Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas O'Kane, 22 April 1874

Date: April 22, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01717

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), 2:294. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Eric Conrad, Zachary King, Kathryn Kruger, Elizabeth Lorang, and John Schwaninger

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April 22, '741

I am anxious to have our2 acc't settled up.3 Comparing your rec't of my books from Doolady4, April 28, '73 (239 Leaves of Grass, &c. &c)—with the acc't of books handed over by you to Butts (168 Leaves of Grass, &c &c)—see my last letter to you, Feb. 165—there are to be acc't 'd for to me, 71 copies, L of G. Deduct 25 copies sent to Boston by my order, & 3 copies to Graphic, leaves 43 copies (@ $1.40) to be acc't 'd for to me at $60.20. Deduct from this the adv. 2 times in Tribune and Graphic (4 times)—(?7, or 8 or 9$) leaving over $50 due me—May I not hope for the settlem't of this acc't without delay—& remittance to me of am't due.


I still remain here partially paralyzed. I have not charged the copies of other books besides L. of G. as the sales were slight.


1. This draft letter is endorsed, "sent Thos. O'Kane"; "Letter to O'Kane | April 22 | '74." [back]

2. 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, Walt 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 & Co., which went into bankruptcy in the following year. Though Walt Whitman wrote cordially to O'Kane on April 22, 1874, he later became hostile. Citing only the initials, Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (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 (The Library of Congress #108) Walt Whitman scrawled on a piece of O'Kane's stationery, "rascal." [back]

3. See also Whitman's September 13, 1873 letter to O'Kane and his February 4, 1874 letter to Asa K. Butts & Company. [back]

4. Michael Doolady, a bookseller and publisher at 448 Broome Street in New York, was the publisher of actress and Pfaff's regular Ada Clare's Only a Woman's Heart (1866). For Walt Whitman's correspondence with Doolady, see Whitman's November 13, 1867, letter. [back]

5. This letter is apparently lost. [back]


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