Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas O'Kane, 13 September 1873

Date: September 13, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01716

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:244. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

Sept. 13, 18731

Tho's O'Kane2
Dear Sir,

I have rec'd your letter of the 12th. I agree to allow you better than half off, namely you to acc't to me at $1.40 cts a copy on the bound Leaves of Grass (which retails at $3)—and at 30 cts each for As a strong bird, (which retails at 75 cts.)3

I will be very happy to see you, at any time. I am stopping at 322 Stevens st. Camden, (cross by Phil. ferry from foot of Market st.—or Camden depot from N. Y.)4

If you are willing to go into selling my books, I think you ought to have some of the little 30 cts brochure "After All not to Create Only" published by Roberts Bros. Boston.

I do not of course expect the sale could any how be a rushing one—but5


1. This draft letter is endorsed, "letter sent to | Thos. O'Kane, | 130 Nassau st. | Sept. 13, '73." [back]

2. Whitman's relations with his book agents were complicated and troubling during these years. O'Kane, a New York book dealer, took over the books still in the possession of Michael Doolady (a bookseller to whom Whitman wrote on November 13, 1867) on April 22, 1874. On December 29, 1873, Whitman withdrew his books from O'Kane, and also dismissed Piper, the Boston outlet. At the same time he entrusted the whole matter to Asa K. Butts and Co., which went into bankruptcy in the following year. Though Whitman wrote cordially to O'Kane on April 22, 1874, he later became hostile. Citing only the initials, Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), in his "official" biography (46), averred that O'Kane and Somerby, Butts's successor, "took advantage of [Walt Whitman's] helplessness to embezzle the amounts due—(they calculated that death would soon settle the score and rub it out.)" This sounds like an interpolation composed by the poet himself; note also Whitman's December 30, 1875 letter to Jeannette Gilder, in which he wrote, "every one of the three successive book agents I have had in N. Y. has embezzled the proceeds." In an address book now held in the Library of Congress, Walt Whitman scrawled on a piece of O'Kane's stationery, "rascal."

For other letters dealing with the distribution of Whitman's books, see Whitman's December 29, 1873, February 4, 1874, and February 8, 1874 letters to Asa K. Butts and Company, as well as Whitman's April 22, 1874 letter to Thomas O'Kane. [back]

3. The next paragraph was stricken: "I send herewith adv't, which I wish (would like) to have inserted twice forthwith, in Tribune, as that seen." [back]

4. Because the directions for reaching Camden were repeatedly corrected, the reading at this point is somewhat conjectural. [back]

5. The draft is incomplete. [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.