Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 16 December [1867]

Date: December 16, 1867

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01878

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.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Kathryn Kruger

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56 Euston Sq.
London, N.W.
16 Decr.

Dear Mr. Whitman,

The receipt of your letter of 3 Decr. this morning wd. have made me feel miserable were it not that before then the matter had already been set right, & my letter notifying that fact very nearly (no doubt) in your hands by this time. My first letter to you was written too much from the impulse of the moment; &, finding soon after from the publisher's statement that the original plan of the selection could not be altered, I felt that it was also much better it should not be altered. I congratulate myself therefore on being quite at one with you concerning that point. Not one syllable of any one of your poems, as presented in my selection, will be altered or omitted: that is the first intention & the final result.

Pray believe me however that, while I understand the latitude your first letter honoured me with in its wildest sense, I still meant to take all proper precautions before acting upon it. I wrote at once to Mr. Conway enquiring whether he put the same interpretation upon it; & his letter in reply (18 Nov., now before me) replies—"I agree with you that Whitman's letter gives you all the liberty you cd. desire." I am now perfectly satisfied that it wd. have been most undesirable for you to give or for me (even if given) to act upon such liberty.

To be honoured by your friendship is as great a satisfaction & distinction as my life has presented or ever can present. I respond to it with all warmth & reverence, &; the Atlantic seemed a very small space between us while I read & re-read your letter.

I read your paper on Democracy (received a few days ago) with great pleasure & interest. I have always felt—& did so markedly while our own recent Reform discussions were going on—one main truth involved in your paper: That, after one has said that such & such people or classes are not exactly fitted to make the best use of political enfranchisement, one has said only a small part of the truth, the further point remaining that to induct these people or classes into the combined national life, & to constitute that life out of them along with all other classes, is an enormous gain. The consequence is that, with the intensest respect & admiration for Carlyle, I find constantly that to acquiesce in the express views he takes of late years of particular questions wd be simply to abnegate my own identity.

The selection goes on smoothly tho not fast—the proofs now approaching their close. I suppose the volume will not fall much if at all short of 400 pp.—You may possibly have seen the advertisement of it repeated several times in publications here, as enclosed (slip cut from the Athenaeum). The "Portrait" is a re-engraving (head & shoulders only, I believe) of the one in the first Leaves of Grass, wh. was a capital piece of art work. I have not yet seen the reproduction, but trust to find it adequately done.

Always yours,
W. M. Rossetti


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