Title: Walt Whitman to Abby H. Price, 29 March 1860
Date: March 29, 1860
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:49-50. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Whitman Archive ID: pml.00011
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kathryn Kruger, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alyssa Olson, and Nicole Gray
Thursday night, | March 29.1
As I know you would like to hear from me, my dear friend, I will not yet go to bed—but sit down to write to you, that I have been here in Boston, to-day is a fortnight, and that my book is well under way. About a hundred and twenty pages are set up—it will probably make from six to seven hundred pages, and of a larger size than the last edition. It is to be very finely printed, good paper, and new, rather large-sized type. Thayer & Eldridge,2 the publishers, are a couple of young Yankees—so far very good specimens, to me, of this Eastern race of yours. They have treated me first rate—have not asked me at all what I was going to put into the book—just took me to the stereotype foundry, and given orders to follow my directions. It will be out in a month—a great relief to me to have the thing off my mind.
I am more pleased with Boston than I anticipated. It is full of life, and criss-cross streets. I am very glad I [have] come, if only to rub out of me the deficient notions I had of New England character. I am getting to like it, every way—even the Yankee twang.
Emerson called upon me immediately, treated me with the greatest courtesy—kept possession of me all day—gave me a bully dinner, &c.3 I go on the Common—walk considerable in Washington street—and occupy about three hours a day at work in the printing office. All I have to do, is to read proofs. I wish you lived here—I should visit you regularly every day—probably twice a day. I create an immense sensation in Washington street. Every body here is so like everybody else—and I am Walt Whitman!—Yankee curiosity and cuteness, for once, is thoroughly stumped, confounded, petrified, made desperate.
Let me see—have I any thing else to say to you? Indeed, what does it all amount to—this saying business? Of course I had better tear up this note—only I want to let you see how I cannot have forgotten you—sitting up here after half past 12, to write this precious document. I send my love to Helen and Emmy.
Abby H. Price (1814–1878) was active in various social-reform movements. Price's husband, Edmund, operated a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and the couple had four children—Arthur, Helen, Emily, and Henry (who died in 1852, at 2 years of age). During the 1860s, Price and her family, especially her daughter, Helen, were friends with Whitman and with Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. In 1860 the Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman were included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother in Putnam's Monthly 5 (1908): 163–169. In a letter to Ellen M. O'Connor from November 15, 1863, Whitman declared with emphasis, "they are all friends, to prize and love deeply."
1. Address: Abby H. Price, | S. W. corner Greenwich and Horatio streets, | New York | city. Postmark: Boston | Mar | 29 | (?). [back]
2. 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 "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)." [back]
3. It was on this occasion that, according to Walt Whitman's recollections written twenty years later that Emerson attempted to persuade him not to publish the "Enfans d'Adam" poems. The date of the meeting was probably March 17, 1860, since on that day Emerson obtained reading privileges for "W. Whitman" at the Boston Athenaeum library; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 237–238. [back]