves of Grass" have been issued & sold within the last three months—they are now on the fifth—The first edition of "Specimen Days" has been exhausted in less than a week. They are now on the second—
Dear B, if you notice—send me a paper—don't fail—Send also one each
Wm D O'Connor, Life Saving Services Washington D C
Dr. R M Bucke, London, Ontario, Canada
Dear B I have dash'd off all this to help you—to use (incorporate) or not as you think fit—you will understand—
Of course use whatever of this you want—incorporate it I mean in your article.
1. This letter is addressed: Sylvester Baxter | Daily Herald | newspaper office | Boston Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden | (?) | 8 | 6 PM | N.J. [back]
2. On November 12 Whitman informed O'Connor that of 1500 copies of Specimen Days 400 remained unsold. Perhaps he referred to a second printing; more probably Whitman overstated the success of the volume so that Baxter would have good copy for his review in the Boston Herald. [back]
3. This notation refers to the preceding paragraph, which Baxter included verbatim in the second to last paragraph of his "review" of Specimen Days in the Boston Herald on October 15. Baxter quoted from the first paragraph of Whitman's letter but then incorporated the rest of the letter without indicating the source. [back]