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 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 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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