Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Asa K. Butts & Company, 8 February 1874

Date: February 8, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01195

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Jan 18th 1889," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elizabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

To A. K. Butts,1
Feb. 8, '74.

O'Kane has undoubtedly sent you all the copies of my books remaining in his possession—he received originally (April 28 '73 from Doolady,)2

239 Leaves of Grass
100 As a Strong Bird,3
92 Democratic Vistas,
45 Notes of John Burroughs, &c.

And since then he has delivered about 30 Leaves of of Grass to my order—leaving only 30 or 40 more to be accounted for as sales &c. so that, as just said, he has unquestionably retained none in his possession. As said in my note, you now, (with the exception of about 350 copies of As A Strong Bird, which are at my printer's4 in N.Y., & which I can send you an order for,) you now have all my books in the market. (The edition you have, L. of G. only consisted of 500 copies, when issued, over a year & a half ago.)

Will write you again early this week, anent of your yesterdays letter, offer, &c.5

So that now, (with the exception of perhaps 350 of the little book, As a Strong Bird on store in N.Y., which I can send you an order for, if you wish, at once.) you have all my books in the market.

I will write you more specifically early this week anent of your yesterday's letter offer, &c.

Walt Whitman.

O'Kane has not sent me yet his statement, or acc't—not a word

Asa K. Butts was a New York bookseller. Whitman was having difficulties around this time—real or imaginary, as his mother might have said—with booksellers. Commenting on one of the letters of Butts, Whitman observed to Horace Traubel in 1889: "What a sweat I used to be in all the time . . . over getting my damned books published! When I look back at it I wonder I didn't somewhere or other on the road chuck the whole business into oblivion" (With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], Friday, January 18, 1889). Butts went bankrupt in 1874.


1. The first part of this draft letter was written on the back of a letter from David G. Croly of January 19, 1874. The second part, which may be another draft of the last few lines of the letter, was written on a separate sheet. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Thomas O'Kane of April 22, 1874[back]

3. According to a receipt in the Feinberg Collection, Doolady received 100 copies of As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free from S. W. Green on February 25, 1873 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

4. S. W. Green, according to a receipt in the Feinberg Collection, had 572 copies of the poem on July 12, 1872. At the time Whitman owed Green $175, evidently for printing this poem as well as other works, the names of which are indecipherable. On the verso of the receipt Green noted that Whitman had paid $100 on July 20, 1872, and in a letter on August 9 he acknowledged payment of $50. [back]

5. Butts's letter is lost. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.