Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 5 January 1886

Date: January 5, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03610

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 notes: The annotation, "first instalment from W M Rossetti free will offering," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Sept 7 & 9–1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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5 Jany/86.

Dear Whitman,

I received your note of 30 Novr,2 & have been intending to write for some little while past.

You & I have both suffered a loss in the death of that admirable woman Mrs Gilchrist3—a strong warm nature, full of strong sympathetic sense & frank cordiality. I look round the circle of my acquaintance for her equal. Much might be said on such a topic: but often a little is as good as much.

The subscription4 has continued going on, in much the same course as previously, as you will see from the enclosed list. In the Athenaeum (& I believe Academy) of 2 Jany a paragraph was put in, to serve as a reminder to any well-wishers: perhaps it may be expected that a few will respond, & that we may then regard our little movement as wound up. I shall always esteem it a privilege to have borne my small share in testifying the respect & gratitude to you wh. are due to you (I might say) from all open-minded men & women in the world—& from the shut-minded too, for the matter of that.

My wife & children are away at Ventnor (Isle of Wight), as the London winter threatened to be too much for my wife's delicate chest. I expect to join them within the next few days, staying away some 3 weeks or so. As I may be a little hurried the last remaining days, it is possible that I may not just now pay in the £33.16.6. shown in the enclosed list—assuming as I do that this point wd not be regarded as material. However, the utmost likely delay wd not be long.

Yours always truly,
W. M. Rossetti

I have seen 3 or 4 times Mr. Chas Aldrich, of Webster City, Iowa:5 he told us of his interview with you shortly before he crossed the Atlantic. We liked him, & wd gladly have seen more of him: but this apparently will not be, for he must now be just about to sail back from Liverpool to New York.

William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: BROAD ST | [illegible] | [illegible] 29 | BLOOMSBURY W.C.; NEW YORK, N.Y. | 9-7 | 1885 | REG'Y. DIV. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter of November 30, 1885[back]

3. Anne Gilchrist died on November 29, 1885. See Herbert's letter to Whitman of December 2, 1885. Anne Gilchrist's last letter to the poet was sent on July 20[back]

4. See Whitman's letter of August 1, 1885. Herbert Gilchrist and William Michael Rossetti had been collecting funds in England for the financial support of Whitman. A paragraph in the Athenaeum of July 11, 1885, read: "A subscription list is being formed in England with a view to presenting a free-will offering to the American poet Walt Whitman. The poet is in his sixty-seventh year, and has since his enforced retirement some years ago from official work in Washington, owing to an attack of paralysis, maintained himself precariously by the sale of his works in poetry and prose, and by occasional contributions to magazines." [back]

5. See Whitman's letter to Aldrich of June 12, 1884[back]


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