Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Camden Hotten, 9 March 1868

Date: March 9, 1868

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:21–22. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Private collection of the William E. Barton Estate

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00020

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Washington
March 9, 1868.

Dear Sir:1

I thank you for the copy of my poems sent by you. It has just reached me. I consider it a beautiful volume. The portrait, as given in it, is, however, a marked blemish. I was thinking, if you wish to have a portrait, you might like to own the original plate of 1855 which I believe I can procure, in good order, & from which you can print a frontispice more creditable—as per impression enclosed. If so, send me word immediately. The price of the plate would probably be $40. gold—or 8 pounds. It would suit just such a volume, & would coincide entirely with the text in note & preface, as they now stand. If I receive your favorable response, I will, if possible, procure the plate, & send it to you by express—on receipt of which, & not before, you can send me the money. (I have sent to New York to see if I can procure the plate, & have not yet received any answer.)2

I will thank you to convey to Mr. Swinburne my heartiest acknowledgements for the copy of William Blake, (which has reached me)—& for his kind & generous mention of me in it.3


Walt Whitman


Notes:

1. Thomas Hotten (1832–1873) printed Swinburne's Poems and Ballads when another publisher withdrew after the book caused a furor. Perhaps because he had lived in the United States from 1848 to 1856, Hotten introduced to an English audience such writers as Lowell, Artemus Ward, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Bret Harte. After his death, his business was purchased by Chatto and Windus. In his letter to Conway on December 5, 1866, O'Connor had suggested Hotten as the English publisher of Walt Whitman: "Seems to me the courage that prints Laus Veneris might dare this" (Yale). [back]

2. Walt Whitman discussed the frontispiece in greater detail in his April 24, 1868 letter to John Camden Hotten. [back]

3. Swinburne, at the conclusion of William Blake: A Critical Essay (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), 300–303, pointed out similarities between Whitman and Blake, and praised "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which he termed "the most sweet and sonorous nocturn ever chanted in the church of the world." Included in Songs before Sunrise (1871) was his famous lyric "To Walt Whitman in America." For the story of Swinburne's veneration of Walt Whitman and his later recantation, see Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1934), 103–121. [back]


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