Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to P. J. O'Shea, 13 December 1886

Date: December 13, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03478

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.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey1
Dec. 13 1886

Thanks for your kind letter & the nice gift2—the $10—which has safely reached me, & is opportune—

Walt Whitman

I did not know of any "pirated edition" in Chicago—Do you mean that some one has printed the book surreptitously there—& is or has been selling it?3

Little is known about P. J. O'Shea, who was an attorney in Chicago, Illinois.


1. This letter is addressed: P H O'Shea | Attorney & Counselor | 163 Randolph Street | Chicago Ill:. It is postmarked: [Camden] | Dec | 13 | 430PM | 1886 | N.J; Philade[lphia, PA.] | D[ec] | 13 | 1886 | Transit; Chicago, Ill. Rec'd | Dec | 14 | 9PM | 1886 | 6. [back]

2. Probably the "nice gift" was payment for the two-volume edition, consisting of Leaves of Grass and Two Rivulets (1876). O'Shea's check for $10 is with Whitman's letter, and images of the check are included along with those for the letter and envelope above. [back]

3. The plates of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, printed by Thayer & Eldridge, were sold to Richard Worthington, who for many years printed them without Whitman's authorization. Worthington originally wrote Whitman on September 29, 1879, informing him that he possessed the plates to the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In a statement mailed to both Richard Watson Gilder and John Burroughs on November 26, 1880, Whitman writes that Worthington initially offered him $250 to "add something to the text & authenticate the plates." This is supported by Worthington's original letter. Worthington went on to manufacture and sell pirated copies of the text, but Whitman accepted royalties from these sales. For more on Worthington and the piracy controversey, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]


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