Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Buxton Forman to Walt Whitman, 8 November 1891

Date: November 8, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02105

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "N. Nov. 21 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

46 Marlborough Hill
St. John's Wood
London N.W.1
8 Nov. 1891—8 p.m.

Four letters of the 18th and 19th2 of October reached me together as you intended. You may be sure, dear Walt Whitman, that the moment I had them I wrote to Mr. Balestier3 to make an appointment. He replied promptly that what he was really after was the American copyright—only in a minor degree the Continental, and not the English at all, which in his opinion does not exist. He said he would appoint a meeting very shortly; & I am daily expecting to hear again. My own impression is that if you revised your works finally in few or many details, and the revision was first published here, the new readings would have English copyright—which a publisher could defend, and so maintain the position of publishing the only finally correct edition. Anything that I can do to forward your views will be a pleasure to me, be sure; but I expect to get no further with Mr. Balestier than to ascertain just what is the scope and end of his present approach to you. The moment I can see what he is driving at I will write to you again. About American copyright, of course, I have absolutely no instructions from you.

The above I have written 24 hours after receipt of your letter of the 29th of October,4 with the enclosure which is too precious to name. Could I have caught the Cunarder-mail of this morning from Queenstown, I should have written yesterday, if only to send my love and thanks for the delicate kindness you have done me. Your intuitive knowledge of men is wonderful: I do not know anything you could have sent that would have touched me as your latest gift has done. But how did you know that, dear Walt Whitman?

H. Buxton Forman

Henry Buxton Forman (1842–1917), also known as Harry Buxton Forman, was most notably the biographer and editor of Percy Shelley and John Keats. On February 21, 1872, Buxton sent a copy of R. H. Horne's The Great Peace-Maker; A Sub-marine Dialogue (London, 1872) to Whitman. This poetic account of the laying of the Atlantic cable has a foreword written by Forman. After his death, Forman's reputation declined primarily because, in 1934, booksellers Graham Pollard and John Carter published An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, which exposed Forman as a forger of many first "private" editions of poetry.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 329 Mickle Street | Camden New Jersey | United States of America. It is postmarked: [L]ONDON. N.W. | 7 | NO 9 | 91; N | 18; NEW YORK; A | 91; PAID | G | ALL; [PAID] | G | All. There are two additional postmarks that are entirely illegible. On the recto of the envelope, Forman writes: "By North German Lloyd Steamer." [back]

2. One of the letters Forman is referring to is Whitman's letter of October 18, 1891. The additional letters have not been located. [back]

3. Wolcott Balestier (1861–1891) was an American writer who went to London, England, in 1888 as an agent for the publisher John W. Lovell. He became close friends with Henry James and Rudyard Kipling, who married Balestier's sister. Balestier joined with William Heinemann to form a publishing house in 1890, located in Leipzig, Germany, and dedicated to publishing continental editions of English writers. They launched their series, "The English Library," in 1891. Balestier died in December 1891 of typhoid fever in Dresden; he was a week away from his thirtieth birthday. [back]

4. See Whitman's letter to Forman of October 29, 1891. [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.