Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to F. S. Ellis, [12 (?) August 1871]

Date: August 12, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01696

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

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Oct 7 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Eric Conrad, Zachary King, Elizabeth Lorang, John Schwaninger, and Nicole Gray

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went by steamer Aug 12. '711

F. S. Ellis, Publisher,
33 King st. Covent Garden, London:

I take the liberty of writing at a venture to propose to you the publication, in a moderate-priced volume, of a full edition of my poems, Leaves of Grass, in England under my sanction.—I send by same mail with this, a revised copy of L. of G. I should like a fair remuneration or percentage.

I make this proposition not only to get my poems before the British public, but more because I am annoyed at the horrible dismemberment of my book there already & possibility of something worse.2

Should my proposal suit you, go right on with the book. Style of getting it up, price, rate of remuneration to me, &c. I leave entirely to you. Only the text must be sacredly preserved, verbatim.3

Please direct to me here, as soon as convenient.


1. This is a draft letter. Ellis replied on August 23, 1871: since there were poems in Leaves of Grass which "would not go down in England," he believed that it would "not be worth while to publish it again in a mutilated form." On the following day he sent another note and a specially printed copy of Swinburne's Songs before Sunrise (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 2:448). [back]

2. Whitman referred to his dealings with his English publisher Hotten; Whitman described his experiences with Hotten as "passive" in a November 1, 1867 letter to Moncure D. Conway and labeled Hotten a "pirate-publisher" of "a bad & defective London reprint" in a January 16, 1872 letter to Rudolf Schmidt. [back]

3. Following this passage, Whitman deleted: "literal—and all your English carefulness in proof-reading, must by cap." [back]


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